FOR 20 years, Hanna Sillitoe battled with agonising psoriasis, eczema and acne – which at its worst left her unable to work.
The former interior designer’s skin became so bad she couldn’t physically get dressed – and she was even offered chemo drugs by a doctor, in a last ditch attempt to fix her skin.
Now 41, Hanna, from the Peak District, cured her hellish skin condition with a “miracle” diet – and she’s on a mission to help others, with thousands seeing results from her method.
Speaking to Fabulous, the author said: “When I was 15, I was diagnosed with psoriasis and I remember the doctor saying to me ‘there’s no cure for it’.
“I thought ‘that sounds crazy’. For 20 years, I was on this cycle of different steroid creams that so many people with skin conditions go through.
“It never cleared my skin up but I kept slathering the stuff on, hoping it would make it go away.
“I had eczema on my eyelids, acne on my jawline and psoriasis all over my arms, legs and tummy. My back was the the only place I didn’t have any visible skin problems.
“It was hell. I was stopped getting on a flight coming home from Egypt because the crew wanted to know if I was infectious, in front of a whole queue of people, that was mortifying.
“People would ask ‘is it contagious? Am I going to catch this? What’s wrong with you?’
“I remember being asked at the supermarket checkout ‘oh gosh have you been bitten?’ People would also ask if I had been burnt.
“I wouldn’t go to the hairdressers because I couldn’t face the questions about why tufts of my hair were falling out. It all made life really miserable, I hated my 20s.”
Then almost eight years ago, Hanna’s skin flared up so badly she couldn’t even work.
She said: “It was too painful to even put clothes on, the feeling of clothes against my skin was just awful.
“So I went back to my doctor and he said ‘OK we’re going to offer you something stronger’. He offered me methotrexate which is a chemotherapy drug.
“You’re sat there in two minds because you’ve got this awful condition which is impacting every aspect of your life – from your job to your relationships and social life.
“I was thinking ‘this is a medication that could potentially take it away’ but I was also told I’d have to have fortnightly checks for potential liver damage, because the drug had so many side effects.
“It was a really difficult decision. Ultimately I decided it was not a route I wanted to go down, but I knew I had to do something differently because it wasn’t going away.”
To overhaul her skin, Hanna quit all alcohol, refined sugar, dairy, wheat and caffeine.
She said: “My diet is still fully vegan and no alcohol. If I’m at a friend’s birthday, I might have the occasional slice of cake and on holiday I might have some bread or pasta.
“I’m still drinking green juice every day and I used to love Diet Coke but I cut that out completely. It all sounds really boring but it makes me feel so much better and keeps my skin clear.”
Despite the extreme changes, Hanna insists it is worth it.
She said: “For 20 years, I didn’t wear a short sleeved T-shirt on a hot day because I was trying to cover up.
“My skin is a massive part of the reason I was single for most of my 20s and 30s.
“At an age where all my friends were getting into relationships, I just found it so uncomfortable to date.
“I’d cover up and then a few weeks into a relationship I’d think ‘I can’t hide it anymore’.
“When it reached a point where I’d want to get intimate with someone, I’d have to explain all about my skin but I found it too awkward.
“So I’d get a few weeks into dating someone and then when it started to get more serious, I’d just run away.
“But now I’m a lot more confident and have recently started dating someone new.”
After curing herself, Hanna launched a mission to help others.
She’s now helped thousands of people, and the pictures really do speak for themselves.
Hanna believes that most skin conditions are caused by underlying problems in the gut, which then present as eczema or psoriasis.
Although she admits her tips might not work for everyone, she wants people to try changing their diet before going onto harsher drugs.
It was hell. I was stopped getting on a flight coming home from Egypt because the crew wanted to know if I was infectious, in front of a whole queue of people, that was mortifying
She said: “There’s a problem internally and what we see is just reflecting that.
“With the steroids and creams, all the doctors are doing is suppressing the symptoms, but the underlying problem’s still there. We need to focus on healing from the inside.
“For so many people, the changes happen within a month or two, you only need 30 days to see if it’s helping.
“I’ve helped thousands of people, I get messages on Instagram every single week with pictures. My first book had 450 glowing reviews.
“It’s been three years since Radiant was published and I’m still getting at least five to 10 emails a week as well as Instagram messages, so that’s just really inspiring.
“I’ve helped people prepare for their wedding day, children who can’t sleep or go to school because their skin is so painful, people in their 40s who’ve never been able to wear a bikini.
“Every story resonates because part of that person’s experience is something I’ve been through.
“I completely understand why people are drawn to what feels like a ‘quick fix’ from the doctors but it’s important to remember none of these are a cure, at a best you’re able to temporarily mask a problem.
“I treat a GP from Manchester and it’s taken her five years to stop suffering from topical steroid withdrawal.
“I think doctors need to make people aware of how common these side effects actually are. These aren’t rare instances.
“A lot of people I talk to feel like they’ve been sold this dream of clear skin and aren’t told enough about what could happen as a result.”
Hanna appeared on Dragons’ Den last year and got investment from both Jessops boss Peter Jones and vitamins entrepreneur Tej Lalvani – who each invested £30,000 for a 10% stake in her business.
She said of her lifestyle change: “I was sceptical at first so I completely understand why some people are.
“It’s difficult making diet and lifestyle changes, I remember thinking ‘why should I bother?’
“But just seeing these pictures I hope would be enough for someone to try it.
“It’s a vicious cycle, when everything’s bad, you just want to hide away and eat junk food and drink alcohol, you’re constantly reaching for a sugar pick me up, it’s just a negative cycle.
“Making a break in that cycle can change everything.”
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Hanna’s new book Skin Healing Expert is published by Kyle Books and available at £19.99. You can buy it on Amazon here.