1. Science says it’s genetic, but no one else in your family has it.
The most frustrating part about it is explaining that it can’t be cured by putting some lotion on it or to "stop scratching." If it was that simple, that would’ve worked when you tried it.
2. Traveling sucks because you have to figure out how to pack your skin regimen.
Damn you, TSA. Why can’t I bring this huge bottle of lotion? It’s vital to my health and sanity. These little travel size bottles of lotion just won’t cover it.
3. All you want to do is be black and carefree, but there are seasons…and flare ups.
Some people have seasonal allergies that serve as an annoyance every time spring or summer decides to surface. For you, every season presents the same challenge: How do I keep my skin hydrated and healthy? Exposing your arms, neck, back and other hot spots to the elements makes every season a hassle for you. Even when you’re all covered up in the winter time, if the wool isn’t making you itch, it’s the dryness. You want to claw your skin off winter to summer simply because of the change in climate and your immune system adjusting to the changes. And god forbid if you sweat!
4. People asking you about your scars
I once had an intimate partner ask me what they were. In that moment, I wanted to disappear. It’s sometimes a little embarrassing, but if you’re like me, you’ve got it down to a spiel: “Yes, I have eczema and yes, it’s kind of like a rash. I’ve been dealing with it since I came into existence. And yes, it's itchy.”
5. Managing your stress so that you don’t break out
In college, I went by the phrase “microagressions in the classroom make me itch,” and not just for the humor. As black women, we enounter different challenges just because of who we are, but are mostly ignored during the conversation about mental and physical health. Eczema is one of those conversations. Managing stressful situations day-to-day can mean the difference between having a handle on your skin condition and not. If it isn’t life stressing you out, it’s your eczema making another appearance. This not only rips at your self-esteem but can add to struggles with seasonal depression and your relationship with your body that can sometimes inform eating disorders. I’ve experienced both, and my skin condition was a present stressor in certain ways.
6. Watching what you eat
Two-thirds of people with eczema also have a food allergy or sensitivity. Irritants include wheat, soy products, dairy and nuts. So basically, you shouldn’t eat anything or you should go vegan. If you’re lucky enough to live near a community grocer that provides more options, great! Otherwise, this is another frustrating challenge.
7. There is no such thing as “I’m going to just hop in the shower”
It’s a process that involves technique. Some of your skin could benefit from exfoliation while with other parts you have to be more gentle. This includes putting on coconut oil before you get in the shower to protect your skin, not staying under the water too long letting go of the notion of a bubble bath. P.S. Don’t forget to pat your skin dry instead of wiping or rubbing!
8. Searching for beauty products that work
Unscented. No parabens. No mineral oils. And the words 'calming' and/or 'soothing' are your best friend. In the end, you arrive at the checkout ready to drop at least $12 on a skin moisturizer. Add that to your natural hair regimen, and that’s where most of your money is spent.
9. The frustrating calls with your insurance company
What do you mean my insurance doesn’t cover this? Eczema is a real thing. Who says that being a living breathing rash 24/7 isn’t life threatening? But at least you can be on your parents' insurance until you’re 26. Thanks, Obama.
10. You have #SkinGoals
While everyone else is gawking at #fitinspo or #relationshipgoals, you just want clear skin. You pine after the Lupitas and the Gabrielle Unions who seem to just wake up rash/breakout free.
11. You have reigning optimism you can get it under control
There are days when you don’t even want to look at yourself, but sometimes you get the courage to look yourself in the mirror and embrace it. You’ve made the New Year’s resolution to take better care of your skin and drink more water, but most of the time your progress comes from just telling yourself you’re beautiful and so is your skin.
To all the melanated girls who know eczema, there will always be days you wish you weren’t you, but self-love is the key to battling daily feelings of shame and embarrassment. It isn’t easy, and even I’m still struggling to embrace it just like everyone else. Take your time, get to know your skin and every day you can at least smile at the thought that your hydration game is so strong you will never be the ashy friend.