Tuesday 4 October 2016

Living with skin conditions

I've touched on my bad skin on the blog before, but there's a lot more of you reading now and I wanted to talk about how it is to grow up with a skin condition, and to live with one (or two, in my case) in your 20s.

Since being a baby, I've always had Atopic Eczema; if you don't know what it is let me try and break it down. It's a dry skin condition, where the skin is red, scaly, weepy, itchy, crusty and of course - dry. It's not contagious, and it's thought to be caused by a lack of fats and oils being produced, leading to less water retention within the skin, meaning your protective barrier is compromised. Because the moisture is lost the skin is dry, and because the barrier isn't working properly, bacteria can get in more easily which is what causes the redness and irritation. It's treated with emollients, which are just thick moisturisers, and with topical steroid creams which vary in strength depending on how "bad" your eczema is at the time.

When I was little, the worst thing about my eczema was that it was sore and itchy; it was annoying, and it was constant. I was always red and puffy and dry (and I was quite an ugly kid anyway) - it was just noticeable, and there. I was always being told to stand still while my mum smothered me in cream that came in ginormous tubs with pumps: I think I'll always remember the smell of Diprobase, but that's okay because I quite like it. I couldn't use scented soaps or shower gels - I was okay with stuff from The Body Shop, which is probably what fuelled a love for them that's still going strong, but I couldn't use much else. I had to take cream into school with me, and I don't remember anyone saying much but I do remember being the only one, so I felt weird about it.

Getting to secondary school, my eczema slowed down a bit but my skin was always red - so much so that a horrible kid in my class nicknamed me Pinky (and in Pinky and the Brain because my best friend was really smart) and he thought it was hilarious. Needless to say, I obviously didn't.

It's always mainly affected my limbs (mostly the insides of my elbows and the backs of my knees) and my eyes, and my back/stomach - during my teenage years it wasn't a constant, but it came and went. I'd be rid of it for months and all of a sudden, angry red skin would spread across my arms again. I remember for a couple of weeks one time, I would have to get up really early to smother myself in a particular steroid cream, because it was a thick oily one (think vaseline, only stiffer) and it made my shirt stick to me in a greasy, sweaty kind of way. So again - it was annoying.

Year 8 rolled around and I got spots - but I didn't just get spots, I got acne. Now, acne is a lot more common so you mostly likely know that it's an oily skin condition, which is caused by the sebaceous gland (which produces sebum to oil your skin) getting blocked and infected and producing bacteria. It's not because you're dirty, or you don't wash your face, or drink too much pop. Acne can be sore, which mine often was and is - it makes the skin tender.

I tried everything - tablets, topical treatments, going vegetarian. I washed my face constantly, which did nothing but make it more painful. People in school would ask me why I had spots, or say it was gross, or do that patronising thing where they tell you that you ought to wash your face more. I had low self esteem, and on days where it was particularly bad I'd cancel plans with my friends and hide behind my hair (way before I discovered make up, of course). It got better then it got bad again, and so on and so forth.

Which brings us to now - my eczema has mostly settled down; I still get dry skin, and I still get itchy but it's nothing compared to what it was. Except for on my face - I'm constantly red-faced, and my eyes are often really dry and sometimes swollen. The tops of my cheeks tend to get eczema patches, too. I still have acne, and that doesn't seem to show any signs of going away, but nothing seems to help.

I've had antibiotics in the past, but they didn't work. I was suggested Roaccutane but after a long hard think, the side effects weren't worth it - I was already suffering from depression, and I didn't want to put myself at more risk. So now I'm a bit of a loss, really, and this post was nothing more than to share my story. I'm not embarrassed by my skin: far from it. I go out with no make up on more often than not and I'm lucky to have the confidence to do so, but I know a lot of people don't. I find it frustrating more than anything - to treat my acne makes the eczema worse, and vice versa. Make up never sits right on my skin, and I still have to be careful with what I use. More than anything, it's just a giant pain in the bum. But I'll live with it.

If u made it to the end of this post then well in, pal x

1 comment:

  1. I have eczema really bad too and it really does make you feel so self conscious about your overall appearance. I think skin conditions should definitely be talked about a lot more considering a lot of people deal with them, it shouldn't be a taboo subject! :) xx

    Yasmina | The July Journal