This post was written by Grace Cassidy, from Falling from Grace. She was brave enough to share her experience struggling with eczema, so please give her a warm welcome. -Miranda
Most of us have eczema as kids – it’s super common among fresh-skinned babies and toddlers. I certainly had it when I was a kid, but it was never anything that couldn’t be handled right away. And up until five months ago, I hadn’t seen it since. But when I broke out, I broke out hard.
My eczema flare-ups started in May of this year, right after my sophomore year of college came to a close and I moved back home to Long Island for the summer. It started right above my lip and on my eyelids, but I hardly thought anything of it. Regular application of Vaseline and staying hydrated seemed to be healing it just fine. While that worked for a little while, it soon started to get worse. My entire face started to break out in red, scaly, flaky, and sometimes puss-covered patches of skin around my mouth, my eyelids, and under my eyes. I even started to get it on other parts of my body like the inside of my elbow and my nipples.
My first trip to the dermatologist.
For anyone engaging in any kind of social interaction, a bright red rash on your face can be mortifying. For someone who loves makeup, a bright red rash on your face seems like the world is coming to an end. I couldn’t do my eye shadow (my favorite part of my beauty routine), I couldn’t wear lipstick, and I couldn’t conceal my acne for fear it would make my eczema worse.
Eczema is frustrating and it’s difficult. It’s physical, but it’s also emotional. I can’t tell you how many times I would get so frustrated and angry that I would just break down and cry because I didn’t know what was wrong with me or why this was happening.
What’s even worse is that people seem to have no problem commenting on the fact that there’s just something not quite right with your face. From “You look tired” to literally “What happened to your face?”… you never realize just how much people think they have a right to comment on your appearance until the way you look drastically changes.
It’s easy to feel ugly when there’s a rash on your face and it’s the only thing you notice when you look in the mirror. Feeling beautiful became more difficult, and I realized just how much I took my appearance for granted before I felt uncontrollably ugly.
A particularly bad day. The eczema is all around my mouth, under my eyes and on my eyelids.
While relentlessly searching the internet for why this was happening (I still don’t know – the doctors can’t figure it out, either), I found a million articles about why someone might get eczema, what makes it worse, what to avoid and how to control it. But I hardly saw anything about makeup, beauty, feeling beautiful, or dealing with the social aspect of an extremely noticeable rash being the first thing that people see when they look at you.
I guess the internet is just as cynical as I was. Researching eczema felt like a dead end. With a lack of any beauty related content pertaining to eczema, it felt to me like the world was saying “Well, your first impressions are gone to sh*t, and good luck feeling like the red patches all over your face aren’t the center of attention!”
Well that sure as hell wasn’t working for me.
In a world where physical appearance is highly valued, it’s difficult for us to look in the mirror and tell ourselves that we’re beautiful the way we are. We’ve all felt this frustration at some point– from feeling too fat or too skinny, to our hair being frizzy or our teeth not shining brightly enough.
Feeling beautiful is practically a skill. For me, feeling beautiful before my breakouts took a long time, but I got there eventually. Yet, here I was with another obstacle standing in the way between me and the decent self-esteem that I worked so hard for.
Feeling beautiful with eczema really is possible.
I’m not here to preach body positivity and tell you that you’re beautiful no matter what you look like. Because if you don’t think so already, then you aren’t going to start believing it by reading an article written by someone who doesn’t even know you.
But I can tell you that if you actually work toward feeling beautiful, then you will achieve it. And I can tell you that it’s possible to feel beautiful if you quit waiting around for that feeling to come to you.
Of course, seeing a dermatologist (and possibly an allergist) and keeping your eczema under control through a good diet, hydration and skin care is vital. However, feeling beautiful is a lot more than just taking care of what’s on the surface.
After seeing a dermatologist and using a steroid cream for about three days. The skin around my mouth was still dry and flaky, but not red (progress!).
When people ask you “What’s wrong with your face?” or tell you “Oh, you look so tired!” make it clear that you don’t appreciate their comment. Make it very clear that they’ve offended you. Tell them straight out that they’re being rude if you have to. It is your skin, your face, your appearance and it’s not theirs to comment on. Understand this. Own this. I can’t stress this enough.
When it seems like you’ve exhausted all remedies for getting rid of your eczema and it still won’t disappear, it’s okay to be frustrated. It’s okay to feel like you’re being superficial for crying over your appearance, because your appearance is a big part of who you are. It’s a location for self-expression and it can be devastating to feel like your self-expression is now hindered by something you can’t control. But once you’ve finished crying, you have to pick yourself up.
Don’t rely on other people to tell you you’re beautiful – that isn’t anyone else’s job. That’s not your boyfriend’s job, that’s not your best friend’s job. It’s yours and only yours. Someone could tell you over and over that you’re beautiful, but at the end of the day, if you don’t believe it then you won’t buy it.
Think of other ways to express yourself. For me, makeup is a huge part of my self-expression. When that wasn’t so much of a possibility anymore, I had to look for alternatives. I considered dying the tips of my hair turquoise, or getting blond highlights (it was a big deal for me, considering I had never touched my hair with anything other than a blow dryer and a flat iron).
Bottom line: work with what you got. Stop paying attention to what might be holding you back from feeling beautiful, or what you think needs to change. Focus on the things that you love about yourself. It’s not easy, and it comes with time, but if you want to love yourself– and if you want to feel beautiful– you can’t just wait for that feeling to come to you. You have to work towards it. You have to be active in loving yourself and working towards feeling your absolute best. And while not liking something about our appearance can make that a lot harder, it isn’t an obstacle that can never be overcome.
Eczema doesn’t have to hold you back. The only thing holding you back from feeling beautiful is yourself. When you actually work towards achieving the confidence that you want, whether through another form of self-expression or just owning the situation, nothing will stand in the way of you and your inner Beyoncé. You’ll soon realize that you’re FLAWLESS.