Topical steroid withdrawal, or TSW, can be a gruelling journey. But can leaving your skin unmoisturised get it over and done with quicker? Well, the jury is still out on whether NMT can speed up TSW for everyone, although for some it definitely does!
TSW is the process of weaning your body off topical steroids. Why would you want to do that? Well, steroids are prescribed to dampen the immune system response, so that eczema flare ups are more comfortable and skin is less itchy and inflamed. A good thing, right? The problem lies with the way longer term use of steroid creams can throw your body’s normal reactions out of whack, so that the more steroids you use, and the stronger the potency, the more your body learns to rely on steroids not its own adrenal system to protect itself from triggers. Side effects from topical steroids can be serious and debilitating.
So while TSW is the process by which your body learns to adjust and heal from the effects of topical steroids, it can take a very long time. It’s been suggested that one way of speeding up that process is going cold turkey on the creams and salves you might be slathering on to soothe your dry and itchy skin; this, in theory, should stimulate your adrenal glands to react more appropriately to triggers and to start producing the oils your skin needs to protect itself from the outside world. If you carry on using emollients as a protective barrier, then the skin learns not to build its own barrier.
NMT takes a strict line: no emollients and a drastically reduced water intake. For many people, especially those under Dr Keji Sato’s care - the doctor who originally came up with the NMT regime - allowing their skin to heal through TSW without emollients has meant their progress has been rapid. In-patients at Dr Sato’s clinic can expect treatment to take 2-3 months. Others on the NMT road have found their journey to recovery intensified and accelerated when they stopped using moisturisers, and meant they recovered from TSW in under than a year.
It’s worth noting that not everyone gets on well with no moisture treatment; some people find it is too much of an ordeal and doesn’t seem to be making enough of a difference to their recovery to be worth the added discomfort. Everyone reacts differently to TSW and to NMT not just because everyone’s body is different but also because everyone has a different history with steroids.
For more information about TSW, its symptoms, effects and strategies that can help, see our TSW Info Hub.
We've spoken to many brave people who are undergoing TSW, and they've told us that in their experience a few strategic products have helped them cope with the gruelling process of NMT. These are their personal suggestions, not official, Dr Sato-endorsed products, because true NMT involves no using moisturisers at all.
Balmonds Skin Salvation for when lips and eyes are cracked and extremely sore
Balmonds Natural Shampoo & Body Wash works as a soap-free, scent-free and irritant-free shampoo/body wash.
Balmonds Rosehip Scar Oil with rosehip, lavender, chamomile and grapeseed oil (£18.99 for 50ml)