A black woman sits hunched, clutching her knees, looking very sad with eczema all over her body.

The Black Eczema Experience: Vulnerability

The most authentic voice that I can speak from is that of a Black woman with eczema. This article is not intended to exclude any eczema sufferers. I have the intention and hope of connecting with all communities and races by speaking about something I am constantly told by all races, which is, “Seeing a Black woman be as vulnerable as you are when speaking about eczema is really a big deal.” I understand why that statement needs to be said and when I see someone that looks like me talking about vulnerable subjects it gives an even greater impact for reasons I will elaborate on.

A natural and cultural misunderstanding

Given the climate that many Black people face full of injustice and the attempt of forced inferiority that dates back to the inception of many lands worldwide, there is a deep natural and cultural misunderstanding to directly relate strength to never admitting you have been weak. The perceived notion of power correlates to never highlighting what is weighing you down. There is not space to appear to be anything but put together or “perfect” due to a trained system that causes for negative assumptions based on the color of your skin. This history leaves no room for vulnerability in many minority cultures.

Eczema and Black advocacy

A part of me was shocked to see the limited number of Black advocates online for eczema positivity when I first started my “Woke Within Skin” Instagram and we are the most impacted demographic by this disease. I used to believe that we are the most affected by eczema due to the lack of resources for more quality foods and education. Also because of the economic and environmental divide like the commonly known narrative for the black community, but science gives a greater reason. The Director of Skin Of Color Society, Dr. Andrew Alexis who I saw present during the 2019 National Eczema Association Exposition, and later collaborated with in a podcast on NEA’s website1 explained that our pigmented skin color does not produce ceramides on its own so this causes our skin to be more dry.

Judged by the state and color of our skin

Living in a world that can already judge you for existing and taking up space, being anything but confident to the outside world is unheard of. Drawing even more attention to skin that cannot be ignored with an imperfection such as eczema is not a thought to ever publicly express. Just like many other problems outside of our control, it is a cultural understanding as something else to deal with and sweep under the rug if possible.

national eczema association's eczema matters magazine cover from fall 2018

Eczema makes us vulnerable

It took me almost dying from the negative results of topical steroid withdrawal for me to not only embrace my eczema but to be publicly vulnerable about it. As I was stuck in a body that I did not recognize I was reminded of all of the ways that eczema has impacted my life. I was in disbelief that eczema mattered and I have been coping and internalizing this disease my entire life. Without getting too political, but I think it was safe for me to say that, Eczema Matters just like Black Lives.

Having pride in our Black skin and in our eczema

Unlike the pride that we have in our Black skin, there is no overwhelming pride to be found in eczema on the surface. It takes deep understanding and introspection to see that there are positives to eczema. One positive is that eczema is a warning sign that our health and how we are treating ourselves or what we have in our environment needs attention. Without a community existing to embrace and uplift the problem there will not be a change.

Raising eczema awareness

There has to be recognition, awareness, and acceptance that this is greatly plaguing a huge part of the world's population and most importantly the children. Experts will not know the impact of how this affects you or your child's daily life without your voice. Eczema matters for everyone, but there is no reason for Black people to be the last in line to feel the freedom that comes from speaking up for every type of experience that you have. It takes strength to be vulnerable and accepting. We must let the burdens and insecurities go so that we can collectively begin to heal as heightened sufferers of eczema.

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