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How Eczema Has Influenced My Style Evolution

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We live in a world where so much emphasis is put on appearance. Many people use clothing, makeup, and accessories as ways to enhance their appearance and to express their personality. For those with skin conditions like eczema, there are more factors to consider when deciding what to wear for the day, aside from what may be trendy or personal preferences. Eczema is a chronic condition in which the skin becomes itchy, rough, and inflamed. It can cause discolored patches, and scratching can make the skin prone to oozing, bleeding, and even infection.

What is Eczema

I’ve tried to balance my love of fashion with the issues that my eczema causes since childhood. I’ve always loved flipping through the latest fashion magazines and looking at clothing store catalogs. Yet very early on, in elementary school, I learned that not everyone wanted to see my skin. Due to being bullied by my peers, I decided that using clothing to hide my skin was the best option if I wanted to avoid unwanted attention and cruel comments.

For many years, I would always wear socks or tights with my sandals to hide my eczema, even in 85-degree heat. This led to further discomfort, since the fabric from the socks or hosiery would get stuck in the places that I had scratched open on my legs and feet, and I would have to slowly peel it off. This usually would either tear my skin further or cause it to itch even more. However, at that time, hiding from people’s opinions was more important to me than not aggravating my eczema further.

By my late 20s, I had grown past the desire to hide my eczema with uncomfortable and unseasonable socks and tights. However, frequent skin infections and eczema scarring motivated me to find ways to cover up my legs. I would often pick dark-colored maxi dresses to hide my legs when my eczema was so flared up that I couldn’t even shave them. I would avoid wearing light colors because even slight irritation could turn into a scratching episode that would end up with my clothes being stained with blood.

Even so, my dressing with eczema in mind is not always influenced by the desire to avoid bullying, nor is it always done from a place of self-consciousness. I’ve learned to shift my focus from basing my clothing choices on what people may think of my eczema, to dressing for my own personal comfort. For example, heat is a big trigger for my eczema symptoms, so even though grabbing a pair of shorts on a hot summer day would seem reasonable, exposed skin combined with sweating could turn a fun outing into a miserable experience. Therefore, I often choose pants or longer dresses so I can feel comfortable and confident when I leave the house.

I’ve also learned to be aware of the fabrics that I choose to wear. When my eczema is really irritated, rougher clothing items like jeans are out of the question. Cotton is always my preferred fabric choice, and has proven to be the most comfortable option, especially if my skin is already itchy and inflamed.

Despite the adjustments that I’ve had to make to my clothing choices because of eczema, I’ve still found ways to express my personal style. In a closet full of maxi dresses, midi dresses, pants, and cotton sweaters, I’ve focused on choosing patterns and colors that reflect my personality. Hearts, polka dots, and florals are just some of the prints that add an element of fun to my attire. In addition to that, since most of my eczema is on my hips, legs, and feet, I’ve started wearing lighter tops and darker-colored bottoms. That way, I can still wear the lighter colors that I love, without any potential bleeding eczema areas becoming obvious through clothing. Lastly, since most makeup and jewelry worsens the state of my eczema, at times, I’ve chosen to enhance my outfits by accessorizing my hair by adding curls or pretty clips to my hairstyle.

Eczema has influenced the evolution of my style, but it hasn’t overshadowed it completely. In fact, it’s helped me exercise my creativity and to become more adaptable as I continue to develop my eczema-friendly wardrobe.

Getty image by Luis Alvarez

Originally published: May 17, 2023
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