106: What The Heck Is Eczema Herpeticum? w/ Abby Lai

Many of us are familiar with eczema: what it looks like, and how it feels. But have you ever heard of its dangerous cousin, eczema herpeticum? My guest today is here to talk more about it. 

Or, listen on your favorite app: iTunes (Apple Podcasts) | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | Subscribe on Android

My guest today is Abby Lai. Abby is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) and the founder of Eczema Conquerors, a website that was voted one of the top 20 eczema blogs to follow in 2018.

She is also the creator of The Eczema Podcast. Her mission is to help as many people overcome eczema by working with clients worldwide and providing natural eczema remedies through eBooks, videos and articles.

Join us as we discuss eczema herpeticum, as well as Abby's journey with it and with eczema.

Had you ever heard of eczema herpeticum? Let me know in the comments!

In this episode:

  • Abby's story of living with eczema
  • What is eczema herpeticum?
  • Why you MUST see a doctor asap if you think you have eczema herpeticum
  • Abby's top foods to add to your diet


“One piece of advice that I would give myself and I'll also give to your listeners out there is just to have more grace for yourself and to forgive yourself if you're going through this and to love yourself through the process.” [19:26]

“Turmeric really has that strong anti-inflammatory property and that can be found not only in foods but also in supplements as well.” [16:51]


Megasporebiotic Information:

  1. CLICK HERE to get Megaspore
  2. https://www.skinterrupt.com/role-of-probiotics-skin-health/
  3. https://www.skinterrupt.com/how-probiotics-turned-my-hand-eczema-around/

Find Abby online here

Want to try some skin-soothing products? Click HERE and use code HSS20 for 20% off!

Healthy Skin Show episode 030: Natural Remedies For Eczema Rashes w/ Abby Lai

Abby's eight-week group program

Download Abby's FREE ebook, 6 Proven Ways to Clear Eczema Naturally

Follow Abby on Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

106: What The Heck Is Eczema Herpeticum? w/ Abby Lai [FULL TRANSCRIPT]

Jennifer: Hi everyone. Welcome back. Today I am joined by a good friend. Her name is Abby Lai. Some of you may have come across her on Instagram. We met, I don't know, a year or so ago and we've been on each other's podcasts. She's got a great one by the way, that you should check out. As I said, Abby Lai is a registered holistic nutritionist and she's the founder of Eczema Conquerors. It's a website that was voted one of the top 20 eczema blogs to follow in 2018. She's also the creator of the Eczema Podcast. As I said, it's a tremendous resource and you should check it out and I'll put a link underneath this video so it's easy for you to find.

Jennifer: Her mission is to help as many people as possible overcome eczema by working with clients worldwide and providing natural eczema remedies through eBooks, videos, and articles. She's also the creator of the Skin Conqueror line and you can follow her over on eczemaconquerors.com.

Jennifer: Abby, thank you so much for joining us.

Abby: Hi Jen. Thanks so much for having me today.

Jennifer: So why don't you fill everybody in because you're not just a nutritionist, like you're literally an eczema warrior yourself. So when did eczema appear in your life?

Abby: So, I always had it when I was young. I had it since I was born. It was never bad. It was always just mild and everything was okay. Then I moved to Hong Kong when I was really young, as a teenager, and then after my first boyfriend broke up with me, that's actually when it became really, really severe. So I know that my eczema is really tied to a lot of emotions and stress and just trauma that's happened in my life as well, that I've had to dig really deep into. And the funny thing is whenever I moved, whenever I came to Canada, because that's where I was born, so whenever I visited Canada during the summers, my skin would just clear up all on its own. And then this happened for like years and years. And then when I went to university, everything was okay and I was able to live with clear skin again, which was great.

Abby: But when I started dating my boyfriend at that time, who is now my husband, my skin flared up severely, like really, really badly shortly after again. And it's just so interesting how sometimes the condition can be really tied to relationships and even emotions and like I mentioned before, trauma, as well. So yeah, things were so bad and I was working full time. I couldn't walk properly, couldn't move properly, couldn't shower properly. Sleeping was hard and it was hard to look at my face. I felt like I was looking at someone I couldn't recognize. I felt like sometimes I was looking at a monster because I had so much redness, I had rashes, everything was peeling. I tried to cover it up with foundation and I couldn't cover it up and everyone just noticed it at work.

Abby: And one day one of the managers, she was so nice, she just said to me, “Why don't you take unlimited work from home days or unlimited sick days? I just want to really be able to help you get better.”

Jennifer: Wow.

Abby: Yeah. So, that really helped so much. And it was around that time that one of my friends also had mild to moderate eczema. So she said to me, “I've heard that doing an elimination diet would really, really help your skin. Would you be interested in doing this together?” And I thought she was crazy because at that time, nothing in my head made sense that diet would really help my skin.

Abby: So I was going through such a hard time and I was like, what is there to lose? So we did this elimination diet together and my skin just went crazy. It went so bad, like within two months it was like the worst it had ever been. I was just super scared at everything that was happening. I didn't understand what was going on. And my husband said, “Just hang in there and maybe it's still getting better. We'll still see.” And the naturopath that I was seeing at that time, he said, “It can get worse before it gets better.” So I hung onto to that even though I was still a bit skeptical.

Abby: And long story short, after that two months, my skin would just heal so fast. I felt like during that two months all the toxins coming out, too much for me to handle. And then after the two months, my skin was just healing at such a rapid rate. Even though I slept, there were days I only slept three hours or four hours or five hours a night, but my skin was just healing so fast. And that's what made me inspired to become a nutritionist after. And just help people with skin problems too.

Jennifer: Yeah. So, one of the most interesting things, it's interesting and yet for you living it, is not interesting, I guess per se … It's really uncomfortable … Is that you seem to have a flare after. Was it during or after you had your son?

Abby: It was after.

Jennifer: So can you talk a little bit about that?

Abby: Yeah, sure. So during the pregnancy my skin was great. Things were good. My skin was not too bad. People said I had the pregnancy glow with my skin. So I was happy about that. And one week before birth, my skin started getting really, really dry again and a bit flaky. And I just remember one week before giving birth, everything was like so itchy and flaky because it was so dry. And then after that, my skin, after giving birth, it slowly kept declining and declining more and more until the point where it was incredibly scary and traumatic. Everything I went through. I also was on two rounds of antibiotics. One I think was for UTI, and another one was because I got a nail infection from scratching so much. And I had tried natural methods but it wasn't strong enough at that point. And there was a lot of stuff I couldn't take because I was breastfeeding. But the doctors gave me some breastfeeding safe antibiotics to take, but my skin would just flare so much to the antibiotics and react so much.

Abby: One day, this seven year old saw me and she said, “What's wrong with your face? It looks so bad, it looks really, really bad.” And it was full of rashes and my son had a rash too, because the antibiotics flared up his skin too, because I was breastfeeding. So the little girl was like, “The rash. Your son has that exact same rash.” But his was nowhere near as bad as mine. And so for a long time, like my skin after birth was just horrible and I couldn't sleep properly. Everything-

Jennifer: You even talked about how just the act of wearing pants was really difficult. Like wearing clothes was hard.

Abby: That was tough. Like there were times it would take me like over 30 minutes just to put on a pair of pants and it was so hard even just to leave the house and even picking up my son from daycare was really, really difficult.

Abby: One of the hardest parts was wearing clothes because it just made me feel so uncomfortable. And after showering, it would take me hours just to dry off because I had to put on a lot of oil and I would put on castor oil because it's really thick, but it was the only thing that would help me, help my skin stay moisturized.

Abby: So everything was a big challenge. And I remember saying to my husband, “I feel like I can barely survive.” And he was telling me, “Keep up the same way.” He was like, “I feel like I can barely survive too, but not because of like the same thing you're going through.” But because I wasn't able to take care of my son that much, so my husband had to take care of my son and do a lot of the tours because I couldn't do it too. So it was a really, really hard time for sure.

Jennifer: And so it was interesting, recently on your Instagram feed, you mentioned a specific type of … Was it an infection that can happen as a result of eczema? I thought might be just an interesting little tidbit to share for anybody that maybe … Can't hurt.

Abby: Yeah. So during my pregnancy, for the first time I got eczema herpeticum and I had never had it before. I didn't know what it was. I saw different doctors, like two to three different doctors and they had no idea what it was too. One thought it was folliculitis. And then another doctor thought I had used a product that had just caused a reaction on my face. And the scary thing about this is, I found that not a lot of doctors know about this. The scary part about eczema herpeticum is that it spreads really, really fast and it's a herpes simplex virus. So it's related to the same family as like cold sores, shingles-

Jennifer: Chicken pox. Yeah.

Abby: So the dangerous part about eczema herpeticum is that, well for me, I had it on my face so it spreads really, really fast. And I read somewhere where it says that usually the first time is the worst time. And then the other times they won't be as bad. But I'm sure there are exceptions to this. Like I've heard people who have had it really bad, some have been hospitalized because of this. And the dangerous thing about eczema herpeticum is that it can actually go into your lungs and it can even go into your eyes, so it can cause blindness. So I've actually had to get my eyes checked out, just to make sure I didn't have any in it. And then I read somewhere that it can also cause meningitis, but I still have to confirm that one.

Abby: But yeah, it's definitely, it spreads fast and that's why a lot of people find it really scary and not a lot of doctors recognize it. I remember going to another doctor and asking them for a topical thing to put on it and they said that they can give it to me, but I need to take full responsibility for it because they don't know this condition and they're not familiar with how to treat it. And it wasn't until I went to see a dermatologist during my pregnancy that they immediately recognized what it was. So, it's interesting and sad that not a lot of people will recognize what it is.

Jennifer: And what were some of the symptoms? You said it just looked like little dots all over the face?

Abby: Yeah. So, while I had the eczema herpeticum, it looks like little dots, like little blisters and it's itchy and uncomfortable. Imagine a lot of cold sores all over your face.

Jennifer: Oh my.

Abby: I know, that's not a fun thing. But I remember emailing Dr. Lio, who I know you've had on the podcast. I emailed him and I told him, “I found out I have this. What do I do about it?” And he was great. He gave me good tips. He suggested using calamine lotion to calm it down. But then doctors, a lot of times they also recommend antivirals and antibiotics and topical stuff too. So there was always that option. And I am always about the natural remedies. So for this one though, it's like one of the more risky ones. So I would highly consult, whoever's going through this to talk to your doctor about it, if you should take medications or not. And also consult with your holistic practitioner or naturopath. But definitely consult with your doctor first.

Jennifer: Well, especially that risk of going blind, like ending up with eye issues. I mean your eyes are basically an external portion of your brain, you know? And unfortunately while we would love to think we can fix all these things in the body … I just know because my dad's an ophthalmologist and an eye surgeon, that there are things with the eyes that we cannot always fix. So it is important to be careful when it's something that affects your eyes.

Abby: Yeah, I agree with you completely. I remember, there was one girl, I think she had it really, really bad, it kept getting worse and she was just consulting with a health coach.

Jennifer: Oh.

Abby: So I would just recommend like … Health coaches are not qualified.

Jennifer: Yeah, and they're not medical practitioners.

Abby: And you don't know how bad it can get. So this is definitely something to be aware of and really to work with your doctor on.

Jennifer: Abby, how long did it take you to go through that? Because obviously something like shingles, it depends on when you catch it. Just out of curiosity, if anybody does end up with this or if they're maybe in the middle of it, like did it take a couple of weeks to go away once you started treating it?

Abby: Yeah, so I actually got eczema herpeticum last week. I got it last week because I had the flu so I was down with the flu like really, really badly. And I usually get it when my immune system is low or either I have a severe lack of sleep, which is common for viral infections, you usually catch it when your immune system is low. So I had it last week. So the day that I was supposed to do this interview with you last week, but that morning I woke up with the herpeticum, and my left eye was swollen because I had herpeticum on my left eyelid.

Abby: I still have scarring here actually. So I have scarring here from the herpeticum. So I think everyone is different. I spoke with someone who said that theirs lasts for two weeks, that they take strong antivirals in order for it to calm down. They were telling me that if they don't take the strong antivirals it only lasts like a week or so. But for me, mine personally lasts about a week and I do strongly recommend an antiviral protocol as well. For example, lysine, that's really important and that will really help too. And even high doses of vitamin C to boost the immune system. So work with your naturopath for the antiviral protocol but also speak with your doctor if you're going through it.

Jennifer: Yeah, absolutely. So you mentioned, you've had a long history in dealing with eczema and living with eczema and ups and downs with it and now you do nutrition. So do you have maybe four or five favorite foods that you find or you that you can add these to your diet, because I know you have a very specific way that you address eczema. Are there any favorite foods that maybe people should consider adding to their diet if they haven't yet?

Abby: Yeah, there's so many.

Jennifer: I know.

Abby: It's really hard. I know, I'm sure you and I both, we have a lot of favorite foods. I really recommend … Just, there's so many that we could go into, but I really recommend an antiinflammatory diet, so high in vegetables and good fruits and lots of greens. Like foundation, they usually say the green hue will bring down the redness. So, just similar to that, in vegetables, like green vegetables, it'll really, really help with bringing down the inflammation and just helping the skin as well. Even things like turmeric, turmeric really has that strong antiinflammatory property and that can be found not only in foods but also in supplements as well.

Jennifer: Yeah, and you can actually add that to so much and it doesn't necessarily, I've found at least, like if I cook rice or something I'll add some to vegetables or to a rice or something, and it doesn't necessarily mean, for anybody who's hasn't tried it, that you're going to end up with a really strong flavor. I think people think turmeric is going to taste like curry, and if they're not comfortable with exploring ethnic cuisine, they're worried about what it'll taste like. But I don't find that turmeric really has a super strong flavor. So it's something that you can easily add to protein shakes. Pretty much anything.

Abby: Yeah, definitely. So there's a wide range of uses that can be used for it, which is really, really great.

Jennifer: Yeah. And I have last question for you. If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, like you wish you knew this before. Any thoughts on what that might be?

Abby: I've actually asked myself this before and when I look back, I feel like I did the best I could. I tried so many things. Even after giving birth and during my pregnancy, I tried so many different modalities. I've even looked into things like parasites, whether my body had low grade infections, thyroid, because that was always something that I was struggling with.

Abby: So I think if it was one thing that I would say to myself, it would be not to be so hard on myself and to forgive myself for everything that I've gone through and to not feel bad and to not punish myself in my mind for not healing more, for not doing better. I would just tell myself that, I think that I deserve a bit more love and grace, especially for everyone out there and whoever's listening. I know that it's not easy and it's so easy to punish yourself and say that you're not doing enough or that you're not good enough if you're going through this, and I know a lot of us, we also feel like we're not beautiful enough sometimes, when our face has a lot of scarring or eczema patches.

Abby: So I just want to say that, yeah, one piece of advice that I would give myself and I'll also give to your listeners out there is just to have more grace for yourself and to forgive yourself if you're going through this and to love yourself through the process.

Abby: I think that we learn a lot through the process. I guess I am really upset that I have had to go through so much after giving birth. I look at other people who have that eczema and I'm like, they're able to be okay. They have sleepless nights but their skin looks great. Like how come I've had to suffer so much compared to other people. So, I think just having that love for yourself and just understanding that good things can come out of hard times and that your tests can become your testimony.

Abby: I've cried so many sleepless nights after giving birth, not only because I couldn't really help my son and be there for him as much as I wanted. I feel like there's been a lot of stolen moments that I wish I could be there for. But you know, a lot of blessings have come out of this. For example, I've learned so much more about how to help people through this. I've learned how to love my body more and have grace on my body. I've learned how to have compassion on other people more.

Abby: So the advice I would give people is to list some of the good things that have come out of this. And you'll remember and you'll know that not all of this has been bad and not everything has gone to waste. And you'll be able to redeem moments that you've lost when you recognize that good things and blessings have actually come out of the hard times.

Jennifer: Yeah. And I also think too, as you're saying all of this, which is such a powerful testimony to somebody, you keep trying, you know? And I think that's what I hear as well, is that you've kept trying, despite maybe if things didn't work or you hit a wall someplace or something came back, you kept going despite all of that, you never threw in the towel. And that is also a very powerful reminder that you can't just say, “Oh, I tried everything.” Maybe too, that's also a good reminder, is that even if you've gone the dermatology route and you've tried everything, there are other options, right? We can try other things. You just have to keep an open mind and keep on learning.

Jennifer: And I think that's the one thing that I learned when I was on the verge of being like, why is this happening to me? Am I being punished? Like did somebody put the evil eye on me? I realized that that was an invitation to say, maybe I need to look at this from a different way and I need to get help in a different way, that isn't a normal standard way.

Jennifer: And look at you, I mean you've really been able to change people's lives and it's amazing. I love watching what you do, what you share, especially on Instagram, and your podcast is just a phenomenal resource for everybody who's tuning in.

Jennifer: So I just want to thank you so much for sharing everything. Not just your story, but all of these personal details about your journey that a lot of people would rather just hide and not talk about. And it takes a lot of courage and boldness and I think grace as well to be willing to share the moments that aren't, like you said, they're not as beautiful and perfect and why me? Why is this happening to me? But you're willing to do that. And it's really inspiring.

Abby: Thank you Jen, that really means so much to me.

Jennifer: And I'm so glad that we're able to do this together and help people find their way forward. So for everybody listening again, Abby's website is eczemaconquerors.com. She's got a great shop with products. She's got the skin conqueror line you can check out and the Eczema podcast. I'm going to put all of her links beneath this as well as any show notes that we share with you guys.

Jennifer: So Abby, thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.

Abby: Thank you Jen for everything that you're doing for the eczema community, and just doing all these interviews because it just reminds all of us conquers and warriors out there that we can keep going and that this illness will not defeat us, but that we will rise above it and be able to conquer it. So thank you again for doing this.

“One piece of advice that I would give myself and I'll also give to your listeners out there is just to have more grace for yourself and to forgive yourself if you're going through this and to love yourself through the process.”