Briseis Lunn’s confidence was deeply affected by her diagnosis – but now, she has learned to love her blotches.
A woman plagued by an agonising condition which left her entire body – even the inside of her eyelids – covered in red raw patches has told how Instagram helped her to finally embrace her skin and become a “psoriasis warrior.”
When property sales agent Briseis Lunn, 29, first noticed a small scab on the back of her head, aged 22, she thought she had caught it on something.
But more patches sprang up across her body, covering her face, arms, legs and back.
Diagnosed with psoriasis in autumn 2012 – an incurable condition causing red, crusty patches – Briseis, of Nottingham, has since tried numerous creams, lotions and shampoos to help soothe her symptoms.
She also tried to hide her problem skin under layers of clothing – while her confidence was further destroyed by cruel stares from strangers.
Then, in April 2018, she started sharing posts on her Instagram account, and connecting with other psoriasis sufferers finally taught her to love her blotches.
She said: “I would feel really self-conscious, especially when I was younger, because you can’t cover your face up.
“If you go out and people stare, it makes you feel like you’ve got the plague and that you are contagious.
“There is a way of looking at people without openly staring. Even though I have a lot of people in my life who make me feel good about myself, it would still get to me.”
Briseis continued: “But I just decided one day that I wasn’t going to cover up anymore and I started to get a lot of positive comments from people on Instagram, telling me that I had inspired them.”
Briseis, who is in a relationship, noticed a scab on the back of her head when she was 22 – the first skin problem she had ever had.
Soon after, a similar mark appeared on her forehead, which she picked absent-mindedly.
She recalled: “After a week or two, they appeared on my legs too – small little patches which looked like chicken pox.
“Those patches disappeared after a few months, but then more dry, flaky blotches started to appear on my face, arms and back.
“I think people thought I was contagious, particularly with the patches on my leg because they looked so much like chicken pox.”
She recalled: “I’m not sure what triggered it. I had been feeling a bit low and, thinking back, I was probably a bit depressed at the time, but I came through that and the psoriasis didn’t go away.”
Concerned, Briseis saw her doctor who initially diagnosed a fungal infection and prescribed a cream, which did little to ease her symptoms.
Reading up on psoriasis on the internet and convinced that she had it, a few months later, when she went back to the doctor he agreed, prescribing an emollient cream – often the first suggested treatment for the condition.
But she found after using it for a few months, coconut body moisturiser and vitamin D cream actually helped more to keep her skin hydrated.
One of two per cent of the population affected by psoriasis – of which there are several types although, typically, it causes patches of skin that are dry, red, crusty or covered in silvery scales, according to the NHS – Briseis also tried Chinese herbal creams, which would clear it up for a while but it would always come back.
Then, for no definable reason, about a year ago she said her symptoms rapidly worsened, explaining: “My skin really started to itch. It became a lot scalier. I would get patches on the inside of my eyes, and the bed of my nails.”
She said: “The patches on my scalp and all around my hairline got worse, too.
“I would find I was having to wash my bedsheets and clothes more often where I was so flaky, and I would have baths and use a body exfoliator to try and get rid of all the dead skin.
“The thing I was most self-conscious about was my scalp. I was worried people would think I was unhygienic or had dandruff.”
Desperate for help, Briseis started looking into her diet and decided to cut out gluten, dairy and refined sugars, after reading that psoriasis is an autoimmune disease and that can help with the symptoms.
She continued: “I had always eaten a lot of healthy things like fish, but did have a very sweet tooth, so ate quite a lot of chocolate and sweets.
“I cut out certain food groups like gluten and refined sugars, and after about three months I started to see an improvement. The patches were not so itchy and were less angry.”
Briseis continued: “Now I eat lots of fresh food and lots of lentils, pulses and fish. I rarely eat red meat and I don’t eat dairy.
“I also started taking a probiotic called the Happy Tummy Gummy, which costs £21.99 for 60 tablets.
“I’d heard about it on social media and since using it I’ve watched my psoriasis improve, which I put down to the healthy bacteria in my gut.”
She added: “I’ve also recently started a new regime, which involves putting coconut oil all over my scalp, then using a nit comb to get rid of all of the dry skin.
“I do that two to three times a week. It is really time consuming but seems to be helping.”
Now, having connected with other “psoriasis warriors,” as she calls them, online via Instagram, Briseis is finally learning to embrace her skin.
She concluded: “When people come to you asking for tips or saying that you’ve helped them in some way, it’s really humbling. It also shows you that you’re not alone.
“I’m now planning to set up my own YouTube channel with tips on healthy eating and tackling psoriasis.
“I want people to know that you can still live a happy life with this condition and be comfortable in your own skin.”
Laura Southern, a nutritional therapist currently based at London Gynaecology, said: “Psoriasis is caused by inflammation, and there are certain foods which can increase inflammation in the body – namely sugar and processed foods. Removing or greatly reducing these foods, and including more anti-inflammatory foods such as essential fats and fresh vegetables and herbs can ease symptoms.
“There is also a link between coeliac disease – an autoimmune disease caused by gluten – and psoriasis. About 80 per cent of psoriasis sufferers test positive for gluten antibodies, which means their bodies are reacting to gluten – though this does not mean they have coeliac disease. However once your body is negatively reacting to any food it makes sense to cut it out.
“Reducing gluten, sugar and dairy and increasing plant based foods and fish will be supportive for the whole body. It provides a great deal more fibre, so this supports our gut bacteria which then supports our digestion, it provides a larger variety of vitamins and minerals to help with any deficiencies which might be exacerbating the condition and stopping skin from healing, and it also supports the liver and detoxification pathways which are essential in psoriasis.”
Follow Briseis on instagram @briseislunn
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