A woman whose lifelong battle with eczema has seen her hospitalised and prescribed anti-depressants has revealed how she conquered the skin condition through simple lifestyle changes.
Camille Knowles, 27, from Manchester, now a certified health coach and natural chef, was diagnosed with the chronic skin condition at the age of six, and flare-ups frequently left her with an angry rash – and even bleeding wounds – across her arms, legs, back and face.
After years of trying over-the-counter medications, steroids and creams – and even travelling to Israel to bathe in the salt-rich Dead Sea – all to no avail, Camille decided to take a different approach aged 22.
After sessions of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), which Camille credits with reframing her approach to the condition and giving her a more positive mindset, she put in place a series of lifestyle changes; ditching alcohol, eating mainly plant-based foods, and banning technology in the evenings in favour of salty baths and early nights.
After years of trying over-the-counter medication, steroids and creams, and even enduring painful swims in Israel’s Dead Sea salt lake, Camille decided on a different approach after a severe breakout at the age of 22 (seen)
Natural chef, Camille Knowles, 27, from Manchester, was first diagnosed with severe eczema at the age of six before transforming her skin with natural lifestyle changes aged 22 (seen now)
Speaking to FEMAIL, Camille – who has now released a book and counts Jade Jagger as a fan – described the main lifestyle changes she made to her diet, lifestyle and skincare regime.
She revealed: ‘In the past I became too obsessive in cutting out certain foods to the point I was running on just juice. This wasn’t the right way to fuel and nourish my body.
‘Today, I find that avoiding gluten, dairy and refined sugars really helps my skin so as a rule I try and avoid anything containing these. Typically, I eat a plant-based diet with some organic meat and fish thrown in.’
Camille’s daily diet
Breakfast: Smoothie bowl with blueberries, leafy greens, coconut water, banana and plant-based protein powder
Lunch: Baked sweet potato, homemade avocado pesto, leafy green salad
Dinner: Organic fish or chicken with steamed vegetables or quinoa and beans
Snacks: Raw chocolate, fresh fruit, cold pressed green juice or dairy-free latte
Weekend treats: Vegan pizza or nachos
She continued: ‘As a rule, I listen to my body and whatever it is craving. If I’m feeling stressed I’ll swap coffee for a matcha tea or hot water and lemon. I enjoy developing new recipes, so much so that this year I trained as a natural chef at the College Of Naturopathic Medicine.’
And Camille avoids drinking too heavily, enjoying cups of kombucha – produced with fermented tea, sugar, fungi, and bacteria, instead.
‘I have never been a big drinker, but I do know that drinking too much alcohol has a negative impact on my skin as it is so dehydrating,’ she said.
‘I drink red wine occasionally and sometimes gin and tonic and champagne.
One of my favourite drinks is kombucha. This gives me a natural buzz and is one of my favourite non-alcoholic swaps for a night out.’
Beginning with sessions of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), which teaches patients to reframe their approach for a more positive mindset, Camille soon learned to listen to her body’s needs, swapping alcohol for Kombucha – a probiotic fizzy drink, following a mainly plant-based diet, and opting for technology-free evenings with sea salt baths
And Camille also sees a balanced exercise regime as the key to her happier skin.
‘I have loved running ever since I was young and I used to run every single day, but when I took time out to reflect I realised that it wasn’t necessarily relaxing me,’ she said.
‘I cut down on the cardio and introduced yoga sessions into my exercise regime, so I make sure that I do a weekly mix of aerobic, strength, balance and flexibility exercises.
‘I also think it is extremely important to get outside and embrace the great outdoors so I try and include outdoor activities, such as hiking and salty sea swimming, into my week as much as possible’.
As well as enjoying nightly castor oil and sea salt baths to disinfect and moisturise her skin, Camille has updated her skincare routine.
‘I try to use natural make up and beauty products wherever possible and am a big fan of the natural beauty brand LoveLula – when I was younger I even won a modelling competition to be the face of the brand,’ she said.
‘I sometimes make my own cleanser, body oil, bath treatments and face masks,’ Camille added.
Before her lifestyle changes, Camille was frequently left with bleeding open wounds across her arms, legs and face (seen)
After 20 years battling the condition, which regularly left her with bleeding open wounds (seen), Camille embarked on an empowering journey to heal her eczema with holistic techniques that focus on the mind, body and soul
As well as enjoying nightly castor oil and sea salt baths to disinfect and moisturise her skin, Camille has updated her skincare routine (seen previously during a breakout)
Camille Knowles’ top tips for eczema sufferers
1. Don’t panic
Nobody wants to see their eczema flare up but panicking will only fuel it. I look at my eczema flare ups like ‘oops I haven’t been taking care of you, what do you need most right now?’ I close my eyes, take a deep breath and think about what I feel I need the most. Listen to your inner self, it knows you best.
2. Get plenty of sleep
Always aim to wind down and pamper around 8pm and to be in bed for 10pm at the latest. Just this one tip can transform my skin. I genuinely believe investing in quality sleep can be better than any skincare product on the market.
3. Take castor oil and sea salt baths
This is almost a nightly ritual for me now, but it is even more important when my skin is flaring up. The castor oil is extremely moisturising and the sea salt contains skin-healing minerals.
4. Try collodial silver
I call this my little miracle spray. I use it as a hand sanitiser and when my eczema flares up I use it on the open cuts to make sure they are kept sterile and clean. It’s an ancient remedy that was used before penicillin came around. Like with lots of things, it might not work for everyone, but it works miracles for me.
5. Reduce your exposure to technology
As soon as you finish work, turn your phone off when you leave for the day and get out in nature, read a book, do a yoga flow, cook. Anything that makes you feel more alive and connected to the world.
6. Slow down and clear your head
This goes hand-in-hand with the more sleep and less technology tips. Slowing down can be as simple as adding in an evening meditation instead of watching television. Give yourself the time to empty your mind from the stresses of the day into a more peaceful state.
7. Listen to feel-good music
Instead of waking up and looking down at your skin thinking how miserable it makes you feel, bounce out of bed, play your favourite song and dance in front of the mirror loving every ounce of your body, with or without eczema. Your eczema doesn’t define you, so don’t let it define your day.
8. Nourish yourself
It makes good sense to treat your eczema from the inside out. During a flare-up I increase my intake of hot water and lemon, limit my coffee to an absolute minimum, feed myself lots of green veggies, lean fish/chicken and drink lots of cold pressed juices, as this works for me.
9. Take supplements
I have found taking a zinc supplement and a probiotic can really help my skin, especially during a flare up. I’d also recommend getting checked to see if you are deficient in any vital minerals.
10. Say your daily affirmations
It is important to believe you are well and healed before you are. Focus on positivity over negativity, especially during a flare up. I will look into the mirror, straight into my eyes, and say ‘I am well’, ‘I am healed’, ‘my skin is beautiful’ and kiss my wounds. Learn to love yourself like you wish the world loved you.
In September Camille released a book ‘The Beauty of Eczema’, to provide fellow sufferers with what she believes is a life-changing toolkit to tackle the skin condition.
The book’s name is inspired by Camille’s positive approach to the condition, as she now believes eczema is her body’s way of telling her what she needs.
The book’s launch has been backed by fellow sufferer, Jade Jagger, who herself battled with the skin condition for more than 25 years.
Jade, the brand’s celebrity ambassador, has also successfully managed her eczema through diet, yoga, swimming and a healthy, happy lifestyle.
She said: ‘The heartbreaking thing about Camille’s story is that we both went through so many similar experiences with the condition – especially in childhood – and there is no doubt there are millions of people in the UK who have been, and are going through the same thing too.
In September Camille released her new self-help book ‘The Beauty of Eczema’, to provide fellow sufferers with what she believes is a life-changing toolkit to support and inspire others
‘I know from my own experiences that dealing with eczema is the sum of many parts and that a truly holistic approach to health and wellbeing plays a significant role in understanding and managing symptoms.
‘Camille’s journey is truly inspirational and the advice in her book perfectly captures the road to recovery that many sufferers will be looking for. I wish I had this toolkit available to me all those years ago.’
Consultant Dermatologist and recognised leading UK eczema expert, Dr Tim Clayton, has also provided his support for Camille’s principles.
Camille also sees a balance of exercise as important to her happier body and skin, and enjoys yoga as well as hikes and salt water swimming
The book’s launch has been backed by fellow sufferer, Jade Jagger, (seen left) who herself battled with the skin condition for more than 25 years
He said: ‘Camille’s personal account with eczema is hugely impactful and there are millions of people in the UK who will be able to relate to her experiences and the journey that she has been on.
‘Sharing her story in this way really helps to bring the seriousness of the condition to the fore and provides a crucial reference point for sufferers who are in need of help and advice beyond medical treatments.
‘Eczema affects 1 in 5 people in the UK and it causes significant emotional and psychological upset. I am in no doubt that Camille’s HOPE principles will help improve the overall well-being of eczema sufferers and may help to improve the severity of their eczema.’