I was born in Sydney Australia & struggled with severe eczema, asthma, food & chemical allergies & chronic fatigue from birth. The first 18 years of my life was extremely tough as my entire body was itchy, raw, dry, painful & often infected despite seeing all the top doctors & dermatologists.
I was using topical steroids & immune suppressants for 15 years which has taught me about what true health is. Every night I would be scratching, unable to sleep & in physical, mental & emotional trauma. I would often wake up in the middle of the night extremely itchy. I needed to shower & take drowsy antihistamines just to sleep. My skin was so dry it would crack & make movement difficult. Other times it would be weeping, itchy & full of rashes.
I was so itchy I would hit myself to have the pain override the itch. Everyday I would wake up to a pile of dead skin & bloody limbs. It severely impacted every aspect of my life. I also struggled with my weight, had glasses, braces & acne so I've been through a lot.
I saw the top doctors & dermatologists who could not help me gain long term relief. They prescribed topical steroids, antibiotics, antihistamines & recommended generic petrochemical based moisturisers. I was told there was no cure & that I would have eczema all my life. I could just manage the symptoms.
Little to no emphasis was placed on diet, systematic allergen avoidance & lifestyle changes. I still remember asking my dermatologist Lucinda if diet effected my skin as it seemed to be highly correlated. Whenever I ate a lot of processed foods my skin would worsen. She said 'there is no conclusive evidence that diet effects eczema'. As a naive 12 year old, I thought I should trust the expert & dismissed my own instincts. I ate whatever I wanted.
Over time, my skin became addicted & tolerant to the steroids. I required increasingly higher potencies to maintain efficacy. My skin became thinner, grey looking & looked healthy even when flare free. It was symptom management. Not health. Incomplete at best, grossly negligent at worse. I was never warned about topical steroid withdrawal or addiction & my concerns were dismissed.
I would often visit the doctor to see if there was a new cream I could try. One that wasn't a steroid. I thought the right cream alone could magically fix my problems.
Occasionally a new non steroidal prescription cream would appear which would give me hope. I tried a number of calcineurin inhibitors including tacrolimus & pimecrolimus but they also did not help long term. Eventually I realised it was still an immune suppressant.
As my condition was so severe & I had multiple food, chemical & environmental allergies, I was eventually able to have a skin prick & blood test. It confirmed that my immune system was highly overactive & was producing an usually high number of IgE antibodies. I was irritated or allergic to dust, pets, grass, mould, fragrances, pollen, peanuts & milk.
At 15, I stopped seeing doctors regularly for my skin as I lost trust in their ability to help me. Unless my skin was infected & I needed an antibiotic, I did not consult them. I wanted to try a more natural approach as everything they suggested did not work. Maybe my instinct about diet was right.
I spontaneously tried every natural cream, diet, supplement & alternative therapy. I had a routine of going to the chemist every week to see if there were any new products to try. Again most things I tried failed to work long term.
At 18, my skin was at its worst from poor diet, pressure from my parents to perform academically & the stress of final exams.
My grandma who I was very close with passed away unexpectedly from a brain artery rupture while she was on holiday leading me to feel sad & also guilty. My unstable emotional state, fatigue & physical discomfort prevented me from spending as much time as I wanted to with her.
I was sad, depressed, exhausted & it showed on my skin. People would constantly ask me if I was burnt. If I was contagious. I would receive looks of pity, disgust & judgement. I was sick of being sick & thought to myself, is this what life is? Is this what the rest of my life will be like as the doctors said?
I found myself sat at the base of my shower, feeling helpless & defeated. If life was always going to be like this, I wasn't sure I wanted to live. I drew 'Why me?, Help' in to the steamed glass. I surrendered. I asked to be shown rock bottom. To be hit with the full force of difficulty that life could throw at me. At least it could only go up from there.
Some small flicker of hope remained within me. I thought, I have survived to this point & it can't get much worse. If life is to be worth living I needed to take full control of my health. I would forget everything I had been told & start fresh. I would track everything. I would make my grandma proud. I would make myself proud.
I don't know I managed to do so, but I somehow brought myself back from the brink of destruction.
With my newfound mindset & plan, I regained the energy to focus on my final year of studies. I told myself that all twelve years of schooling, all those sleepless nights led to this one final score. This would greatly influence the trajectory of my life.
I ate as unprocessed as possible & blended vegetable juices daily. This was improving my energy levels & skin slowly. I ended up getting a final score of 96.55/100, entry in to my top university preference & a cadetship with a Big 4 accounting firm. I was so proud of myself.
I became obsessed with health & spent countless hours researching skin problems, in particular the role of diet, skincare, the immune system & allergens. My eastern background gave me this feeling I should target the problem & not just suppress it with drugs. There was no quick fix. Multiple things were out of balance & my body was in an overactive state.
I stopped all steroids, removed irritating chemicals from my life, overhauled my diet, healed my gut, started exercising & used a very simple moisturiser. I started methodically tracking my research, everything I ate & products I used. I also realised I was reacting to the laundry detergents, soaps & shampoos I was using.
Within a year, 90% of my eczema cleared & I lost 10kg. I had a new lease on life, I developed confidence & my skin looked great. I was so grateful to be able to do simple things like play sport, eat out freely & wear a t-shirt and shorts without being stared at. To be able to type without pain, sleep properly & have a stable mind.
No longer was I defined by others as 'the guy with eczema' but as an ambitious, social young man with the world at his feet. I started distributing the herbal cream that was working for me as well.
I was still reacting to some foods & chemicals. I continued to research the skin & developed my own diet designed to heal the gut & balance the immune overreaction. I tracked my skin progress, the irritants I was reacting to & systematically cut out all contact irritants.
I was finally able to live fully & have been lucky to live in the USA, Australia, Canada, Thailand & the UK. My eczema gave me an innate ability to see variables & solve problems leading to a career in logistics.
Having eczema allowed me to develop strong self belief, emotional maturity, strength & critical thinking. It developed my inquisitive, analytical mind & uncovered a passion for health & service.
Over the last 5 years I've taken the time to really understand myself. Growing up, I rarely had a calm, stable mind which impacted my ability to sit still & introspect. I was always defined by others as the nerdy asian kid with eczema.
I knew I was capable of so much more & had this fighting spirit within me. From a young age, I knew I would make a significant world impact. When you don't define yourself by your external appearance or labels, you start to understand who you are. When I was stripped of everything, when things were at their worst, I was surprised to find this strong, joyful, resilient, loving energy in me.
Eventually I cleared my severe peanut & food allergies & completely overcame my eczema. I am no longer restricted by my skin. My view on health has completely changed & I'm grateful to have found a life calling.
I never thought I would start a skincare & health business.
I was always on track to climb the corporate career ladder in accounting, consulting or the tech-startup world.
With the amount of misinformation, ineffective products & focus on symptom management, I have no choice. It is my duty & life purpose to share my experience so others don't have to go through what I did.
I learned the hard way about true skin health. It is not just what you apply on your skin. It is about the balance of the mind, body and soul, physically, mentally & spiritually.
Like you probably, I have spent a fortune trying everything. From cortisones like Elocon calcineurin inhibitors like Elidel, Sorbolene, Vaseline, Caroline's, Silic 15, Cetaphil, Hope's Relief, Aveeno, Calendulis Plus, Sigmacourt, Dermaveen, Dermeze, Billy Goat, Moogoo, Ego, Pinetarsol, Medihoney, Body Shop, Emu Oil, Crocodile Oil, Bio Oil, Lanolin, Oatmeal, wet wraps, coal tar, acupuncture & various herbs. You name it I have tried it.
They had great claims but did not work for me. Nearly all of them were irritating & stung my skin. Some might work for a few days. Nothing was keeping my skin hydrated long term & I felt like I had to keep applying them or my skin would dry out. The thicker ointments were greasy, irritating when sweating & impractical. Many were filled with questionable ingredients. The natural creams had over 20 ingredients & I was likely irritated by them.
I spent the last 6 years formulating, testing & developing the Aether line. I am proud to have created the first complete problem skin health system, comprising of our natural biocompatible product range, our advice (The Problem Skin Bible) & our favourite lifestyle recommendations. The Biomime Cream 297 is our hero product, designed to mimic the skin surface lipids that are deficient in problem skin. Named after 297 batches & 1000 experiments!
Skincare can not be disconnected from health.
Skincare is more than the creams and products we use on our skin. Skin is a reflection of our overall health. We need to view ourselves and our skin holistically. Health goes beyond optimising your diet and exercise regime. It is about the balance of the mind, body & soul, physically, mentally & spiritually. We are made of energy. Energetic beings, in an energetic world. I’ve learned to think about health, life & reality itself in terms of energy.
I am more than my skin.
More than my labels, job, clothes or status. I am that relatively stable consciousness that has persisted since childhood. I can only be treated how I allow myself to be. I can choose how to react & perceive any given situation. In turn, I view others as more than just their labels. I’ve learned to appreciate someone’s character, someone’s energy. I am both a driver & a passenger in life. A driver with a steering wheel, that constantly changes its trajectory with each choice. Yet a passenger, an expression of the universe a wonder of creation.
He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.
I went through unimaginable suffering. It really is a testament to the strength of the human spirit & its need to grow, thrive & realise itself. Having my will to live tested repeatedly strengthened my will to live. When you are faced with constant suffering that you don’t know when will end it makes you question why you want to live. I realised I wanted to experience life fully, make a positive impact on the world & share my experience so that others don’t have to go through what I did.
For a long time, I avoided sharing my skin journey in detail. I had overcome my problems, achieved a level of success in life & wanted to forget about it. I also believed that others would judge me or look at me differently if I was to share the true extent of my problems. I mentioned it in passing but rarely ever shared the confronting photos of my skin.
It took a lot of growth & courage but I realise my experience is more than about me. This is the first time I have publicly shared the following images. I took them throughout the years to track my progress. I hope they give you a better understanding of what I have been through & how I can help if you or a loved one is going through something similar. You can see the variety of skin issues that results from eczema.
I'm so proud of myself for taking full control over my health & overcoming my eczema. I was told I would have eczema all my life & that the best I could hope for was to manage the symptoms with steroids. How wrong they were! I have been through it all & feel grateful to have changed my life. I can now live a full life, wear what I want, eat what I want, have mental clarity, move without pain & not be restricted by my skin. I am no longer starred at, pitied or looked at with disgust. I am no longer defined by my skin problems.
I am so happy to become the fullest version of myself & not be restricted by my skin. It really makes you grateful for the simple things in life. I am here to help others overcome their skin problems. Healing is possible. If I can do it, you can too!