Advantages of Using Emu Oil to Manage Topical Steroid Withdrawal
Rochelle first battled eczema at the tender age of six, thus beginning her long-term treatment with topical steroids.
We’re talking five years of treatment.
While topical steroids cleared up her problem at the time, eczema reappeared on her lips at age 16. Once again, topical steroids saved the day.
Or did they?
When she was 20, Rochelle experienced a reaction from her makeup, so she applied topical steroids to her eyelids.
But this time, the rash spread uncontrollably.
In the long run, the cream stopped working at all, which is the case for so many people battling eczema.
After seeking medical advice, she learned the problem was no longer just eczema but topical corticosteroid withdrawal (TCW).
So what is topical steroid withdrawal?
Topical Corticosteroid Withdrawal 101
Topical steroid withdrawal syndrome (TSWS) is characterized by burning red skin after ceasing topical steroid treatments — or even between treatments.
It may also be commonly referred to as:
- Topical Steroid Addiction (TSA)
- Red Skin Syndrome (RSS)
These terms refer to different facets of TSWS that stem from the long-term use of topical steroids.
TSWS can also arise from topical steroid use in individuals with no previous skin condition. For instance, with cosmetic use for skin bleaching or to treat acne.
Topical steroids range from moderate to high potency and can also be referred to as:
- Topical corticosteroids
As with Rochelle’s case, topical steroids are often only useful for some time before their use results in less clearing of rashes.
Over time, the original problem spirals out of control as it spreads to other parts of the body.
When it comes to eczema, this “progression” is often mistaken for:
- Worsening eczema
- Contact dermatitis
- An allergic reaction
However, it’s no longer just a skin condition at play here but a new cluster of non-skin-related symptoms.
This is why TSW syndrome is labeled an iatrogenic condition, meaning it’s a condition inadvertently caused by medical treatment and procedures.
Disclaimer: Not everyone who uses topical steroids develops TSWS.
Now, let’s further define two important terms related to TSWS.
Topical Steroid Addiction
The term “addiction” describes a situation that includes both:
- Increased tolerance to a given substance
- Well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal
Topical steroid addiction describes the inception of TSWS whereby the body develops a tolerance for topical steroid therapy.
This warrants increased use of the drug to achieve the previous therapeutic benefit. Thus, the skin “rebounds” upon withdrawal.
It can take days to weeks for the skin to develop an addiction.
Topical Corticosteroid Withdrawal
Withdrawal refers to the group of symptoms that appear after stopping or reducing a particular drug intake.
Therefore, topical steroid withdrawal syndrome refers to the group of symptoms that emerge when you:
- Cease topical steroid use
- Reduce potency of the steroid creams
- Apply steroid creams to fewer areas of the body or less often
Weaning yourself from topical steroid use can come with varying degrees of withdrawal symptoms.
This cluster of shared symptoms during the withdrawal phase is why topical corticosteroid withdrawal is referred to as a syndrome.
How Do You Know if You Have TSW?
Signs and Symptoms of Topical Corticosteroid Withdrawal
Before You Stop Using Steroid Creams
- ‘Rebound’ redness between applications
- An outbreak of rashes in new parts of the body
- Intense burning and stinging sensation
- Your rashes are no longer clear after using the usual potency of steroid creams and the rash calls for a higher potency to achieve the same result
After You Stop Using Steroid Creams
- Bright red skin that mirrors a sunburn
- Flaking “snowy” skin
- Red sleeves around the arms, legs, palms, and soles
- Hot and cold sweats
- Nerve pain commonly referred to as “sparklers” or “zingers”
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Dry eyes
- Hair loss
- Altered sleep schedule
- Appetite changes
- Emotional dysregulation leading to anxiety and even depression
We know that’s a lot to take in — but stay with us.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “I need to stop using steroid cream right away.” However, consult with your doctor regarding the possible risks beforehand.
Why is this important?
Abrupt cessation of topical steroids when the adrenal glands are severely depressed puts you at risk for an adrenal crisis — a life-threatening condition.
To avoid this, your doctor can run tests to determine your cortisol levels and adrenal function. Only then can you work together to develop a concrete withdrawal plan based on the findings.
And you can go a step further.
Read relevant research from scholarly, peer-reviewed journals to help you understand this condition.
If you feel comfortable, join a support group like the International Topical Steroid Awareness Network (ITSAN) for additional support.
Let’s move on to treatment options for TSW.
How Do You Treat Topical Steroid Withdrawal?
Topical steroids cause TSW, so managing it calls for topical steroid treatment cessation, as shared above.
An informed doctor can help patients navigate:
- Comfort measures
- Infection prevention
- Pain/itch management
- Anxiety therapies
- Sleep aids
- Other appropriate medical interventions
Recovery from TSWS varies from person to person but can take anywhere from months to years.
While there are no proven medications that cure TSWS, some patients with atopic dermatitis swear by emu oil for eczema management.
So what exactly is emu oil?
Benefits of Emu Oil for Topical Steroid Withdrawal
Source: Amazon | Ethically Sourced Emu Oil
Commonly used for thousands of years by Australian Aborigines, emu oil has numerous benefits.
Made from the fatty tissue of the flightless bird called emu, emu oil contains polyunsaturated fatty acids that deeply penetrate the skin.
In fact, in a study on using emu products as alternative medicine, researchers noticed a significant reduction in inflammation in subjects with carrageenan-induced arthritis.
Therefore, they concluded that emu oil’s skin permeation properties can be exploited to enhance the delivery of drugs through the skin.
Topical steroid withdrawal is characterized by dry patches of itchy, scaly, red burning skin.
Emu oil contains oleic acid, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, palmitoleic acid, among others.
This plethora of polyunsaturated fatty acids in emu oil creates an anti-inflammatory effect, making it highly effective in treating the skin’s inflammation.
One study revealed the topical treatment of psoriasis and eczema with emu oil significantly improved these conditions in as early as 15 days of treatment.
And it doesn’t stop there.
After 30 days of treatment, redness, dryness, and swelling had improved in the participants using emu oil.
“I’ve tried everything under the sun for my daughter’s eczema. I originally purchased this when I read a clinical study that showed this oil held up against steroids in medical trials. I was amazed to see an improvement in her skin after just one day! My mother also burned her hand and when she put this oil on, she said the pain instantly stopped. Thank you, Carole, for such an amazing product. We couldn’t have asked for more.” - Kaitlin G.
How to Use Emu Oil
When treating eczema with emu oil:
- Wash the affected area with a mild soap formulated for sensitive skin.
- Gently towel dry.
- Immediately apply emu oil to the area.
This helps rehydrate the skin and reduce symptoms like inflammation that cause people to scratch their skin, worsening the problem.
And not to worry — it’s safe to apply emu oil anywhere, includingyour face and genital area.
Many of our customers have already sidestepped the adverse effects of steroids by going straight for the benefits of emu oil.
Jessica even refers to it as a “miracle worker for my persistent eczema”.
“Several months ago, I developed two eczema spots on the side of my face. I've never had eczema before but that's what the dermatologist thought they were. They persisted for many months and I kept thinking they would go away but they never did. I didn't want to use steroid cream so I researched this product and I'm so glad I purchased it! Within just 2-3 days of use, combining this oil with the Emu Joy Soothe My Skin cream, the spots are already 80% faded! I hardly ever take time to write reviews but this one deserves it. Thank you so much for developing these products. I'm truly grateful.” - Jessica R.