What Naomi Scott’s Eczema Diagnosis Does for the Rest of Us | MyEczemaTeam

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What Naomi Scott’s Eczema Diagnosis Does for the Rest of Us

Medically reviewed by Steven Devos, M.D., Ph.D.
Written by Joan Grossman
Posted on September 20, 2023

Naomi Scott may be best known as the singer, songwriter, and actress who played Princess Jasmine in the live-action Disney box office sensation, Aladdin. The East Indian-English star has been seen in numerous television series from a young age, including Life Bites, Terra Nova, and Charlie’s Angels, among many other prominent roles. Scott is a critically acclaimed recording artist as well and has released several albums and hit singles.

But in recent years, Naomi Scott has gotten praise and attention for talking openly about her difficult experiences with eczema. And that’s a good thing.

“Before, I would just say, ‘Hide it, hide it all,’” Scott told Teen Vogue. Celebrities, in particular, don’t easily share their insecurities about how they look and their health challenges. Scott wants to change that. She believes it’s important to bring the realities of living with eczema to light. For one, she wants to send a strong message to people with eczema that she knows firsthand what you’re going through: “I hear you. It’s not nice. You know those days where you want to stay in bed, where you can’t move your neck because it’s so sore — I’m with you.”

Questioning Beauty Standards

Scott is also trying to give people with eczema encouragement by confronting some of Hollywood’s impossible beauty standards. “I guarantee you, the more you own it, the more you feel confident,” she said about her decision to be upfront about her eczema. “I think of a 14-year-old girl and [how] it could make her feel just that bit better: ‘Oh, she has it and she plays Jasmine.’”

Scott hasn’t shied away from releasing photos of her eczema flare-ups, including images that show widespread rashes and scars on her face, neck, and hands. “It’s pretty crazy because when you’re on camera, like, my face is my work,” Scott said on the British podcast Table Manners With Jessie and Lennie Ware, where she also candidly discussed her eczema.

At one point when her eczema was especially bad, Scott stopped wearing makeup while she was on the last press tour for the release of Aladdin in 2019. “It was all over my body, I was itching at night, and every night [there was] blood on the sheets,” she said to Teen Vogue.

Bringing Eczema Struggles To Light

Scott’s outspoken interviews about her eczema have helped shed light on a health condition that many people know little about, including the use of topical steroids, which are applied directly to the skin. She’s been especially open about her struggles with topical steroid withdrawal (TSW), a side effect of her eczema treatment that she’s been trying to overcome for several years.

Scott said that even though she grew up with eczema, she didn’t know about TSW until she experienced it herself. In fact, topical steroid withdrawal is just now getting recognized as a serious problem.

As Scott explained on the Table Manners podcast, after years of using corticosteroid cream to treat her eczema — at increasingly higher strength — eventually, the topical steroids stopped being effective. “And then your body just goes, ‘Nah, it doesn’t work anymore,’” she said. “I was maybe like 23. It just basically blew up all over my body.” So, she stopped using steroid cream. That’s when TSW started. The worst of it for Scott was in 2020.

Topical Steroid Withdrawal Awareness

Medical researchers don’t fully understand what causes TSW. Topical steroid withdrawal — sometimes called steroid withdrawal syndrome, topical steroid addiction, or red skin syndrome — can occur when medium- to high-potency topical steroids are discontinued after long-term use.

TSW is a relatively new term for a skin disorder that causes symptoms such as:

  • Erythema (redness)
  • Oozing rashes
  • Itchiness and skin sensitivity
  • Flaking
  • Painful burning sensation in the skin

Other symptoms that affect many people with TSW include:

  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Hair loss

One theory about the cause of TSW is that stopping topical steroids triggers the skin to have a severe reaction in which blood vessels in the skin vasodilate (open) and levels of nitrous oxide increase. Researchers believe this causes dysfunction in the skin barrier. Topical steroids work by causing blood vessels in the skin to constrict (get narrower), which helps stop inflammation.

For some people with eczema, TSW can be a debilitating condition that lingers for months or years. Scott described her TSW as “a two- to five-year drug withdrawal.”

Topical steroids can be highly effective for some people in treating acute inflammation from eczema that has not responded well to other therapies. However, Scott’s experience highlights the importance of using topical steroid creams, ointments, and foams properly and limiting their use, particularly on more sensitive skin such as on the face or genitals. Most dermatology experts agree that topical steroids should not be used long term and may only be appropriate for short-term use during eczema flare-ups.

If you’re using topical steroids, be sure to carefully follow your doctor’s directions and avoid using more steroid cream or ointment than instructed.

Knowing About TSW Can Help Prevent It

Scott is keen on educating people about TSW so that fewer people experience this potentially grueling condition. “It’s not an allergic reaction. And it’s not a histamine reaction. It’s literally nerve damage. So the itch is bone deep, so you can’t quench the itch. Do you know what I mean? It’s a bit nasty,” she said.

Signs of TSW can appear within 48 hours to several months of stopping a topical steroid. As of now, medical professionals don’t have precise standards for diagnosing TSW. Skin that feels sunburned in areas that may extend beyond those affected by eczema may be an early sign of TSW.

One of the difficulties of managing TSW is that it may be mistakenly identified as an eczema flare. Symptoms may resemble other skin conditions such as:

  • Atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema
  • Contact dermatitis, another type of eczema
  • Rosacea
  • Psoriasis
  • Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a blood cancer that affects the skin

“It’s really important to talk about because a lot of people are going through it. And a lot of people are going through it, and they don’t even realize it’s TSW. They think it’s really severe adult eczema,” Scott said.

TSW symptoms are managed with treatments such as:

  • Moisturizers
  • Cold compresses
  • Antihistamines
  • Over-the-counter pain medication or the drug gabapentin, for nerve pain
  • Psychological counseling

Discuss Topical Eczema Treatments With Your Doctor

Topical steroids are commonly used to treat eczema, along with other types of topical treatment options, such as the topical immunomodulators tacrolimus (Protopic) and pimecrolimus (Elidel). Always be sure that you understand how to properly use a topical treatment and how to maintain a skin care routine that can help protect your skin in general.

It’s also essential to discuss potential side effects in detail with your dermatologist whenever you start any type of medication so that you know how to recognize signs of side effects. Reach out to your doctor right away if you are concerned about any unusual symptoms.

Find Your Team

On MyEczemaTeam, the social network for people with eczema and their loved ones, more than 49,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with eczema.

Have you experienced topical steroid withdrawal? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on September 20, 2023
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    Steven Devos, M.D., Ph.D. received his medical degree and completed residency training in dermatology at the University of Ghent, Belgium. Learn more about him here.
    Joan Grossman is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. Learn more about her here.

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