Somewhere out there — in a box, on a FedEx truck, lost in the overburdened American supply chain — are nine tubs of Eucerin Original Healing Cream that rightfully belong to me.
In the anxious weeks of early March (after we’d start maniacally washing our hands, but before my office closed and California went on lockdown), it didn’t occur to me to stockpile moisturizer.
My husband, a far more effective doomsday prepper, loaded our freezer with frozen vegetables, bought an emergency store of rice and beans, and implored me to refill my prescriptions. He’d seen on Reddit that people were stockpiling inhalers.
I complied. Inside the pharmacy, it felt ominous, like an invisible enemy was marshalling its troops, and we had only these available supplies to gird us.
I shifted away from others waiting in line, covered my mouth with the neck of my sweater and tried not to touch the counter as I collected my prescriptions: tacrolimus, a jar of triamcinolone, a tiny tube of mupirocin, valacyclovir and a couple inhalers.
I figured I’d pick up some extra things, but my husband had stocked our cabinets with Tylenol, cold medicine and a new thermometer, so what did I even need? Quarantine was an amorphous possibility that hadn’t yet taken shape, so I hazarded a guess: an extra tube of toothpaste? A packet of new razor blades? Aha! The last Eucerin Original Healing Cream on the shelf.
That jar, I knew, would only last two weeks, so I grabbed another tub, a different garden variety of Eucerin that I’d never tried before — one that clever product marketers knew would appeal to me: for eczema … contains ceramides.
Problem solved … or so I thought
I got home, washed my over-washed hands and figured I’d give the new Eucerin a try. As I sunk my fingers into the jar, I was promptly filled with dismay: this stuff was thin, slippery, almost liquid. It didn’t swaddle my skin the way my usual thick, rich cream did. Worse yet, this stuff stung. I closed the lid, annoyed I’d spent $16 and shunted it to the back of my cabinet.
Would those two Eucerins (one comfortable, one uncomfortable), plus the half-tub already in the bathroom, plus the small pot I brought home from my office, plus the half-empty bottle from the bottom of my purse, see me through the pandemic?
Two weeks later, as my fingers neared the bottom of the jar, it appeared not. So, I — like the rest of America, apparently — logged on to Walgreens.com and ordered nine (nine!) tubs of Eucerin, plus other sundries we’d forgotten to stock up on. And then I waited … and waited … and waited.
After five days, I called customer service. “I can see that your order’s processing,” said the man on the other end of the line, “but it hasn’t shipped yet. They’re really slammed. Anecdotally, what I’m seeing is that orders are shipping after seven to 10 business days.”
Seven to 10 business days, measured in eczema time, amounts to a whole lot of Eucerin. Going to the store felt scary, so I started rationing my remaining cream, applying it by the fingerful and reserving it for the driest patches on my neck, forehead and elbows.
When that ran out, I plumbed the recesses of my bathroom cabinet and dipped into some long-abandoned moisturizing agents: half a tube of Weleda Skin Food, a pocket-sized Cetaphil, a bottle of glycerin. In the last few days, I’ve returned to the stingy, ceramide-filled Eucerin, which, if I’m honest, isn’t quite so bad.
I’m not the only one waiting
I could have gone to greater lengths to get the cream I needed. But fretting over moisturizer in this historical moment — when Americans are dying by the thousands, when healthcare professionals are risking their lives to care for the sick without adequate personal protective equipment — feels trifling.
My order, I know, will arrive any day now. So much else is uncertain, and the anxieties of this moment are profound. Some specific eczema-related fears — such as, do biologics put me at greater risk of contracting coronavirus? If I have asthma, should I continue to use my inhalers? —have been allayed by NEA.
Other fears — like, will my body, prone to immune dysfunction and susceptible to viruses, survive this? Will my family and community survive this? Will life ever be the same again? — cannot be answered. They must be endured.
These days, I find solace in small things like setting up my office on the porch, taking long, socially distanced walks, knitting maniacally, talking to family and friends on Zoom, and perusing every Netflix series I haven’t already watched. I, like everyone, am waiting — for summer, for our collective health, for normalcy and to see people in person again, for a regular trip to the grocery store, and for those nine tubs of Eucerin.
Sarah Harris is the founder of Skin Stories, a weekly email newsletter that shares stories of people with chronic skin conditions living full lives. Check it out and subscribe at https://www.skinstories.us. If you’re headed to Eczema Expo, join Sarah at the #awkward and Celebrate Your Skin panels. You can follow her on Instagram @sharris31.
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