Five years ago, Camille Knowles had reached rock bottom. Covered head to toe with eczema, swollen and suffering from infected open wounds, she found herself hospitalised and told by a doctor that the “best case scenario” was a combination of internal steroids and anti-depressants.
She looked online for some gleam of hope, a success story that someone wanted to share or reassurance that her current predicament wasn’t a life sentence.
“There wasn’t a piece of skin left I felt wasn’t damaged. It was soul-destroying. I was in despair, looking for something positive and realised there was only a lot more misery and a lot more people suffering,” says the 27-year-old who was born and raised in Manchester.
“I’ve got a strong spirit and I’m strong-willed, but the energy was running out because of the pain I had to endure. Everyday tasks like showering or getting dressed was painful. Unless you have it, I feel there are no words to describe the physical and mental torture that can be brought on by the condition.”
Her hospitalisation was the catalyst she needed to make a change.
“It reached that moment where I thought ok, I can either give up fighting the skin disease or I can fight for a purpose and if I can try and find hope, maybe I can be the person to shed some light and positivity on the skin condition.”
The day after she was discharged from hospital, she recalls: “I shifted my mindset into thinking of a way to fight for something more than just healing myself”.
The result is The Beauty of Eczema, a book that details her own story, as well as tips on how to take a more positive approach to living with the condition.
“My emotional journey from my lowest point to optimum health has taken years of trial and error using natural therapies and medical intervention. I’ve tried it all,” explains Camille, who’s now a certified health coach and natural chef.
Today, she’s radiating health and unblemished skin but she’s not complacent.
“There is no cure and it will return if I don’t take care of herself,” she admits.
Camille was six when she was diagnosed with eczema and recalls how she would be wrapped in bandages before she went to sleep.
“I remember asking my grandad, ‘Why do I have this? Am I ugly?’ and just being a child who didn’t understand why I had this condition.”
As Camille grew older, she’d wear gloves to school to conceal her hands and provide a source of protection as using a computer keyboard was enough to make her wince.
“Eczema was an extra thing that made me a little bit different, that made me feel a bit insecure and I’d notice my friends could use lovely products and I had medicated ones. This is the book I could only have dreamt of finding years ago and in desperate need of answers.”
The basis of The Beauty of Eczema is based on what she calls the HOPE principles (home, optimism, purpose, pampering and eating well, exercise and ecotherapy.)
“It’s a toolkit to living a positive life beyond eczema,” says Camille.
“The principles provide a framework for healing and gaining a deeper understanding of how diet, exercise and mastering the mind, can have a significant impact on controlling the condition. I’ve discovered the best way to manage my eczema is, in fact, to see the beauty in it – by appreciating it as my body’s way of showing me what it actually needs.”
She recommends reading through the principles to see what resonates “because we’re all individual” but the lifestyle changes are easy to adopt.
“Living in a happy environment surrounded by a supportive circle; eating whole foods; avoiding gluten, dairy and sugar; having and fulfilling passions and purposes; pampering myself with natural products and having a positive mindset, have all helped me to live a life beyond eczema,” says Camille.
“These are all things we know we should have and do and they’re easier to incorporate than you think they might be.”
Although the book’s aimed at those with eczema, the principles are relevant to all.
“I know a lot of people who don’t have eczema but are already implementing the principles and saying how they’ve already had a positive impact on their lives,” says Camille.
There are big plans for the future, including an online programme, skincare cream, and even a retreat, and it’ll all stem from her base in the north.
“My whole team are from Manchester. I love Manchester, it’s a great city,” says Camille.
“Luckily I can work remotely so I’m always on the go but my family’s still based in the north and I’m a northern girl. I feel Mancunians are very honest and upfront people and you’ve always got that connection, it’s home.”
The Beauty of Eczema is available from Amazon.