Chronic Skin Issues Suck, But Here's How I Handle Mine

I've had eczema since I was 19. It sucks, and it never seems to go away. But here are a few tips for dealing with an obnoxiously persistent skin condition like mine.

Oct 12, 2013 at 1:00pm | Leave a comment

Model Cara Delevingne drummed up some unwanted attention last week after she dared post Instagram pics that revealed hints of psoriasis (a rashy, red skin condition) on her legs. This prompted a slew of jerks to jeer things like "OMG your skin” and “Ugly shoes, ugly legs” (there's a small red splotch visible on one leg -- the horror!).


As a longtime eczema sufferer myself (a similar skin condition that causes itchy flare-ups and super-dry, peel-y skin), I feel for Delevingne. (She handled the haters gracefully, tweeting, "I can handle the negative comments but just remember that no one is perfect. EMBRACE YOUR INDIVIDUALITY! It's makes you [sic] who you are x.") I've had my eczema since I was 19 -- mainly on my hands, though I also get random patches on my arms, legs, and other spots.

In the overall scheme of things, I realize that a non-contagious skin condition isn't the biggest deal ever. But it's not fun, either; it can make me dread everyday social interactions (like when I give change to a supermarket cashier, or go to hold someone's hand, or wave goodbye to friends after dinner). The palms of my hands generally look like a disaster zone, with bright red patches, peeling parts, and occasional bloody spots where I've skin-picked myself to death. (I'm complicit in my own destruction -- I pick at my already-messed-up hands relentlessly, which exacerbates the whole thing by 10,000 percent).

The causes of eczema are mysterious, and I've tried EVERYTHING to make mine go away, to no avail. For any fellow skin sufferers out there wondering how to carry on, here are a few things I've learned that help make living with a chronic skin Thing a bit easier.

PERFECT THE ART OF THE SLY HIDE.
Now, generally speaking, I don't condone fleeing from one's problems. But I'm human, and there are some days I just don't feel like dealing with the "OMG what happened to your hands!?!?" onslaught. In certain situations (like the aforementioned cash register scenario, above), I know I'll want to shield my delicate digits from the glare of an impudent outsider. This is why I tend to always wear a long-sleeved jacket or sweater -- when confronted with a sudden instance in which hand-to-hand contact or plain old hand-viewing is imminent, I'll yank my sleeves down as far over my hands as possible. Like I said, this is something I've come to do almost unconsciously over the years, as I've grown accustomed to having this annoying eczema crap. Hide or don't hide, it's up to you.

GLOVES ARE YOUR FRIEND.
... If your skin problem afflicts your hands, I mean. I go nowhere without a pair of cheap cotton gloves in my bag. They're useful in the winter, of course, but they're also useful in random social emergencies when I realize that the frightful state of my hands means they simply cannot encounter a fellow human at any cost. I throw my gloves on and I manage to look and feel normal for a minute -- hallelujah! Gloves also help prevent me from picking at my hands; they're a must-have, 2-trick pony.

REALLY THICK, GOOPY MOISTURIZER IS YOUR BUDDY, TOO.
Another thing I do with my cotton gloves sometimes? Sleep in them after applying approximately 16 tons of really thick, goopy, slimy hand cream (or prescription steroid cream from my dermatologist, if it's that kinda party) to my poor, destitute hands. The cream + glove combo helps seal the moisture in, and it helps keep me from messing with my hands during the night (yes, I've been known to scratch or pick in my sleep, or while falling asleep, or while laying in bed worrying about my next article, or whatever).

GET USED TO MAKING THINGS UP EVERY NOW AND AGAIN.

Sometimes someone will innocently ask me what happened to my hands, and the absolute last thing I feel like doing is trying to explain my eczema. It's so NOT some terrifying, obscure disease, but it's like people hear "skin condition" and automatically assume you have leprosy. (My ex-boyfriend used to jokingly call it that; maybe it gave me a bit of a complex!) Anyway, I've gotten used to telling the occasional lie when I'm too lazy or tired or bored or depressed to explain. The other day, while having coffee with an Internet date, the guy noticed my palms, winced, and asked me if I'd fallen off my bike or something. Without missing a beat or averting my gaze, I replied, totally without thinking or planning, "Yeah, I slipped on my front stairs and scraped my hands on the concrete." Did he believe me? Don't know, don't care. Lying allowed me to move on and change the subject faster, which was, honestly, all that mattered to me right then.

I wish I had some practical suggestions on healing or treating your skin stuff, but alas, I do not. Like I said, nothing has reliably worked to improve mine (except the occasional dermatologist-issued cortisone shot). Anyone have any miracle cures to suggest? Please share below.

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