My Voice: The Stigma Behind Skin Disorders

An example of skincare products used to combat skin diseases. (Wikimedia Commons)

My name is Anwen. I’m a reporter at the Clarion, and I have dealt with skin issues all my life.

I’ve had eczema since birth. Eczema is an autoimmune disorder characterized by red, itchy rashes. Some days it is manageable, and you can only see the scarring from past episodes. Other days, it is raw, throbbing with pain, oozing and impossible not to itch.

In order to keep in under control, I have to use a steroid cream, which is only thinning my skin and potentially make my condition worse in the future. I have tried everything in order to improve these circumstances. I have attempted every skin regimen, allergy medication and environment control imaginable. Still, my eczema persists.

Growing up, I was always petrified to wear shorts and short-sleeves in the summertime because of my eczema. During school, I would constantly ask to go to the bathroom because I could not stop itching and I was afraid people would think that I was unhygienic if they saw. Sports were very difficult because not only would I be required to wear revealing clothing, but the sweat would make my eczema burn.

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A look at what Eczema does to the skin. (Pexels)

In the fall of 2017, I developed severe cystic acne. For anyone who has this, you know how much of a nightmare it is. Not only is your face (and sometimes shoulders, back and chest) covered in large, red bumps, it is also incredibly painful.

I was prescribed Accutane, but I decided against taking it due to its side effects. No matter how good my skincare routine, how much water I drink or how much I exercise, my acne does not care to leave. I have been vegan, soy-free, gluten-free and corn-free. Each time I would cut something out my skin would improve, only to flare up again a week later.

Acne has been a real struggle – it has made me feel gross and unattractive. It kept me from socializing, playing sports and wearing what I wanted. I isolated myself because I believed that I was doing everyone a service by not exposing my face to them.

What only makes these skin conditions even worse is the stigma around them. People tend to notice it right away, and some even make comments. Many girls cake makeup onto their face because acne is an “uncleanly boy problem.” It is thought of as a “controllable issue,” so if you have bad skin, you must be really lazy.

Unfortunately, like myself, so many beautiful people let the bad stigma behind skin disorders stop them from living life to the fullest. What I’ve learned through my journey is this: is it not society’s job to accept my flawed skin – it is mine.

Acne, eczema, psoriasis and so many other skin conditions are not controllable. They are just a natural part of being human and they do not make you any less valuable or amazing. Life is bigger than your skin problems – there is no need to waste time worrying about them.

A video describing some of the experiences those with skin problems might have to deal with in their daily lives. (YouTube/Young Yung Tales)

However, I do wish that mainstream culture would be more accepting of flawed skin. Skin disorders are severely underrepresented in the media and in the body positive movement. To remedy this, more people should speak out about their skin so that others don’t feel alone in their struggles. I want to see more representation in models and in films – it’s time that imperfect skin is normalized.

Everyone’s skin is beautiful, and flaws just make it human.

Anwen Harris

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