Board-certified allergist Dr. Michael Pistiner shares what he wishes more of his patients knew about the association of eczema and allergies.
Published On: May 28, 2021
Last Updated On: Nov 18, 2021
For many, summer means sunny days, tank tops, shorts, pool parties and beach days. Understandably, this hot, skin-showing season can cause body image anxiety for people living with eczema. We could become hermits during our flared-up days, but the better option is to embrace your eczema condition and love your body. Here’s how.
Eczema warriors know that there are good days and bad days. Embrace the good days wholeheartedly and show off your skin when you’re feeling good about it. Did you wake up with your eczema flare-ups gone or improved? Embrace it: go to the beach or that pool party your friends invited you to and enjoy yourself!
When a flare-up on my face or body passes, I feel extra confident and excited to be out of my house. Going big for me is running errands, going shopping, hanging out with friends, dressing up and taking selfies – anything that has me proudly showing off my face and skin.
A few years ago, I had an outdoor wedding to attend, and my face was red, itchy and swollen. In my eyes, I looked terrible. My husband shrugged it off, saying that many people have bad skin on their face and that facial redness is very common. My reaction was to think, “yes, but my skin is perfect and beautiful when it’s not flared!”
However, his comment lingered in my head and I still think about it today. He’s right. Most people don’t have perfect skin, or even nice skin. People deal with acne, acne scarring, rosacea, anything. Why was my expectation to have supermodel skin every day of my life? If our expectations are too high, we will always be disappointed. How about “no oozing” as an expectation instead of “no flare-up”? Setting realistic expectations for ourselves will set us up for more positive self-image in the long run.
By now we’re all aware that our social media feeds can be toxic and negatively affect our self-esteem. People (myself included) take selfies when they feel and look good (see my point number 1, above). But your friends’ personal feeds don’t usually show the bad days, the imperfect skin, the circles under the eyes. On top of that, there are so many image filters on social media, most of those photos you see aren’t even real anymore. For people with eczema, it can seem like everyone on Instagram or Facebook has absolutely healthy skin, whereas we all know this isn’t true.
I follow eczema social media groups on Facebook, Instagram and Reddit. These groups are authentic and real. Eczema warriors post photos of their bad days, ask their peers questions and celebrate their “skin wins.” Whether you choose to post or just observe the posts, these groups help you feel supported and offer you the empathy you need on bad days.
The people who succeed in living with positive self-image embrace their body type and wear appropriate clothing for it. Not everyone can pull off high waisted jeans, halter tops, low cut shirts, or empire-waisted dresses. Skin should be no different. What materials and cuts look and feel best on your body when your eczema is flared or has scarred your body? Examples are cotton fabric or pants that cover your legs.
There are great fashion options available for all body types, so figure out what looks and feel best for your skin and make the best of it. Find a fabulous cotton top instead of grabbing a raggedy tee because you feel down. Or, if you’re having a terrible flare-up, use an accessory to cover it up or distract from it – like wearing an extravagant, big hat to cover a flared-up face (which I’ve done!). An exciting outfit is a great way to boost your mood on a bad skin day.
Ultimately, the most freeing option is to embrace your condition, skin and body altogether. Do not worry about other people’s reactions – the point is for you to love your body, not to have others love it. Beauty can be found in behavior, emotions and actions, regardless of your skin’s health.
Don’t feel control over your skin? That doesn’t mean you have to let go altogether – find other ways to feel beautiful, like staying fit and eating healthy. For me, I feel great when I can go on a run (on good skin days!). It is a privilege to run, and it makes me feel strong and healthy.
By embracing your eczema condition and loving your body, you can move beyond your skin and appreciate your full body – including your healthy organs, capable mind and working limbs. This body-positive mindset will definitely get you into the “fun in the sun” summer vibes!
Helen Piña writes for Itchy Pineapple, a blog about chronic eczema and skin allergies. She has lived with chronic atopic dermatitis (eczema) and skin allergies for most of her life. She’s committed to offering support, advice and compassion to fellow eczema fighters through her Itchy Pineapple blog. Piña is married with two young children and is a marketing leader in the B2B tech industry. She lives in Houston, TX.