Loving Your Skin In The Light Of Social Media
In our modern world of Instagram perfectionism, it can be really hard to love your own body. The high definition, smooth and clear skin of influencers, models and celebrities can make you feel like your scars, bumps, blotches, acne and rashes are unusual, ugly and something to be hidden away. Even though, all of these skin conditions and traits are a completely normal part of being alive. The twisted online perfectionism of social media has conditioned you to feel like the so-called imperfections of your skin are a shameful thing. However, speaking from personal experiences, the journey to loving your skin in all its imperfect glory can be made even harder when it causes you pain.
The specific pain I am talking about comes from eczema.
Living With Eczema
For as long as I can remember I have had eczema. Over the years it has affected number of different places on my body in varying degrees of seriousness and soreness. The impact that eczema can have on a person’s life is difficult to measure as the condition’s symptoms are different for every person who has it. For some people it is dry, for some it weeps, for some, it is caused by allergies (both internal and external), for some it is caused by genetics; a person’s eczema could even be more common in winter or summer. However, it is almost always itchy, uncomfortable – painful – and can make you feel embarrassed.
My Experience with eczema
For me, stress has always been the biggest factor in flaring up my eczema. A few times my eczema was so bad that I ended up going into school wrapped up in bandages because I stressed myself out so much about my exams and getting into university. At this point in time, I hated my skin. I hated my body because of my skin. People would point and stare, ask unwanted questions and ultimately make me feel very self-conscious. Ultimately, it was one of my lowest points. It was only a couple of months later when speaking to a doctor that I was told of the severity of my eczema in this instance. According to my GP, I should have been immediately hospitalised and put on a drip. Instead, because eczema was such a normal struggle and part of my life I had just dealt with it, putting on a brave face and some bandages in an attempt to hide the pain.
How common is eczema?
As a condition, eczema is more common than you would think. Across the world, it affects around 20% of children and around 3% of adults. In the UK, this accounts for around one in five children and one in twelve adults. This means that many people you know, including your family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues will have some form of eczema. None of them, however, will have eczema which will have the same symptoms or reactions as each other. For, as the National Eczema Society state, eczema ‘is a highly individual condition which varies from person to person and comes in many different forms’.
Eczema = Chronic skin condition caused by inflammation
In many ways, eczema is the very general term that covers a complex and varied set of chronic skin conditions caused by inflammation. Often, eczema is a misunderstood condition in which ignorant opinions flourish. I can’t count the times I have had complete strangers (like, literally off of the street strangers) point out the red and weeping marks on my arms, neck and face. I have been asked extremely personal questions about my body; such as if my eczema is ‘contagious’ and, because I have worked as a waitress, if I am even safe to serve food.
These ignorant experiences can make it so very hard to love your body and your skin. However, it is even harder when the body you have, the only one you will ever have in fact, causes you pain because of a skin condition.
The change for me came around the age of twenty-one when yet another year passed that I hoped would invoke the mythical seven-year cycle. The idea of the seven-year cycle is one that is rooted more in medical fiction than fact, where your body’s allergies apparently ‘change’ every seven years. Therefore, if eczema is going to disappear it will happen when you are seven, or fourteen, or twenty-one …ect. Obviously, that did not happen for me.
Finding Ways to Live with eczema
Since then, I have come to accept eczema as a part of my body, focusing far more on managing the condition in a healthy way rather than trying to get rid of it all together – which I never will. For instance, I know my food triggers and what to avoid, such as fresh tomatoes, orange juice and cow’s milk. I know during the summer to soak up as much Vitamin D as possible, whilst wearing Factor Fifty sun cream as I am a ginger, to help heal my skin from the winter. I keep my nails short. I use ultra-sensitive baby body wash and laundry detergent. I avoid materials I know will irritate my skin such as wool – but if I want to wear a super-cute woollen jumper I know to wear a long-sleeved cotton shirt underneath.
Much of my newfound confidence has actually come from speaking about eczema rather than shrinking away from unwanted questions. In recent years I have found that explaining my rashes to those who ask about them has made the condition more relatable and led to some level of understanding. It has also, in some cases, meant to have unintentionally found people who suffer from the condition but in different ways to me. Leading to me having people I can swap hints and tips with, as well as being able to have a very generally chat about all the problems eczema brings.
Eczema is a condition that will not go away anytime soon. In fact, it is a condition that is more and more often attributed to our modern world with all its, chemicals, pollutants and allergens. If it is something you have, it is something you have to accept. Whilst the road to accepting a part of you that causes you pain can be hard it can, in the long run, make you feel better about yourself and you condition.
Do you suffer from eczema? Please tell us your experience and tips that helps you deal with it on a daily basis.