Real Life

After spending a lifetime covered in cream, this brave eczema sufferer decided enough was enough

It was time to make a drastic change
Loading the player...

Remi Tsunashima, 24, from Sydney, NSW shares her story with Take 5’s Mitchell Jordan:

I handed my teacher a pile of clothes and tried to ignore the worsening heat filling the room.

“I’ll need these later,” I said, starting to itch.

It was summer, which always made life harder than usual for me.

Diagnosed with eczema as a baby, I’d been put on steroid cream to keep it under control since I was six months old.

But this was only a band-aid solution – my body’s tolerance to the steroids increased and I was later put on a stronger prescription cream.

Remi (right) with her dad and sister (Image: supplied)

At school, I’d received a few mean comments from kids who glimpsed my flaky skin.

“Your hands look like my grandma’s,” one of them said.

But I still managed to make friends and was never really bullied.

For me, the worst part was the day-to-day difficulties that living with eczema posed.

I’d need to get changed into new clothes several times a day at school because once I started to sweat, I’d begin to itch and before I knew it, I couldn’t concentrate on a thing.

Dry clothes calmed the irritation.

Remi learned that dry clothes calmed the irritation (Image: supplied)

My family was all very supportive and Mum accompanied me to countless visits to the dermatologist, but continuing steroids morning and night remained my only option.

In 2019, I met a great guy named Iori.

Like me, he’s Japanese and we had lots in common.

There was just one problem: the cream had kept my skin under control, but I knew it wouldn’t be long until he saw how red and flaky it could get.

“My eczema gets really bad,” I told him.

But he reassured me it wasn’t a problem and we’ve been together ever since.

With Iori (Image: supplied)

In January this year, I decided enough was enough.

I was 24 and had spent my whole life being covered in cream.

This can’t be good for me, I thought.

As a teacher, I was surrounded by kids every day and longed to become a mother one day myself.

But using steroids could complicate my pregnancy as it may pose a danger to a baby’s health.

I started to cut back my usage but after four agonising days, I couldn’t last much longer.

Remi during a flare-up (Image: supplied)

A painful burning sensation raged through every part of my body and it was impossible for me to get comfortable.

My skin was peeling and swelling uncontrollably.

Turning to the internet, I learnt I had topical steroid withdrawal (TSW), which wasn’t well understood or easy to manage.

On social media, I saw other younger women dealing with it through limiting their water intake and only showering every three to four days to prevent a build-up of moisture – my body had stopped making its own from all the moisturiser in the steroids I’d applied for more than two decades.

I also changed my diet to gluten and dairy-free, and avoided processed foods or refined sugar, as these are all inflammatory foods.

Iori (left) has been a great support (Image: supplied)

Many people with eczema tend to have poor gut health, which causes flare-ups.

By cutting out certain foods, it may restore the gut lining and hopefully improve my eczema.

It’s been hard seeing my skin constantly flaky, but I’m hoping that with time, it will heal and I won’t have to take steroids again.

So far, I’ve been off them for seven months.

Healing is not a linear process (Image: supplied)

Iori has been my rock.

“You’ll always be beautiful to me,” he told me.

Healing isn’t a linear process: there are hard days and I’m still learning to accept my situation as best I can.

But I want women to know that we’re all unique and beautiful in different ways, and no matter what happens, I’m determined to embrace the skin I’m in.

Loading the player...

Related stories