A woman whose skin was peppered with crusty, red blemishes claims to have made a remarkable transformation after rejecting prescriptions and overhauling her diet.
Briseis Lunn, 29, suffers from psoriasis, an incurable skin condition which causes the flaky patches to break out across her face, body and even under her eyelids.
Since her diagnosis in 2012, the property sales agent lathered herself in numerous creams and lotions in a desperate effort to reduce the inflammation.
But nothing seemed to work and Ms Lunn, whose confidence was being destroyed by constant stares from strangers, trawled the internet for advice and decided to cut out sugar and dairy – which have so far helped.
Although the blemishes are much more faint, they have not disappeared entirely.
Yet Ms Lunn, from Nottingham, has learned to love her patches after connecting with other ‘psorisasis warriors’ on Instagram.
Briseis Lunn, 29, whose skin was peppered with crusty red blemishes (left) has made a remarkable transformation (right) after rejecting prescriptions and overhauling her diet
Ms Lunn first noticed a small scab on the back of her head aged 22, but shrugged it off, believing she must have banged it on something.
However, more patches sprang up across her body, covering her face, arms, legs and back.
She said: ‘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.
‘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.’
Ms Lunn, from Nottingham, first noticed a small scab on the back of her head aged 22, but shrugged it off, believing she must have banged it on something. However more patches sprang up across her face
The flaky patches also broke out across her arms and back – she was at first diagnosed with a fungal infection, before doctors realised she had psoriasis
At first, she was not aware that it was psoriasis, with her doctor initially diagnosing it as a fungal infection and prescribing a cream which did nothing.
Ms Lunn, who would hide her skin under clothes, 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.’
Reading up on psoriasis on the internet and convinced that she had it, a few months after the wrong diagnosis she went back to the doctor who agreed.
The doctor prescribed an emollient cream – often the first suggested treatment for the condition.
The property sales agent was very self conscious about her skin and would cover herself up in public
Desperate to reduce the inflammation (pictured) Ms Lunn trawled the internet for advice, before deciding to change her diet
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.
Ms Lunn also tried Chinese herbal creams, which would clear it up for a while but it would always come back.
And about a year ago, she said her symptoms quickly worsened. Ms Lunn added: ‘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. 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.
Although the blemishes are much more faint, they have not disappeared entirely. Yet Ms Lunn has learned to love her patches
‘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, Ms Lunn 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.
Indeed a 2014 report from Harvard Medical School urged those suffering inflammation to avoid refined carbohydrates, fried food and red meat, while suggesting nuts, fruit and fatty fish.
She said: ‘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 Lunn before she got psoriasis aged 22
‘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 in April 2018, Ms Lunn is finally learning to embrace her skin.
She added: ‘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.
WHAT IS PSORIASIS?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that affects the skin and sometimes the joints.
Around two per cent of people in the US and UK suffer from the condition.
Psoriasis occurs when a person’s skin replacement process takes place within days rather than the usual 21-to-28 days.
The accumulation of skin cells builds up to form raised plaques, which can be flaky, scaly and itchy.
Psoriasis arthritis can occur in the joints near affected skin, causing them to become tender, swollen and stiff.
Anyone can suffer, but psoriasis is more common in people in their late teens-to-early 30s or those between the ages of 50 and 60.
Psoriasis’ cause is unclear. Flare-ups can be triggered by stress, skin injury, hormonal changes and certain medications.
It is not contagious and there is no cure.
Treatment focuses on managing symptoms via topical creams, gels and medication.
Source: Psoriasis Association
‘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.’