If Psoriasis Makes You Embarrassed of Your 'Beach Body,' Olympic Swimmer Dara Torres Has a Message for You

For many people with psoriasis, a flare-up means going outside in shorts or a swimsuit seems out of the question. But take it from five-time Olympic swimmer Dara Torres, who’s been forced to confront this dilemma over and over since her diagnosis with psoriasis 25 years ago — you can show off your “beach body” in the summer, and you should if you want to.

Torres, 50, is advocating for psoriatic disease this summer as part of the sponsored Show More of You campaign. She told The Mighty she first began noticing red, itchy patches while she was training for her third Olympics, the 1992 games in Barcelona. “I was in a swimsuit and everyone could see everything,” she said. “I was embarrassed by it and put lotion on it and thought it would go away, but it got worse.” 

She was soon diagnosed with plaque psoriasis, which flares up when she gets stressed. Back then, she said people weren’t as educated about psoriasis and psoriatic diseases as they are today, and she felt self-conscious knowing it could flare when she was stressed about an upcoming meet.

“No one had [the] nerve to come up and say anything. But you can tell when people are looking at you, and I felt like people were looking at me. Back then, people thought they would get it,” Torres said. “People thought if they touched me and it hit their skin they would get it or if they were in the pool with me, then they would get it, too.”

But those misconceptions simply aren’t true — psoriasis is not contagious and is actually common (approximately 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis, and up to 30 percent of those may also eventually develop psoriatic arthritis). It’s also treatable with the help of a dermatologist.

That’s why Torres is partnering with Celgene’s Show More of You campaign, which seeks to raise awareness of psoriatic disease and show people with psoriasis they can still be their true selves this summer. Torres said she became more confident in her body when she realized, as she says, “my business suit is my swimsuit.”

“I couldn’t not be confident, I had to follow my dreams and continue swimming. I couldn’t not go to the Olympics because I had psoriasis,” Torres said.

And she has a message for others who might feel embarrassed or ashamed of their psoriasis this summer: talk with a dermatologist about treatment options, and get out there.

“[The campaign] is sharing other people with psoriasis’ stories and saying hey, it’s OK. We want to give them confidence to know that they can go out — ‘show more of you’ is really a great name,” Torres said. “Everyone in the world knows bodies come in all shapes and sizes and you shouldn’t be discriminated against for that.”

Photo by Martin Schoeller

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Psoriasis

African American woman with a hat obscuring all but her eyes.

What It Was Like Growing Up With Psoriasis as an African American Woman

I am an African-American woman in her 50s with very dark skin who in addition to battling psoriatic arthritis since my 40s, has battled plaque psoriasis — the scaly skin that itches and flakes — all of her life, erythrodermic psoriasis — the best way to describe this is that my whole body goes on fire — several [...]
Doctor In Consultation With Depressed Female Patient

Why I'm Afraid Every Time I Hear 'Repeal and Replace'

Every day, I turn on the news to see another story about big plans to change health care. As a patient living with a chronic illness, I’m scared about the future of health care. I’m scared every time I hear the phrase “repeal and replace.” I’m scared about what these proposals mean for my health, [...]
before and after haircut photos o fa woman with brown hair

When a Hairdresser Refused to Cut My Hair Because I Have Psoriasis

My hair is getting long, and I need to get it cut. I haven’t even gotten a trim since last spring. Because when I went to get a couple inches cut off seven months ago, I was refused service because of my disability. You see, I have psoriatic arthritis. I have always had psoriasis — my mom [...]
two photos of psoriasis on arm and leg

To Those Who Are Quick to Judge People With Psoriasis

I’m not making this post for likes, for sympathy, or for any reason to benefit myself personally. I ache, burn, itch and am in pain. I cry, complain and have asked myself “Why me?” more times than I can count. While I can argue I have justification for all of these actions, in hindsight, I [...]