No Moisture Treatment (aka NMT) is a strategy for speeding up the process of healing from the side effects of topical steroids, otherwise known as ‘topical steroid withdrawal’. But does it work?
Topical steroid withdrawal or topical steroid addiction aren’t necessarily the best terms for the process, as what’s going on is not an addiction so much as your skin’s inflammatory responses being affected by the use of prescribed topical corticosteroids. The process of readjustment and healing after a period of time using steroid cream on eczema can be long and arduous, and unfortunately there’s a limited number of things those undergoing TSW can do to make things quicker or easier on themselves.
Many people going through TSW recommend no moisture treatment, or NMT as a way of speeding up the process; this involves severely restricting the amount of water your body takes in every day, whether in drinking water, fruit or in moisturisers. It aims to dry the skin out in a radical way, to force it to readjust and heal without steroids. For a more detailed explanation of what it is and how to go about it according to its originator’s rules, see our blog No Moisture Treatment Guide For Topical Steroid Withdrawal.
But does it work? Well, many of those who’ve been through TSW say that it has helped them. Dr. Kenji Sato in Hannan Chuo Hospital in Osaka, Japan, who first formulated the treatment, has published reports and research on his method, so there’s some sound evidence for its success.
However, it has to be said that there’s a difference between undergoing NMT under the personal care of Dr Sato, who treats those affected by TSA as in-patients, allowing them to rest and recuperate under controlled conditions, making sure they’re looked after, given appropriate food and drink, and supported to exercise every day, and doing it by yourself. It can be very difficult indeed to go through the intense effects of cutting out all moisturisers, and minimising what you can drink.
People who have experienced NMT say that there’s no beating around the bush, it is an exceedingly tough process, even if it might result in a shorter journey through TSW. Not being able to put moisturiser on when your skin is cracking, when your lips are bleeding, when your skin is flaking off, and burning or itching worse than ever experienced before… it has to be said that NMT is not an easy path.
And it is also worth remembering that people do get through TSW while still using moisturisers, whether that’s because they’ve never heard of NMT, or because they found it too distressing and painful to go down the NMT road. There’s more than one way to get to the same destination; everyone’s TSW journey is different, as everyone’s skin is different, and everyone’s history with topical steroids in different.
In the end, you need to do what works for you. If you have a job you cannot take time off, or are at risk of being traumatised by how hard TSW is, or indeed get ill while you’re undergoing NMT, then give yourself permission to pile on the emollients! There are no prizes for endurance, and no shame in doing what feels right to you.
If you do decide to try NMT, then arm yourself with plenty of support, strategies to make your life easier, and time off work to rest and heal. Join the ITSAN Facebook group, follow NMT hashtags on Instagram and keep yourself as healthy and positive as possible!
For more information about TSW, its symptoms, effects and strategies that can help, see our TSW Info Hub.
We've spoken to many brave people who are undergoing TSW, and they've told us that in their experience a few strategic products have helped them cope with the gruelling process of NMT. These are their personal suggestions, not official, Dr Sato-endorsed products, because true NMT involves no using moisturisers at all.
Balmonds Skin Salvation for when lips and eyes are cracked and extremely sore.
Balmonds Natural Shampoo & Body Wash works as a soap-free, scent-free and irritant-free shampoo/body wash.