Hiding Eczema During My Teen Years
I first got diagnosed at 3 years old with eczema, so I don’t remember what it is like not to have to deal with it. There were periods of my life it got better and periods it got worse, but it was always there to some extent.
My teenage skin struggles
For the most part, in elementary and middle school, as long as I used the creams, lotions, and shampoo my doctor had instructed, it was fairly under control. But sometime towards the end of my freshman year of high school, that changed. It wasn’t a big drastic change overnight, but it slowly got worse. By my sophomore year of high school, it had become worse than it ever had before.
Covering my flares with make-up
Being a 16-year-old girl in high school, I loved doing my make-up, styling my hair, and all the good smelling perfumes and shampoos. But when you are already having skin issues, these things only amplify it. Some of the worst spots for me were along my hairline, neck, and behind my ear. I became extremely self-conscious. I began to use makeup to cover it up so that others could not see all the imperfections. Although it did mask my eczema, it didn’t take long for it to send my skin into a full-blown eczema flare. In my teenage mind - it was the end of the world. There was no way I could be seen like that. And there were days I refused to go to school over how my skin looked.
Finding new ways to hide my eczema
Since I could not cover it with make-up and cosmetics, I had to get a little creative and find other ways to disguise my little secret that I was determined not to let anyone know about. Although I was usually most comfortable with my hair up and off my ears and neck, this exposed the worst parts of my eczema, so it was not an option. I began to wear my hair down, sometimes even in a messy braid to cover some of the patches I had at the base of my hairline and behind my ears. I would wear turtlenecks, scarves, and hoodies with my hood pulled up to cover my neck during the colder months. Although these, too, covered my eczema, they also irritated it. It seemed to be this never-ending battle of being comfortable and or hiding my eczema.
This self-conscious feeling and the battle of comfort or looks continued even into my mid to late 20s. It was a problem that I just hid to the best of my ability and liked to pretend it didn’t exist - but it did. Every once in a while, I would tell my primary care doctor when it would get bad enough. She would prescribe me various creams, lotions, and steroids. Usually, these combinations were enough to minimize my flare to the point I could go back to hiding it.
Hiding our skin is like stuffing a closet full of junk
But that was all it allowed me to do - hide it. I was not addressing the actual issue, and each time it did come back, it seemed to come back with a vengeance. Covering up our health issues rather than addressing them is like when as a kid, I would stuff all my junk in my closet, hoping my mom wouldn’t open the doors. When she eventually did, everything would come tumbling out. I could only hide and cover up my eczema for so long before it came tumbling out into a big eczema flare that I could no longer hide.
On an average day, how would you rate your level of anxiety related to atopic dermatitis?