Unpacking how eczema impacts long-term mental health, even when skin is calm.
Published On: Feb 6, 2023
Last Updated On: Feb 6, 2023
You’re attempting to converse with your date, yet your mind keeps slipping back to the proverbial elephant in the room: When do I bring up my eczema?
Or maybe you’re creating your first dating profile and wondering where, or even if, to mention your presently flaring skin.
Eczema is not all that you are, yet it’s no small part of who you are.
Dating itself can feel like navigating a maze, even without the complexity of a chronic skin condition. You may feel more self-conscious or worried about how others perceive you — both across the table and online.
Remember, you’re not alone, and these feelings are normal. Over 10% of people in the U.S. live with eczema, and, odds are, they’re asking these same questions. We spoke with Lisa Sisemore, senior director of matchmaking at It’s Just Lunch, as well as NEA Ambassadors from our community who shared their tips for navigating dating with eczema.
You are under no obligation to talk about your eczema on your first, second or even third date. Take a moment to assess how you feel, whether swiping through profiles or getting ready for a night out.
“The earlier, the better,” recommended NEA Ambassador Cynthea Corfah. “I’d rather get an understanding of how my potential partner feels about eczema early on to avoid any awkwardness during a flare-up. In my experience, most people are very understanding.”
But if talking about eczema prevents you from enjoying your first date, the conversation can wait for another time. Only bring it up when you feel comfortable and prepared.
“The right time is whenever someone feels comfortable, typically around the third date,” said Lisa. “Around the fourth or fifth date is usually when there’s a true connection, but before the relationship really starts.”
When you are ready to share about your eczema, you get to decide how. You may want to take an early, direct approach like Cynthea or a more indirect route.
“As I get to know a potential partner better, eventually I will open up about my eczema,” explained Jeremy Paredes, a fellow NEA Ambassador. Jeremy often prefers to invite questions about his eczema rather than bring it up in conversation. “For example, I’ll wear a short sleeve shirt or shorts that expose my eczema, and they might ask about it.”
You can also practice what to say ahead of time. A little preparation can go a long way to soothe your nerves (and may help prevent a flare).
“With health, I have clients who come to me at all different stages. Some people are thoroughly aware of what’s going on with their body; sometimes it’s easier to discuss if you can see it,” said Lisa.
“When I met my partner, my eczema was flaring all over my body,” said Cynthea. “It helped that we had open and honest conversations about my eczema from the day we met. He was patient, eager to learn about my skin, compassionate and gentle. That gave me the space to bring my walls down and feel safe enough to be open to love.”
Questions, as vulnerable as they feel, can help identify a curious and caring partner. Try to answer a date’s questions honestly and not downplay your eczema’s impact or how you feel.
Well-intended questions also provide valuable opportunities to educate your date about eczema and open communication helps lay the foundation of a strong relationship.
Everyone reacts to eczema, or any chronic condition, for that matter, in different ways. Some people may be supportive and ask how your skin is doing. Others may become more apprehensive or begin to withdraw after you share about your eczema. Prepare yourself before the conversation for either reaction and anything in between.
Opening up about your eczema can be a risk. But it also carries an advantage. You can tell who sees you and understands you and who does not. Keep in mind there’s nothing wrong with being choosy. You do not need to settle for someone who doesn’t accept all of you.
Jeremy noted, “When looking for a potential partner, I am quick to recognize whether my eczema pushes them away from me or if they don’t mind at all. Those who judge people not by looks or a skin condition, but by you as a person as a whole, are those who I find myself gravitating towards and liking.’’
“You’re not alone in this journey,” said Lisa. People might have past partners who hurt them, or partners who told them or made them feel they are not capable of being loved for whatever reason, and that’s just not true. Everyone has someone that they have enough in common with to share love and joy with.”
In a society that values surface-level standards, eczema can affect your self-esteem and hold you back from the dating scene.
Key to moving forward? Learning to accept who you are and practicing confidence. Hold your head high and try dating anyway — even if you don’t feel confident quite yet. The more you practice opening yourself up and engaging in vulnerable experiences, the more confident (and comfortable) you’ll become over time. Dating with eczema is not always easy, but well worth taking the first step, whether that’s creating a dating profile or asking someone out.
“Trust that there are people out there who will love you in all your skin’s many forms,” said Cynthea. “The right person will make you feel safe enough to be yourself, comfortable enough to share your struggles and will be an active partner in helping you manage your eczema. Don’t settle for anything less. You are worthy of unconditional love.”
Hear more stories from Cynthea, Jeremy and other NEA ambassadors about what it’s like dating with eczema here.
Lisa Sisemore is the senior director of matchmaking at It’s Just Lunch, a matchmaking service for busy professionals with 110 locations nationwide. With 31 years of experience, Lisa was named Matchmaker of the Year in 2020 and 2021.