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  • Dr Samantha Law

My Skin Journey: Before and After Chinese Medicine

Having atopic dermatitis (eczema) essentially is one of the coming of age experiences that many Asians go through, myself included. As a child I ate too much chips and lollies and would make soft drink concoction with my sister. I would get heat rashes from time to time but my skin was pretty good until age 11.

This is my Dyshidrotic Eczema Story:

Dyshidrotic eczema, also known as “oil bumps” in my childhood memories, is a type of atopic dermatitis characterised by “tiny blisters” or “vesicles” that develop across the fingers, palms of the hands and sometimes the soles of the feet.

Note: the tiny blisters are the size of one pore.

It all began in Malaysia, the place where family stuffed me with oil-laden foods, humidity and heat took over the atmosphere, and standing sweaty in front of any fan was the norm. One day I woke up to seeing little blisters on my fingers. Like bubble wrap, popping gave me relief and amusement. The less I popped, the more it spread. It got worse and slowly began to spread down the sides of each and every finger. It would become inflamed during the hot, sweaty nights where I would scratch during my sleep.

I went back to the Australian winter, thinking it would all go away. My aunty, the biggest advocate for coconut oil, told me to rub in on my hands. The next day the eczema spread all over both hands, bumps everywhere on my palms and fingers. It was an 11 year old’s nightmare. It then became the recurring cycle of popping the blisters, the skin becoming extremely dry, and slow skin healing. My skin became so dry to the point where my hands were stuck in a position until I ran it under running water. My mum gave me an ultimatum and I was banned off all junk food. I didn’t eat hot chips for three years and still believed oil would ooze out of my skin if I consumed it or put it on my skin.

Every year, the dyshidrotic eczema would come back but very mildly until I started swim teaching and developing chlorine sensitivity. The dampness from the pool and the inflammatory reaction from being in chlorine aggravated it, and on top of that I started getting wheals on my arms and rashes on my neck and face.

Antihistamines calmed my skin down but it wasn’t enough. I began taking Chinese herbal medicine along with the antihistamines and a week later, I never had the wheals again. My skin progressively got better and better and I weened myself off taking antihistamines. Now, I take some Chinese herbs before and after I go into the pool and during hot humid weather. My skin barely breaks out into a rash and my eczema may show under 30 blisters which was better than the hundreds or thousands of mini blisters.

This is just one of many parts of my skin journey as my history consists of atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, cellulitis, urticaria, neurodermatitis and mild acne. I’ve experienced the unbearable itching, wheals, icing my skin so I wouldn’t scratch my neck off, skin so dry it felt like sand paper, cuts, the oozing of all sorts of liquids, swelling, pimples and more.

From moisturising dryness, alleviating itchiness, relieving inflammation to clearing pus, Chinese herbal medicine can do wonders for the skin if prescribed correctly and has done wonders for my own skin. Once I started taking Chinese herbs for my skin, nothing else has worked as well from the antihistamines and topical steroid creams which can have their own side effects. I really cannot advocate herbs enough for your dermal health!

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