Is staph infection hindering your healing? The truth is staph infection and eczema go hand in hand. Unfortunately, many eczema sufferers are unaware of how staph is affecting their bodies. I didn’t realize how it was delaying my healing process until a few months ago. First, let’s rewind to May of 2015. This is the first time I learned that I had staph infection. While visiting the dermatologist, my doctor took a culture of my skin after seeing my inflamed and raw hands. The culture showed staph infection, so my doctor put me on oral antibiotics and a topical ointment for my hands. I ended up taking two rounds of antibiotics, despite my better judgement, because the first round brought no changes. The second round was also fruitless. After that I swore off the dermatologist and continued to research on my own in an effort to find natural healing. I figured whatever remedies I found would be better than the antibiotics and creams from the dermatologist. My mistake was not researching the correlation of eczema and staph infection immediately, but I’ll get to that later.
Now fast forward to a few months ago. From all of my research I had learned about Topical Steroid Withdrawal, moisture withdrawal, natural remedies to soothe the pains of TSW (much of which I’ve shared here), and I was going through MW for the second time. The first time I did MW I experienced amazing results; however, this last time around was not as good to me. My skin improved from the initial breakout that led me back to MW, but overall I didn’t experience the same results as my first attempt. In an effort to aid my healing process, I returned to the dermatologist I once swore off to resume light therapy. I had done it in the beginning of 2015 when I first started TSW and definitely saw improvement, so I figured it couldn’t hurt since I was desperate for some relief.
Light therapy is a common treatment for skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis. Basically, you go to the dermatologist and stand in a light box that emits narrowband ultraviolet B (UVB) light, which is the best part of natural sunlight for treating eczema. The amount of time you stand in the machine increases every session. The therapy helps to calm itching and inflammation, increase vitamin D production, and ramp up the bacteria fighting systems in the skin. Light therapy was very beneficial for me, however, I did burn a few times and it caused major flake-age on my face. The face is more sensitive than the rest of the body, so it can't handle as much light. It took me a while to realize I was burning, because the flaking seemed like another flare. When I finally figured out what was happening the dermatologist had me cover my face for half of each session.
Before starting light therapy again I met with my dermatologist, and she insisted on testing for staph infection. Not to my surprise, the results were positive. This time around I opted out of doing the traditional treatment of antibiotics and creams. Honestly, much like the first time around, I kind of ignored the fact that I had staph infection until I started doing more research.
I already knew from my dermatologist that everyone has staph bacteria on their skin, but people with eczema often have open wounds on their body from the compromised skin barrier and constant scratching. When the staph gets into those wounds it causes infection in the body. From further research I learned that the infection causes more breakouts, inflammation and delays in healing for people with eczema. It can show up as boils on the skin or little pus filled pockets (gross, I know). Staph bacteria commonly live in our noses as well. So, ya know…don’t pick your nose and scratch your skin. I also learned that staph loooooove a moist environment. Ding, ding, ding! It finally made sense why MW worked the first time around! I found relief, because I took away the staph bacteria’s ideal environment. I believe this is why so many people improve while not moisturizing. While this worked for me the first time around, I realized that this time I needed to take more action to get rid of the infection. I had cuts in my skin that were taking weeks to months to heal, and I was flaking like a madwoman. I searched high and low for every natural remedy I could find. Pinterest was my best friend. I actually have a whole board dedicated to staph infection if you’re interested. (CLICK HERE!)
Pinterest provided me with numerous, natural, antibacterial substances to use for healing, most of which I already had in my possession. My regimen consisted of Manuka honey masks on my face and body, tea tree oil mixed with coconut oil , dead sea salt baths with tea tree oil, and bleach baths, which are not all natural but very effective in killing bacteria. I limited the amount of bleach baths and usually opted for tea tree oil baths instead. Even though I began moisturizing again, I used the tea tree and coconut oil mix very sparingly. I also started eating raw garlic to fight the infection internally (be careful with that, because it definitely made me sick a few times) and attempted to improve my diet overall to help fight the infection. I changed my bed sheets every two days, changed my pillow case every night, and stopped using hand towels in the kitchen and bathroom. Hand towels are a breeding ground for bacteria. Instead I dried my hands off with paper towels. I also went through the house and cleaned every door knob, light switch, and drawer handle. I wanted to give myself the best environment for healing.
Slowly, very slowly, but surely, my skin began to improve. Now, I want to be honest with you all. I believe I’ve shared this before, but I am no longer on the GAPS diet. I try to maintain a paleo diet, but now that I’m working again and I actually leave the house, it’s harder to stay on track. Around this time, I got extremely lax with my diet. I’m human! And I love food. I’m better about it now, but I do think this was contributing to the breakouts. All of this to say, light therapy and my all natural antibacterial treatments were helpful, but I still had a long way to go. After a while I started using Aveeno Eczema Therapy lotion. I actually started using it the day before I began light therapy (it took a while to confirm that my insurance would cover the therapy). They were both lifesavers! I saw improvement in my skin that I hadn’t seen since the first time I went through MW. Aveeno Eczema Therapy is not completely all natural, but I was desperate kids. It has a rating of two on the Healthy Living App, which rates products based on their ingredients. The more toxic ingredients a product contains, the higher the rating. If you ask me, two is pretty darn good compared to the seven that a lot of products get. Below are some pictures that show the progress of my skin over the past few months.
As you can see, I've been going through a lot of ups and downs. The natural remedies and light therapy have been helping, but overall these past few months have felt like a roller coaster. A month or so ago I started a new regimen for my skin, but that would be way too much information for me to share on this blog post. Stay tuned for another update soon. Until then, if you have eczema I encourage you to make an appointment with a dermatologist and get tested for staph infection. I hope this information helps! I've posted a few links below with more information about staph infection and light therapy. Until next time!
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I'm Lauren, aka Just Du Pree, and I want to thank you for reading. This is a space where I share my very personal journey healing from eczema and topical steroid withdrawal (among other things), life lessons I've learned along the way, and occasionally the thoughts of an awkward Black girl (no Issa Rae). I'm a performer and filmmaker, so if you feel so inclined, pop over here to see what goes on in my mind on the regular. If you like what you see, you can stay up to date with my work here. Much love, friends!