An animation of a hand with eczema flicking the start of a row of dominoes.

The Domino Effect with Katie Mackie

Having eczema can be a real downer. It's itchy, it's dry, and it's certainly not a fashion statement many like to flaunt. When I'm in a flare, the last thing I want to do is be out in public or a magnet for anyone's attention. But, instead of hiding our skin away, perhaps we should embrace ourselves - rashes and all. At least, that is the message Katie Mackie would like to share.

What did the beginning look like for Katie?

A woman holding up her hands to the camera

Katie, an eczema advocate from the UK, has dealt with her skin from a young age. She has clear memories of her mother slathering her with steroids as she screamed in agony. "It has to hurt to heal," she remembers her mother stating while pinning her down. Memories like this stick with you - always being the one with tormented skin.

"I’ll never forget when I was a lifeguard at university," she recalls. "I sat on a poolside in 96-degree heat with leggings and long sleeves underneath my lifeguard uniform as I felt embarrassed of others seeing my flared skin."

How did she begin sharing her experience?

However, something finally clicked in her, and she knew it was time to shed the sleeves and reveal her true self.

"I want people to see me and think, 'If she can do it, so can I, because hiding who you are will only make your mind as unclear as your skin," Katie states.

On her Instagram account, shared with a mutual skin advocate, Katie highlights her flares proudly. She pours her heart into posts about acceptance and the freedom that can be formed when we all finally accept ourselves as we are. I certainly know her posts have inspired me on days when I felt like staying home instead of going out and enjoying my life.

A woman is holding her hands up to the camera, one one of the hands is written

What should our skin goals be?

"I want to remind everyone," she implores, "that accepting your skin doesn’t mean you're giving up on trying to heal it; skin conditions are normal. We can’t always control them. We are not defined by them. Skin health is the goal; flawless skin is not."

I believe that is where most of us get lost. We focus so much on what we look like instead of who we are, and then we allow what we look like to dictate how we feel about ourselves. Katie did that for the longest time, too, and doesn't want anyone to hide in their own shadow.

How did she feel about her eczema?

She vividly remembers waking up at 4 am most nights to simply stare at her skin, assessing to see if there were any new flared patches. It became debilitating. The anxiety would overflow, and panic attacks suffocating her ability to function through university. And, if that wasn't enough, she also began to experience alopecia. It was too overwhelming, her worth hanging on by a string. "I have never felt more negative about myself in my life," she says, sharing in a vulnerable moment.

A selfie of a woman

Back then, she tried to record her journey, but the deep-seated pain of what she was going through was too great. However, she attests that the only reason she is able to be strong today is due to moving in with her grandmother during university. "She likes to say she healed me with cups of tea and good old hearty Scottish food," Katie laughs. "That, and therapy while in university. It's all about the mind. And company."

How has she healed emotionally?

Because this is a mental battle just as much as it is physical, the only way to heal is to start with our thoughts. Katie is a testament to this.

"For my own anxiety and mental health," Katie reveals, "acceptance is a HUGE part of physical healing. The very second you own your ‘flaws,’ you become untouchable. No one can hurt you anymore because you are acknowledging your insecurities and taking control of your narrative. It’s not poor you – it’s powerful you."

Wise words.

How does the domino effect apply?

There is a paradox - that until we reveal our real selves, no one else will. And most people won't reveal themselves until someone else does first. For Katie, she doesn't want to wait to see someone else. But she sure gets inspired when she does.

"You’ll never understand the power of knowing you’re not alone until you see a girl rocking shorts in summer with a full flare. I have been empowered by others to show my skin," she shares. "Let’s domino this feeling!" Be the change. Do it first and see the ripple effect.

"The more we share our REAL skin, the more normal and accepted it shall become," she concludes. I couldn't agree more.

How has Katie inspired me?

Getting to watch Katie's stories and read Katie's posts over the past six months has been so uplifting. She lives what she preaches, exhibiting how one can live a full and rich life, flares and all. Let's join in her enthusiasm, sharing with the world that rashes are just a part of life. They don't make us less of a person and certainly do not define our worth.

Katie's handles: @mackies_moments and @itch_n_bitch

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