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'Psoriasis comes with some debilitating social and psychological side effects'

My name is Alice, I’m twenty-two years old and I was diagnosed with psoriasis about ten years ago. My symptoms first appeared in the form of scalp psoriasis, which I thought was just dry and irritated skin as I had not heard of the condition before. However, since my initial diagnosis, my psoriasis has spread across my torso, legs, arms and even my face. It began as small spots in each area but over time they have grown and now cover a majority of my skin.

I have found that stress is the biggest trigger for my skin. When I was facing exams as a teenager, my skin was always flaring up. This past year has been the most difficult for me, dealing with mental health issues while holding down two part-time jobs and completing my degree. It was definitely a busy year!

My psoriasis became more intense and within a month, my face went from having a few small patches of psoriasis, to covering nearly 75% of my face. At first this was mortifying for me. Before, when I was having a bad skin day, I could just cover up by wearing trousers and long sleeves. But now, I had no way of hiding my face. I used to wear lots of makeup to try and hide it, but it only made my skin worse and made me feel even more anxious about myself.

When you have a visible difference in somewhere so obvious, people can’t help but look and sometimes I really do feel the stares. I get a lot of unsolicited advice from strangers, people have told me I’ll “grow out of it” or that I need to wash my face more. Then there was the time that someone I had been friends with for a long time told me I “had excellent makeup skills”. I was so happy as I have always loved makeup and found it to be a wonderful creative outlet, but they followed this up with “well I suppose you have to be good at makeup to cover up skin like yours”. Suddenly I felt crushed. I was so mad and it made me realise that I didn’t want to hide anymore. Suffering from psoriasis goes so far beyond being a lifelong skin condition. There are debilitating social and psychological side effects.

Throughout my time with psoriasis, I have been given various steroid treatments from doctors and dermatologists. These provide me with a temporary fix to any flare up, but I try not to become reliant upon these due to the harsh chemicals they contain and I know a short term fix is not worth potentially damaging myself more in the long term, so I only like to use these when absolutely necessary. I like to use natural moisturisers like coconut oil to try and soothe my skin, while focusing on meditation and my hobbies to try and limit and stress. I love music and theatre, and I play lots of instruments so most evenings you can find me playing with local bands and orchestras. I still love to create new looks with makeup, and some days I still go out with a full face of makeup on if I’m not feeling very confident. I’m beginning to learn that it’s okay not to be confident every day, and I shouldn’t feel ashamed if I want to hide my skin sometimes. Nobody can be confident and put on a brave face all day, every day.

I try to be as actively involved within the psoriasis community as I can be, spreading awareness through social media mainly. In my final year at Nottingham Trent University, I created a health campaign called ‘Naturally You’, as part of my Health Promotion module. For this campaign I created infographics and engaged with an online community to share their stories and information surrounding different chronic skin conditions, as well taking a campaign stall into the university building and getting other students involved.

Awareness is a great place to start with psoriasis, helping people to understand that just because someone looks visibly different, it does not mean they should be treated any different.

Author credit: Alice Lee

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