How I Tapered Down From Using A Super Potent Topical Steroid Cream for Over 20 Years

My name is Jason Vergara. I’m from Sydney, Australia and the founder of TSW Assist. This is my personal journey of how I tapered down from using Diprosone to no longer using any steroid creams at all. Diprosone is an ultra-strength highly-potent steroid cream that is up to 600 times as potent as low level hydrocortisone cream. It is commonly prescribed by doctors to treat eczema in adults and children.

In 2015, I discovered Topical Steroid Withdrawal. For over 20 years, my skin health deteriorated by what I thought was eczema. All the symptoms of TSW exactly matched what I was experiencing with my skin. I decided to stop using corticosteroid creams cold turkey. This sent my skin into severe withdrawal symptoms of cracking, bleeding, and oozing skin. After discontinuing and continuing steroid creams many times, I realized that going cold turkey was too hard for me and I needed to try an alternative option of tapering down.

topical steroid withdrawal face
Flakey, burning, inflamed skin
topical steroid withdrawal finger
Skin atrophy and ripping after years of Diprosone use

 

Wheatgrass Spray

I decided to take the taper approach and gradually work myself down the topical steroid ladder. I stumbled upon Dr. Wheatgrass as it was the only product at the time that actively spoke about Topical Steroid Withdrawal and how their Wheatgrass shots and spray could assist in the taper process.
To my surprise, I was able to email their founder Dr Chris Reynolds directly who was very helpful in providing assistance. He provided a taper chart that allowed me to follow a proper process of tracking my topical steroid use and reducing the application over time. He even provided discounted wholesale prices for me as I told him that I wasn’t in the best financial state.
Over 2 years, the Wheatgrass spray helped me manage the inflammation on my skin and I found it soothing. I managed to taper my steroid use down from twice a day (15 years use) to once every 3 days. However, I just couldn’t make it past the third day. My skin was in a state of limbo and survival and I would plan my lifestyle and events around the days that I could use topical steroids. Eventually, it came to a point where applying the creams once every 3 days did not work, and I would need to get my skin to a stable point by using topical steroids more often again. It felt like 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. At this point I had taken too much time off work and my social life that I decided to look for another solution. I discovered the Dr Aron method.

topical steroid withdrawal leg
Inflammation, bumpy hives

 

The Dr Aron Regimen – a compound cream

The Dr Aron’s Regimen is a treatment method for eczema that makes a compound out of the following:

  • a much weaker steroid
  • an antibiotic cream
  • a moisturizer

It is applied aggressively to begin with (5 x a day) and then eventually tapered down. Within 1 week of being on this compound cream my skin was the best it had ever been. The antibiotic cream to treat the underlying staph seem to work wonders and my skin was miraculously healed. Smooth, spotless and healthy. I felt a new sense of freedom. I followed the regimen’s advised process of tapering down. It was a very slow taper but it was effective. I lived my best life. I went traveling overseas, played sports, ate anything I wanted, and binge drank alcohol at parties.

In Osaka with my partner

I managed to follow the slow taper down process to eventually using the compound cream once a day, while my skin remained healthy, unlike when I taper down off pure neat steroids.

Looking back, I got so carried away with life that I completely forgot about my eczema, and forgot about the fact that I was still using steroid creams within Dr Aron’s compound cream. I lived a worry-free life. I drank a lot. I got some tattoos. I ate so much rubbish food. Then one day, after 4 years of using Dr Aron’s cream, it stopped working for me. The compound cream lost its efficacy and I could no longer use it just once a day. I started using it aggressively again, like at the beginning (5 x a day) then tapered down to once a day again. One again my skin miraculously healed. This became a vicious cycle where every time I would try and taper past 1 x application per day my skin would have all the symptoms of withdrawals of topical steroids. Bumpy, cracked, bleeding, pus, oozing, ripping, thin skin etc. I guess I was in denial for 4 years, and secretly I knew that I was still using topical steroids and that this day would come where it stops working and the withdrawal symptoms return.

This was my steroid application and taper process that I was following:

Duration Application
10 days 4 x daily
10 days 3 x daily
10 days 2 x daily
2 weeks 2 x daily
8 weeks 2 x daily, 1 x daily
212121
8 weeks 1 x daily
4 weeks 5 x weekly
4 weeks 4 x weekly
4 weeks 3 x weekly
4 weeks 2 x weekly
4 weeks 1 x weekly

 

Lifestyle and diet

I decided to clean up my lifestyle. I tried every diet under the sun – veganism, vegetarianism, carnivore, organic, Karen Fischer’s eczema diet, intermittent fasting, 24-72 hour fasts, no sugar. I also tried the elimination diet where I would cut out major food groups and re-introduce them 1 by 1. This destroyed my body and I became nutrient deficient. I lost 12kg in 2 weeks and developed food anxiety.
The diet that worked best for me was a balance of protein, healthy fats, lots of fruits and veggies, and no sugar and alcohol.
When I started fuelling my body with nutritious food, while still trying to taper off Dr Aron’s compound cream, I was able to taper down to only using the cream once every 2 days. This was a huge milestone for me, but I still couldn’t get past using it once every 3 days. The TSW symptoms would always come back.

 

Supplementation

Next, I decided to add some supplements to my health regime. I started seeing a naturopath who put me on an array of supplements such as zinc, magnesium, b vitamins. We also did a gut healing program with different strains of probiotics. We worked on adrenal support and sleep quality. The gut healing program and supplements really helped me. I became less intolerant to many foods that would previously make me itchy and red. The zinc helped my wound healing and the magnesium improved my quality of sleep. I was also taking a product called Adrenotone to help with adrenal support and fatigue. I also started taking Lion’s Mane, a medicinal mushroom that helps with cognitive function and nerve support, as well as Cordyceps to assist with non caffeinated energy.
After combining a clean balanced diet, no alcohol and vitamin supplementation I was able to taper down the Dr Aron compound to once every 3 days. It was fantastic but after a while, I could not make it past once every 2 days again!

 

Coronavirus

At this point it was February 2020. The global coronavirus pandemic shut down the whole world. I lost my job and was stuck in my apartment. I felt defeated and exhausted but saw this as an opportunity to finally quit topical steroids cold turkey. I decided not use the compound cream for 1 week. After the 7th day, my skin became the worst it’s ever been. All the symptoms of Topical Steroid Withdrawal were back in full-effect. I lost the ability to thermoregulate while my skin ripped, bled and oozed. My hair began to fall out and I became extremely itchy. There was no medical support, no solutions. Everything that I did up until that moment was trial and error and I felt like I was back at square one. A dark depression loomed over me but I didn’t let this overtake me. Over the years, I learnt a lot about my body and what helped me heal – proper nutritious food and specific supplements. This gave me hope.

topical steroid withdrawal flaking face skin
My whole face was shedding skin constantly. After 1 layer peels off, the layer underneath peels off within the next 24 hours. Pus and liquid would also ooze out.
topical steroid withdrawal hand
Itchy, bumpy hives that would ooze out with liquid

Mental health, mindfulness, meditation and manifestation.

It was through some very dark days during the 2020 pandemic that the only thing I could do was pray and meditate. My physical world was a brutal pain, but in my mind, the possibilities were endless. I started reading books that would help me alleviate the anxiety and depression in my mind. I practiced daily meditation, mindfulness and became quite spiritual. The more I calmed my mind, and unidentified with my body, the more peaceful I felt, regardless if my skin was on fire. I learnt about the power of the mind and bought all of Joe Dispenza’s books and courses about healing yourself with your mind. I read the Power of Now by Eckart Tolle. This shift in mindset was the greatest investment and longest lasting improvement I have ever made for my mental health. In a period of hopeless iatrogenic illness caused by pharmaceutical drugs, alternative solutions through mental health gave me solace.

I relapsed

After 1 month of severe Topical Steroid Withdrawal symptoms, I gave in. I hadn’t slept for days. I sat in the dark with the curtains closed everyday. I was scared to eat anything and lost 10kg. I was scared to shower. I couldn’t do it anymore. I needed rest. I needed a break from my suffering. I needed steroid creams.
I decided to use Dr Aron’s compound cream again. But this time it was different. I would use the compound cream to get my skin back to a healthy state, and once again, try and taper down.
This time, I had a new mental approach. A new mindset! A firm belief that I would be healed. Zero doubts. Inspired with fierce intention, manifestation and an unwavering faith that if my mind truly believes my skin will be healed, my body will follow. And so I started using the Dr Aron compound cream, again.

topical steroid withdrawal leg
Infected and inflamed leg
topical steroid withdrawal hand palm
Dyshidrotic eczema that would rip, bleed and ooze

 

Cold exposure

During the same time, I also discovered the Wim Hof Method and cold therapy exposure. I did his online course and religiously practiced deep breathing techniques, cold showers and ice baths. The cold showers worked wonders for the inflammation, my immune system, and significantly reduced the flare ups.

At this point it was September 2020, and with nutritious food, supplementation, daily meditation, cold showers, deep breathing exercises, journalling and positive and shift in mindset, I felt like I had all the essential tools to taper off steroid creams successfully. I followed the taper process again and managed to taper down to once every 3 days. This was my biggest milestone yet. I was slowly solving my own personal health code of tapering down from steroids. My body and skin were responding really well!

There was one thing however, that I could not get rid of. I was always itchy. Even though my skin was in a good state, I couldn’t shake off this bone-deep itch that I had. It was everywhere. I was convinced that I was not actually itchy, and it was a deeply ingrained behavioral habit that I developed from 25 years of eczema. I decided to see a hypnotist to tap into my subconscious and make me stop this habitual scratching. After my first and only consultation with the hypnotist, she told me that ethically she cannot hypnotize me to stop scratching. This was because I actually had the physiological health condition of eczema and that I was actually itchy – it’s not a subconscious habit. To my absolute luck, she has a teenage daughter who also had severe eczema and had bad experiences from stopping steroid creams. She suggested that I see a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor who has helped her daughter.

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine was the last piece of the puzzle of my own personal healing journey. I started receiving acupuncture and herbal teas from a Traditional Chinese Medicine skin specialist. (When I was a young child, my parents took me to a TCM doctor, but at the time we were lost in translation and didn’t give it the time and attention that it deserved. Also, I’m not sure if the TCM doctor we visited actually specialized in skin health.)
As a 31 year old adult, I am now a huge advocate of TCM. After 1 month of treatment, my skin was the smoothest it has been in 20 years. And it wasn’t just cosmetic and aesthetic. Internally I started to feel stronger and healthier. My asthma cleared up, my nose stopped running, I had regular bowel movements, my sleep improved significantly. During this time I was still using the Dr Aron cream once every 3 days. I was scared to stop in fear that all this money and effort would go to waste and TSW would override everything, but I was adamant to get off topical steroids for good. And so I committed to taper further.

I received ongoing TCM treatment for 1 year, whilst tapering down the application of the Dr Aron compound. I maintained my meditation, stretching, light exercise, healthy nutritious food, supplementation, cold showers, and deep breathing exercises. My skin stayed healthy, free of TSW symptoms and eczema. I managed to get the application of the Dr Aron command cream down to once every 7 days! At this point, I questioned myself – do I really need to use the steroid compound cream anymore? And so I stopped. 1 week passed, no TSW symptoms. 2 weeks passed. 1 month. 3 months. 6 months. No TSW symptoms. No itching, oozing, bleeding, ripping, temperature fluctuations. Nothing. Only mild nummular eczema spots!

 

Current Day

Today I can say that I haven’t used Topical Steroids in 13 months and my skin is the healthiest it has ever been. I still have cold showers. I still take daily supplements of magnesium, zinc, probiotics, and medicinal mushrooms. Once every two months, I receive acupuncture and take 1 week of TCM herbal teas. I still do daily meditation and work on my mindset, mental health and positive mindfulness. I eat a well balanced meal of protein, carbs and vegetables. I rarely eat sugar and fast food. I don’t drink alcohol anymore. It has been 13 months since I last used topical steroids and I haven’t had any symptoms of TSW at all. My skin continues to get more resilient everyday. I moisturize only once every 2 days. I don’t wake up to skin flakes or blood and pus around me. I go camping once a month. I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu where I’m grappling with sweaty opponents and my skin can handle it. Currently writing this, it is September 2022, and I’m on the plane to the Philippines for a tropical holiday and to visit my family! I did it. I cracked my own health code and tapered off Diprosone – one of the most potent steroid creams in the world.

For those reading, I am aware that there are many long term TSW sufferers who had their symptoms return after one year or two years. While I cannot rule out that it won’t happen to me, I now have my own unique system and processes to overcome this if the TSW symptoms return.

My dog and I
Healthy skin, wrestling with my dog in Australia
My dad and I
With my dad in The Philippines
Big day of snorkelling and island hopping with my best friend in Boracay

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Did Dr Aron’s Method cause Topical Steroid Withdrawal?

Personally, I believe it only delayed the inevitable. I was already using neat highly potent topical steroid creams for many years before using Dr Aron’s compound cream. The antibiotic component in Dr Aron’s compound cream made a tremendous positive difference to my skin health to treat the underlying staph infection, but the steroid component only delayed the inevitable withdrawal symptoms in my personal experience.
In saying that, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to use Dr Aron’s method for the years I was using the compound creams. It improved my skin so rapidly and allowed me to live a normal life during the years that it worked for me.

From what I can see in polarizing discussions in online forums and Facebook groups:

  • It has helped thousands of people
  • It may have also caused TSW in many people as they struggled to taper off it

In my personal experience with it, the compound cream became less effective after 4 years, and I had to use more and more aggressively before I could figure out my own way to taper off it. I knew at the back of my mind that I was still using steroid creams and eventually coming off them completely would bring back the withdrawal symptoms.

To be clear, I am not recommending the Dr Aron Method, nor am I disregarding it. I am simply sharing my honest journey with it. Topical Steroid Withdrawal and eczema is very complex and unique to each individual. More research and data is required.

 

Which is better? Tapering vs Cold Turkey TSW?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the right answer for this and I can only share my experience.
There are many people who were able to taper off topical steroids completely. There are also many who claim it only made their topical steroid withdrawal journey worse and delayed the inevitable!

Having tried both methods, in my personal experience, the taper method was less brutal and I was able to live a somewhat normal life, before the symptoms eventually returned.

If you are going through TSW, please do not let my own personal experience impact your judgment or your own personal journey! If you are months or years into your own cold turkey TSW journey and plan to never use topical steroids again, you have my full support and I wholeheartedly admire your courage.

I hope that the crowd sourced solutions on this website can provide you with options and solutions to help you figure out your own success with your topical withdrawal healing journey.

 

Did you ever take oral steroids, such as prednisone?

No, I did not.

 

If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently? What would you do the same?

With the knowledge and experience I have now, as a number 1 priority, I would stop drinking alcohol and consuming sugar.
My second priority would be to start Traditional Chinese Medicine (with a skin specialist not a health generalist) as soon as possible.
I would make sure that I would only have cold showers, eat a nutritious balanced diet, sleep 8 hours a night, and control my stress and anxiety levels through meditation and mindfulness. I would also take zinc, magnesium, probiotics, and do a gut healing program with a naturopath – all while tapering down slowly off steroid creams.
Again, this is my unique personal experience and this is not a recommendation. I am only sharing what worked for me, and unfortunately, it may not work for others. Unfortunately for some people, Traditional Chinese Medicine has not had any positive impact for them – this may because they did not see a TCM dermatologist/skin specialist.

 

Why did you create TSW Assist?

I created TSW Assist because I climbed out of the dark hole that is Topical Steroid Withdrawal. I know there are many people trapped in the dark hole. These were the most physically brutal and psychologically painful years of my life. It tested my mental health and on some dark days I questioned myself if I could keep going. I know that there are hundreds of thousands of people (potentially millions) suffering from this iatrogenic illness.
I don’t have the answers or the cure for this illness, however I cracked my own personal health code and I found some solutions that work for me. Through these crowd sourced recommendations directly from the TSW community on this website, I hope you too can find solutions that can help you beat topical steroid withdrawal.