For being the body’s largest organ, skin conditions sure do have a mixed reputation. (Insert joke here about them being flaky.) In this episode of The Mighty Podcast, host Ashley gets under the skin (well, metaphorically) of guests Camara Rauen, Shruti Shivaramakrishnan, Skye Gailing, and Katia Budak to talk about their respective skin conditions.
While they do discuss the physical symptoms of their diagnoses — eczema, rosacea, acne, and keratosis pilaris — they also dive into how those conditions impact their mental health as well as their relationships with the skin they’re in.
Come for the validation, stay for Shruti and Katia’s incredibly detailed masterclass in skin care 101.
Welcome to ‘The Mighty Podcast,’ where we infuse the health space with positivity, humor, and vulnerability. The Mighty is a safe and supportive community here to help you find the people and information you need to navigate your health journey. We’re so excited to spend some time together. Now, let’s get into what the health we are talking about today.
This episode of ‘The Mighty Podcast,’ we are going to talk about what gets under our skin, and more specifically, our skin itself. In honor of Psoriasis Awareness Month, we were talking about skin conditions like acne, keratosis pilaris, rosacea, and eczema to name a few. So we have a bunch of different people here who all have skin.
So I would like them to do a little bit of an introduction. So we have Camara, we have Shruti, we have Katia, and we have Skye. So let’s start with you, Camara.
Hi, I’m Camara. I’m the multimedia supervising producer here at The Mighty, and I have keratosis pilaris and rosacea. Those are two of the main skin conditions that I have grown up with and live with.
So I take it under the skin deep feelings of it all.
And over to you, Shruti.
Hi, everyone. I’m Shruti. I’m the staff writer here at The Mighty. I live with keratosis pilaris, and I did have eczema growing up. My skin’s just dry, and I have feelings about it. So that’s something I’ll be sharing today.
Y’all didn’t think that with a skin podcast, you’d get skin plus feelings, but without further pause for me over to you, Katia.
Hi, my name is Katia, and I’m a concept artist for advertising agencies and a film photographer as well as a video content creator for short form Reels and TikToks, I live with eczema, otherwise known as atopic dermatitis.
And last but not least, over to you, Skye.
Hello! I’m Skye. I’m the editorial and community associate here at The Mighty. And not to brag, but my skin’s itchy all the time, and I have a lot of acne.
Alright, Thank you all for being here. I didn’t even introduce myself, but as you all know, I am Ashley, I am your Mighty host. I’ll talk a little bit about my own experience today, too, but I’m gonna leave most of the conversation to these lovely guests.
But before we really dive skin deep as we were saying, we’re gonna start with an icebreaker to just, warm up and get us ready for the deeper feelings conversations that we’re gonna move into. My question for you all; What books, music, TV shows, or movies do you turn to when times get tough?
Alright, I know I’m about to be 27 in a week and change, but let me bring to the table the kids’ show “Bluey.” It’s incredible. It is like seven minutes each episode, and it has amazing lessons about mental health and community. And my sister and I really love it. We watch it together. But yeah, that’s a great feel-good show.
Did I not just play with Bluey and Bingo characters with my nephew on Tuesday? Sure did.
I would say if it’s a show… I always go back to the guilty pleasures, depending on what tough time I’m going into. “The Nanny” is my go-to. I just need to laugh and enjoy the essence that is Fran Drescher and remembering just the lightheartedness of life.
Or if I just want to get lost in the drama, ‘Dawson’s Creek.’ Over the past few years, something that’s caught my tongue.
For me, it’s always been ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ Which I think I’m watching again for the 20-something time or I go completely dark and watch “Hannibal” or a similar series but I find comfort in the morbidity.
I appreciate the dichotomy there.
For me, I kind of hop around either to a trending show at the time, I’ve been meaning to watch ‘The Bear’ for instance, or honestly anime series, like all the shows and classics that I know I’ll enjoy or I’ll rewatch them with a friend or like a family member or something, a cousin and it’ll just it’ll always be a good time.
For me, I have a lot of favorites. It definitely depends on “the tough.” Is it I am very low in a depressive episode, am I anxious where I’m a little bit more erratic feeling, but I would say I usually go to some of my favorites and a really good one for most situations is ‘Moulin Rouge,’ the movie, because I just, it was one of the first movies I watched that got me into filmmaking. And the music in it is just, you can just put yourself into it if you just let yourself sing and go, you can fully get encaptured in that moment instead of being wherever your brain is otherwise.
But I love how different all of her answers are, that was such a great mix of media. I now want to try some of these things when times get tough to see if it feels good for me too. But without further ado, let’s jump into our conversations. So we mentioned it a little bit up the top, what skin conditions everyone lives with, but I’d really love, for folks who aren’t super aware of what the symptoms are or what you may experience living with those conditions, could you all give a little bit more detail about the conditions that you mentioned?
I can go first. With the conditions that, I have rosacea and keratosis pilaris, which keratosis pilaris, I’ll jump to that one first because that one’s the one that kind of affects me more, is some people call it chicken skin, some people call it that red bumps that you get on your arms.
It’s basically, it feels like this never-ending rash that looks like your arms are sunburned and bumpy all of the time. Also can affect your legs, looking like you have ingrown hairs that are bumps on your legs. Causing you to look like you’re breaking out a lot of the time.
If you get sunburned, it gets inflamed. If you get stressed, it can get inflamed. If you have a rash, it’ll get inflamed there. And if it’s normal, it’ll still look slightly inflamed. Which has always been fun. I’m really grateful there isn’t really much pain that goes around for me with keratosis pilaris, but it’s always been a thing I’ve been very self-conscious about and has definitely affected, growing up, my self-esteem and my mental health.
Rosacea, the other thing I deal with, is pigmentation of redness on the face and breaking out on the face into kind of red plotches or blotches, however, I like to say it. Also, thankfully for me, something that isn’t painful, but something that I really dealt with growing up being, affecting myself, feeling like I’m just always blushing. I’m just always sunburnt. And it took me a long time to find even foundations or things that would make me feel comfortable in my skin with those conditions.
Great. And I wanted to just go over to you, Shruti, because I know you also live with keratosis pilaris. So I’m curious if your experience is similar or has any differences from Camara’s.
It’s very similar. It does feel like chicken skin and it’s quite noticeable, especially when someone else notices it and points it out. So it does feel like bumps all over and mine has been painful in certain circumstances where it has gotten infected because of the ingrown hair. My daughter and my husband also have KP, so they also experience this to varying degrees. It does hurt my daughter.
Yeah, I think that’s so tough when you are young, too, when your body is, you go through so much change when you’re a kid. It’s a lot. Let’s go to you next, Skye.
Yeah I’ve had a challenging relationship with my skin basically my whole life. I have ehlers-danlos syndrome, and part of that, because it affects your whole body, because, get this, connective tissue? Collagen? That’s in the skin. It makes your skin super sensitive and stretchy and more prone to poor wound healing, rashes, allergies, they can be worse with EDS. So I feel like my skin is just like a topographical map. There’s just so much going on. And even part of the testing for EDS, my skin was stretched and measured to see how far out it comes. And I even had my geneticist, he was like, “All right, let’s test the skin writing,” and he took a pen that didn’t have the point out and he was able, to write a word in my skin and have it stay there.
Because, yeah, my skin likes reacting to things. And on the flip side, I feel like a lot of people with EDS, don’t have acne, or as much acne as I do, but I’m so lucky. And I’ve been dealing with horrible acne since I was, like, ten. And get this, folks, as an adult, it’s still there sometimes. But yeah, but EDS also makes me really sensitive to what feels like every ingredient, so it’s been tough trying to combat acne while not triggering anything else. It’s a weird balance.
Yeah, and I’ll say my experience with skin has to do with acne, and it has to do with the fact that I was the rare case in that I did not have any acne growing up. It was only after my surgery for my thyroid, getting that removed, that all of my hormones shifted. So since that point, I basically at the age of 20-21 started to get acne and has, it’s been a constant factor in my life since then as well, which is again, yeah, super fun.
Over to you, Katia, can you tell us a little bit about your experience? Sure.
So I have a[n] extreme version of eczema. Essentially, it’s an inflammatory skin condition that makes your skin really dry and hypersensitive to anything and everything depending on, there’s like different levels of sensitization that you can be at.
There’s a spectrum that people experience with it. A lot of people have it as children, but for most of those people, it’s something they grow out of by the time they’re an adult. Unfortunately, it didn’t, that wasn’t the case with me, but I’ve been able to manage the flares as they come and go every few years with the help of steroid creams and a dermatologist, but yeah, there’s a wide range of symptoms that we can get into later.
For sure, and I do think it’s really interesting. Obviously, skin is the same organ on all of us, but how similar and yet how different these conditions kind of manifest, I think what’s interesting we talked a lot about invisible illness on here and I think this is one of the rare times that we’re talking about physical and all of the factors emotional too that comes with that.
I’d love to know, I know, Skye, you mentioned you were ten when you noticed some more of those symptoms onsetting. What about everyone else? Was there a certain time? When did you get a diagnosis if you got one?
I hit the genetic lottery, so everything that I have, my dad has, and his dad had. He already knew when I was born like how I know with my daughter.
We never went to the doctor until I was 11 or 12, and that was when people in school were making fun and they were pointing out, and my friends would say, oh my god, your skin is so bad, and I got really self-conscious about it. And that’s when I asked, is there something we can do, and that’s when we went to the doctor.
I also had eczema. That was in university, a very high-pressure environment. I couldn’t actually go and get a diagnosis or get help at that time because it was a very different environment from here. We were not allowed to go outside of university campus. It’s India. It was conventional. I had to wait for years until I finished college to actually pay attention to this because if I did get medicine, I couldn’t get it again.
If it gets over, I’d have to go back home and get the refill. That was not possible. But yeah, I think over time, it just evolved. I’m also very sensitive to the sun. And I guess that happened because of migraine, I’m not really sure, me staying indoors and acting like a bat in a cave. So I noticed again, this was in university, it was a very hot place.
So I would get rashes and burns. If I just went out for a few minutes and back in, I recently got a diagnosis for that, just last year. So it’s been difficult. It’s been years of noticing these symptoms, living with it, hating it, wanting to do something about it. Sometimes you don’t exactly find the help that you need, but eventually, I have names for it, thanks to advocates, thanks to everything that I’m reading, thanks to the people that I’m meeting.
Yeah, I think similarly for me. I think my dad has had a similar amount of skin conditions that I have had, but not to the severity in the ways that I’ve had it. I have very pale skin, but then I have the red bumps. I could always tell growing up that oh, not everyone’s arms look like that.
I started to feel the need to cover up pretty young and not even for any other reason besides my arms don’t look like everyone else. My face, people would always ask me why I was blushing or why I was sunburned or what was wrong with my arms, it would make me really self-conscious and I think when I was a teenager either like late middle school or early high school tried to get a diagnosis or like something to fix my arms.
That’s when I first got the diagnosis of KP and they gave me a really high-intensity cream that’s like a high-intensity amylactin. And that’s the first time that it hurt. I remember trying that cream. It made my skin hurt. It made it inflame even more. And they’re like, oh, that’s what’s supposed to happen until it gets better.
I’m like, ugh. But after weeks of trying it, I’m like, this is making it even more noticeable than it was before. So I think that was the first times that I really started to notice it was that kind of teenage years, figuring out a balance ever since. Sometimes it’s in a dormant stage of not too intense, but then sometimes it gets inflamed for not really sure what causes it.
What about you, Katia? When did you start to notice symptoms or got your diagnosis of eczema?
So it is something I’ve lived with my whole life. I’ve had it before I can remember. There’s photos of me and my parents will recount to me times when I was an infant and a toddler just blanketed in these bright red rashes.
I guess it’s maybe similar to keratosis pilaris with Camara in the sense that it’s dormant as well a lot of the time. And I think it is an invisible disease until it’s not. It’s something that, there’s also different types, what type of eczema I have changes all the time, and the symptoms vary a little bit as well, but it’s always noticeable when it happens, and it, there’s always a sort of, there’s a moment where you have to take action in order to keep it from spiraling into the worst possible state, there’s like a moment of contact/sensitization, then there’s this medium stage where things start, the ball gets rolling and you’re like panicking trying to control it.
And the flare is happening and then there’s the third stage where it just shuts your whole life down and your body starts destroying itself. So those are a general overview, that has been happening since I was put on this planet.
Just speaking to, cause I found that really interesting. You said it changes a little bit in type almost. So with everyone who has a skin condition, do you notice that you’re getting the same types of symptoms every time, or does, the extremity, just say, of the flare kind of change what symptoms that you experience?
So I would say with EDS especially, it’s only gotten, all the symptoms have only gotten worse all over time.
I’ve always had that translucent skin, and you can always see bags under my eyes the amount of times, even since childhood, people have said, “Oh, you look horrible,” or, “Oh, you’re so tired,” and, yes, I experience chronic fatigue, but, you don’t have to say it. But the other symptoms that have gotten worse have been, like, stretch marks, the easy bruising.
Right now, I’m still fighting off this random rash. My doctor said I can’t figure it out. But if I scratch something itchy it’s called petechia, when you get those pink little capillary spots bursting. And so my legs right now are covered in that. You can see a line of bruises, too, from where I scratched.
That’s definitely gotten worse, and my allergies have gotten worse, which then just makes everything else worse. It’s a fun little spiral.
I’ve noticed that mine get worse sometimes when I’m in a high-stress environment or when I feel really pressured. And that comes out as different kind of symptoms, like this time it is a very itchy spot in my leg, where if I itch again, it will tear.
Like the skin will tear, I will bleed. Sometimes it’s just random hives out of nowhere. The KP doesn’t change. Sometimes it’s not as bad. Sometimes it’s just all over, very hard to ignore, very hard to wear clothes and feel comfortable with it.
I didn’t mention this, I also have a kind of hyperpigmentation. So you can see that upper lips and around my neck, around, my elbows, that really gets pronounced. But with that, I also have rashes. So it does change depending on what kind of situation I’m in. And I think it’s, for me, it’s very heavily dependent on mental health.
I think same for me, like gratefully for myself, either it’s gotten better or I’ve just started to not notice as much my KP as I’ve gotten a little bit older.
I do notice that it will inflame or flare up a little bit more if I am dealing with a high-stress situation, if I’m in the sun too long, or if I’m going through my menstrual cycle. I’ve actually noticed that sometimes that affects it. Sometimes I’ll get these random rashes on my, it’s usually shoulder or back, that I’m not sure if it has to do with KP, but if I’m in a high-stress situation or I think hormonally, I’ll just get these random reddish, they look like I have been, like, scratched or something, or I have this random rash that just goes away in a day or two.
Never know why. Thankfully, I haven’t had too many large symptoms. I don’t really know the full cause besides just if I’m going through a stressful or emotional or sunny situation.
So for me, my symptoms also heavily, that’s interesting, it’s a common denominator oftentimes with any type of inflammatory disease, it’s so tied to stress and specifically with eczema, there’s this trifecta of diseases that they go together and a lot of people have all three.
Eczema goes hand in hand with asthma and hay fever a lot of the time. For me, it’s just, it’s directly related to allergies and stress. It can be anything from, I remember one time I went to a friend’s house and they had two small dogs and a cat in the house, and I didn’t touch the pets, did nothing like that, because I know I’m allergic to animals, but as soon as I sat down at the dining table, within a matter of seconds, just the air, just the whatever dander might have been in the air, immediately, just like, wherever my skin was exposed it just immediately started to, to flare and just, my, everything got covered with rashes very quickly.
Or it can be like, if I’m sitting at home and I just have my bare arm resting on the table, if the material is an irritant, it’ll just immediately coat my arm in hives. And if it’s really sensitive, my own hair will my skin will behave as if my own hair is an affront to it, and it’ll just start flaring wherever my hair touches it.
It’s just a bit of a wild card situation, so you got to be careful.
For sure, there’s definitely a lot of common themes here, but it definitely seems that, unsurprisingly, it’s not a one-size-fits-all all as to what triggers flares or what makes things worse or flare up even more. We’ve been talking a lot about the physical side of skin conditions, so I’d like to talk a little bit more about things that we’ve already been referencing, which is that mental component that accompanies it.
So I know this is a very big question, but how has your relationship with your condition, with your skin, how has that changed over time?
I think I’ve become more neutral about my skin, or at least that’s something I’m working toward. I used to hide it, I hated my skin. Oh my gosh, especially when I was like a kid and I got stretch marks in random places and I was the first of any kid in my grade to have stretch marks, that was bothersome.
This is gonna sound horrible, but I think I’ve become much less self-conscious of my skin since I stopped working in elementary and middle schools. Because you know what kids love? Pointing out adult acne. They’re like, “Oh, my mom doesn’t have that,” or, “I haven’t seen that on a teacher before.” So yeah, it doesn’t make you feel great.
I love working with kids, but that’s a part that I don’t miss as much. But yeah, I think in part, working remotely, and also on the occasions I do leave the house and everything, especially during the last three years, like I, I also feel like I just have other stuff I care about more. And that’s helped the skin neutrality.
The honesty of kids, it’s a blessing, it’s a curse, it depends on the day. My sister briefly taught middle school. She does high school now, but she said that was honestly the most, the stressor of her day is making sure she wore outfits and didn’t do her makeup in ways that would make them comment on it.
She could never get the class back in line. But what else? What other relationships have you all had with your skin?
For me, I have to explain this. My mom is really fair. And she had flawless skin. She had flawless hair. She was perfect when it came to beauty standards back then in India. My dad was the exact opposite.
He had all these skin conditions. He had premature hair greying. He had balding. He was much darker. And this is a thing where colorism is a very real thing in India. And that’s what I grew up with. So I had people telling me, “Oh, you are darker and you’re just like your dad. And that it was something to feel bad about – that you are not pretty if you look like that.
So I already had that conditioning, growing up, as a baby, as a toddler, as a teenager. That’s all I’ve ever heard. Add all these symptoms on top of it, it was very hard to not feel inadequate, to not feel OK in my body. I just wanted to leave my body. I wanted to have anybody else’s body and that really impacted my relationships in general.
I would shy away from talking to people. I would shy away from going out. I covered myself up. It was very hard to feel comfortable in any clothes because I felt like I looked ugly. And of course, like I have gray hair. Back then I was using henna in college, which would give you hair of all colors, which people would point to and laugh at, or at least like comment on.
And I think, more than kids, relatives are the true villains who make all these things so much more evident than it needs to be. So it took me a while to feel comfortable in my skin. It took me becoming a mom to learn how to parent myself and to condition myself all over again or counter condition myself in a way and teach myself that this is my skin.
This is what I was born with and I cannot change it. In fact, I teach my daughter too. I said, “Don’t comment on things that people can’t change in 30 seconds.” So this is something I can’t change in 30 years. We still have issues, my skin and I, but we’re cool.
Yeah, I think that is so important to talk about, the societal component as well, because there already is internal self-talk, but then it is compounded when it is external self-talk as well.
But I’d like to point out that your internal self-talk comes from external places. You don’t grow up thinking, “I’m not beautiful.” You don’t grow up thinking, “This is wrong.” You don’t grow up thinking, “Oh, having this spot is weird.” It’s people who tell you that it’s weird and that you internalize. So I see my daughter pointing out to people and saying, “Oh, that fellow’s so funny, he’s bald.”
I say I teach her that’s not OK, but she says, “But in school, they say it’s OK.”
Yeah, for sure. I 100% agree with that. Cause yeah, you don’t know all of the external factors that someone’s gonna bring into those perceptions. What about anyone else? What has your relationship been like?
I would say for me, learning how to communicate with friends and people that I want to have relationships with in my life who aren’t necessarily privy to what my condition necessarily means or how serious it is.
I opted for a lot of my life just to try and come up with other excuses for why I wasn’t able to make plans with someone, or maybe even go into work that day, or like, how it affected just my own momentum in life. I feel like I wasn’t comfortable sharing publicly why I wasn’t able to live my life exactly the way I wanted to because I think a lot of people don’t, just don’t understand necessarily what the symptoms are beyond what people normally think of when eczema comes to mind.
I think people usually assume it’s just that your skin is a little dry and a little sensitive and that you probably have to use like, just some cleaner ingredients and that’s just all there is to it. Control your diet, like the amount of times I’ve had someone say to me like, “Oh, have you just tried cutting out sugar and gluten or whatever? Have you tried drinking water?”
I guess what I’m trying to say is independent of the physical symptoms that plague you when you have a flare, it’s just an incredibly isolating experience to have any kind of chronic illness. Learning how to help alleviate some of those feelings of isolation, I think, helps so much with the mental health aspect of it, because the more alone you would feel and the more misunderstood you feel the more you stress and you feel like ‘I’m alone, there’s no one who, like who can I look at that is going through what I’m going through and give me hope that I’ll be OK again?’
And I guess that’s the other thing is if you don’t have anyone in your life who’s going through it, I mean, that’s the beauty of a podcast like this and being able to find other advocates and people who go through it. But if you don’t have that – I didn’t have access to something like this when I was growing up.
It’s nice to turn to yourself and be like, “OK, I’ve gotten through this before, I’ve survived this before, and I can survive it again.” And if you hadn’t gone through that cycle all those times before, you wouldn’t have the confidence to believe that to be true. And that truth alone is what saves me a lot of the time, just knowing that I have survived before. Because it can feel like, when you’re in the midst of any kind of flare, it’s sometimes, it’s so intense that you forget what it was like beforehand, even though it’s just you’ve probably lived most of your life sometimes with it being dormant. But as soon as it happens, you’re like, “Oh my god, how did I ever, was I really normal at one point?” but yeah, that’s how I feel about it.
Yeah, I think the one thing I want to add to that is, I think how my relationship with my skin has changed over the years has been meeting other people, who I’m like, “Oh, you have KP as well,” or, “You have eczema,” or, “You have these other skin conditions,” or, “You have acne,” and talking to people about their experiences with their skin, has been really eye-opening for me. And has made me feel like, especially in today’s day and age, it’s still stigmatized, and still talked about, and bullied about. Definitely when you’re younger as well, but just getting to know more people, and getting older, and getting to just understand it better and become more comfortable in my skin and see other people experiencing different things, has made it feel more valid and given like an equal playing ground in some ways.
Eh, equal, but just makes you realize that oh, ‘you’re not alone’ feel, but you do feel alone in that, definitely early on. I feel like when you don’t understand how the condition works or any other conditions that are around you.
And I feel like, I don’t know if this needs to be said, but also just, social media in itself has that impact.
There are probably a billion celebrities who do live with skin conditions, that do have physical symptoms, but for whatever reason, their, outfit designer finds a way to cover it. They have a team of makeup artists. They have all of the retouchers after the fact. I think we don’t see any of that representation of people having what skin is supposed to look like because we always see the cleaned-up, touched-up versions.
And I know that’s really difficult for me as somebody who does, I do a lot of modeling. So I do follow a lot of photographers who follow the same style that I do. And it’s really hard when I come out of a shoot and I see signs of acne on my face and I’m looking at all of these like beautifully retouched things and it’s really hard to just not sit in that comparison game. Because it feels like sometimes you aren’t doing enough because look at all of these other people who seem to be doing enough. I don’t know if any of you have that experience as well.
Oh my gosh, absolutely. I had to, not long ago, unfollow so many people on social media because I could not stop comparing myself.
And that’s not on them, but I knew I had to set that boundary for myself. I will say, and this is probably a weird take, probably unpopular opinion, but I really appreciated in one episode of ‘The Kardashians,’ Kim Kardashian. She talks very openly about her journey with psoriasis, and you go with her to a doctor’s appointment, and honestly, it really helped knowing that she – one of the most beautiful women, in the world – deals with plaque psoriasis, and she also has stuff on her skin.
I don’t have the same access to things that she has to treat it and cover it up, but it was nice knowing that this famous person deals with it.
OK, so I’ve never compared myself to celebrities or influencers, but I’ve always found, let’s say the people that I know, my cousins or my friends, they had something, better skin than I did.
It did affect me to a great level because I never figured out how to do my own makeup. It is quite exhausting for me. It comes from depression, migraine, whatever it feels like, a waste of my time. So even if they had a condition, I wouldn’t know about it because they’re always in makeup. So I would never know about it.
So that’s the part which hits me. Maybe if I wore makeup, maybe I wouldn’t look this way. Maybe I look like this because others don’t have it at all. Two different things that I go through. But it’s never comparison to the celebrities because over there I can rationalize and think, OK, they have a team.
I don’t know anybody who’s got clear underarms, but they seem to have it all the time. So they have a team and that’s OK. But when it comes to the people that I know in real life, that’s where I struggle quite a lot.
I remember googling multiple times in my life, desperately trying to find celebrities who had it just to reassure myself that it’s possible to get things under control and exist in a state like everyone else. And not feeling like I could compare it to anything that I saw represented.
Yeah, I’m not sure. I just think it would be nice to see, to feel like you can be out in the world creating and existing publicly no matter what state you’re in and that no one would judge you for it. Yeah I just, it’s not something that I, that I see very often. I think if anything in media, I don’t know if this is really the right answer to the question, but I feel like the media comparisons that come to mind when I think of eczema, for instance, are like zombies and werewolves.
So for example, when I have a flare-up, I can’t watch anything with – I can’t watch any zombie movies. I can’t watch anything where there’s someone with a visible disease. So I guess in terms of fiction, it’s not something I want to see because it triggers me. But, I do make the joke oftentimes with friends that I feel, as a kid I felt like a werewolf because you would go to sleep and you can’t control your itching and you can’t stop yourself when you’re sleeping and so a lot of times you’d force yourself to not itch during the day, you’d go to sleep and then you’d wake up just destroyed. Like your body would just be covered in like lacerations. And the gloves, I would take them off, I can’t. My sleeping self won’t listen. I’ve tried socks, I’ve tried mittens and gloves, I can’t control it. Not the most conventional media comparisons, but that’s what comes to mind.
No, but I think that’s really interesting too because it may not necessarily be medical trauma exactly, but it has that similar feeling and experience when you see it represented in a way that makes you feel a certain way.
So I would love to know, you have all of this experience under your belt for all of you. I thin, it can be a little different if it’s something you’ve grown up with, but if somebody is newly diagnosed with a skin condition, what advice would you have for them, at that start of their journey?
Even some days it’s hard for me to believe as well, but it’s so true that nobody cares about what’s on your skin as much as you do. Yes, have I had kids point out my acne? Yeah, but they’re just like saying it. They, two seconds later, they’re on to something else. So easy to be self-conscious, and I think everybody goes through that in some way or another. And, trust me, I experience body dysmorphia, and I will obsess over every piece of my body, especially my skin, but it’s so true.
Nobody notices as much as you. Nobody cares as much. I hope you’re able to when you’re newly diagnosed, release yourself from thinking the public gaze is always on you.
I’d like to add to that and say if someone else was diagnosed, someone that you know, you probably wouldn’t notice it yourself.
So it’s highly possible that they don’t notice it. Maybe you would make a mental note, maybe you would ask them about it once, but that doesn’t become the center of every discussion and every interaction that you have. So that’s true. Nobody really cares. Nobody’s as obsessed with ourselves as we are.
In general, as individual people, nobody looks at us as much as we look into the mirror. It just, you just need to find a way to accept things and that’s the hardest thing to do especially because we’re just wired to be so critical about ourselves and this world is so focused on aesthetics and how we look.
But the skin is a part of you and it’s not going anywhere. Like I said, you cannot change it in 30 seconds, you cannot change it in 30 years. Maybe you have treatments. Maybe… I don’t know if there are cures. At least, I don’t know about KP. I’ve not heard of anything. But it’s OK. It’s just a part of you.
And sometimes it’s extremely inconvenient. So is the cold. So was everything else. So we live with all of that. And we live with so many chronic illnesses. We’ll find a way. Focus on life. There are other things to worry about.
Yeah, I think it’s similarly to that it’s a combination of you’re not alone, there are other people out there that deal with your condition, and yes, as you, at least for me, and for my conditions, as I’ve gotten older, I have started to notice them slightly less, or when I point them out to people, I’ve noticed people being like, “I don’t see this, I don’t understand what you’re dealing– oh yeah, mine, I have that too,” and I’m like, “Oh, OK, maybe it’s not as bad.”
I’m still wearing my sleeves, but I’ve noticed that people want you to feel comfortable around them like the right people are not going to care and they’re going to want to be there for you, even if you’re in a flared-up moment or such. Obviously, my condition is more visual than it is physically painful, but I’ve noticed people do not really think about you as much as you are thinking about yourself and your condition.
Find the right people who aren’t going to point it out or judge you for it and be cool.
I just want to, I just had this thought and I think we may have talked about this before, whether it was on this podcast or one of our other ones, but this idea of acceptance that you said, Shruti, because I think there is a thought of acceptance is, I will get to a place of acceptance and it’s gonna be great.
Acceptance is a daily thing. Sometimes it’s even a moment-by-moment thing. You could wake up one day and be like, none of this is phasing me. None of, this is all rolling off, and then the next day it’s, you are very fixated. So it’s one of those things that acceptance is an ongoing thing and some days it’s easier than others.
I usually say acceptance is not about, I’m cool with this. Acceptance is more about, yeah, this is it. It’s there and that’s it. And that’s been so difficult to do, especially with migraine, more to do with physical appearance. It’s more about just saying, “OK, yeah, that cup exists,” and that’s it.
Definitely agree with everything everyone has been saying.
I think it can become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy if you’re not careful because the more you stress about it, the more your skin reacts to it, and you don’t want to get into this cyclical reactive phase where your body starts to eat itself because of how you’re treating it internally and mentally.
And I think if I were to give advice to someone who was recently diagnosed with anything similar, to what I have or what we’ve been talking about. I would also caution not to wait until it gets too bad, don’t wait until you have no choice but to desperately try and find the very next appointment to your dermatologist. It’s very important to be proactive about preventative measures and keeping yourself in a good, calm, accepting state of mind where you’re not trying to pretend like you don’t have this condition, because you do have to accommodate for yourself and be careful and mindful of what your triggers are, and how to best avoid them, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But yeah, I would say there’s a big difference, for example, between the stages I had mentioned before, if you’re just irritated and you wait and, let’s say, it can start with you feeling self-conscious about some rashes and then you just try to cover up when you go out in public unnecessarily because your skin should breathe when it’s in pain or irritated.
But if you try to cover up out of self-consciousness and you start to sweat more and it starts to get more irritated, then it can become. It can go from something like a visual blemish very quickly into like open wounds all over your body, which can become, excessively painful. And just being careful not to push yourself for any made-up reason, like just making things more complicated than it has to be.
So acceptance and mindfulness, and proactive preventative measures is what I would suggest for anyone.
I do just want to say that, it’s pretty rude that our skin reacts to our feelings about our skin. I just think that’s a rude thing, the mental health component, you feel more stressed. But I did just want to, we talked to our community, we asked them a question on our site, which was, ‘What is your least favorite symptom of psoriasis or, another skin condition?’.
And I just wanted to call out a part of somebody’s response. They said, “It used to bother me a lot, but I also realized that the more I’m bothered by it, the more unhappy I get.” Does that resonate with any of you? Do you feel that at all?
The more unhappy I get, the worse the condition gets. Cause stress makes everything worse and brings hives along with it to the party.
The stress will feed it, and the more you look at your skin, and the more that you think about it, the more your skin will react to it.
So let us go into our Self-Care Corner, where we like to share some self-care practices that have been helpful. We can make this skin-focused, but if you don’t have a good answer or you don’t want to answer, that’s fine too.
I know we talked a little bit about some of these things, but what helps you take care of your skin? What are your favorite types of products or treatments that just help you either avoid flares or help you when you’re in a flare?
I don’t know if we’re allowed to say brand names but Cetaphil, it’s that cheap-ish, unscented, unsexy lotion.
Get that cream in the tub. There’s coupons for it everywhere. I can’t recommend it enough. And put it on your face, too. I know they’re like, ‘Oh, don’t put body lotion on your face.’ Put it on your face if you have dry skin. I swear by it. Also, my biggest tip and it took me so long to do this, if you have access to and have the means to do, please go see a dermatologist, especially if you have a question about your skin.
Even if your skin is amazing, everyone should also be getting regular skin checks for any abnormal moles, or if you have a lot of sun exposure, it’s also super important. And probably my other biggest tip is to always wear sunscreen. If you’re indoors, but by a window a bunch, please wear sunscreen. If you feel like you’ll look ridiculous wearing a giant, wide-brimmed hat at the beach, wear it anyway.
That has been the biggest difference as someone who has had extreme and dangerous sunburns many times cannot recommend sunscreen enough.
Yep, sunscreen. I need to keep telling myself that. Sunscreen. You need, find a sunscreen that works for you and that feels good. And wear hats as a fellow hat wearer any time I can, I would recommend wear a hat whenever you can go outside. Yes Skye, always with the hats to protect and cover your skin for. If you deal with rosacea, I will say brand name, not sponsored, we’re not like promoting this is also what works for me, might not work for you. And that’s OK. Go to your dermatologist, find out what’s going to work best for you.
If it’s for the face, I use a CC cream. I recommend CC creams for rosacea. They’re color-correcting, and they can be really good for the face. I have a combination CC cream and sunscreen. So it’s like a 50 SPF. So I know I’m getting sunscreen and I’m also getting the color correcting that just makes my face feel natural, but it’s not this overcovering that makes me look like I’m sick or pale.
It literally looks like natural skin. It’s this brand called ‘IT.’ It was made by someone who had rosacea and I really can’t recommend it enough. ‘IT,’ go find it. That really is what it is. I-T, it. Love it.
I back up. That’s a really solid makeup brand.
Yeah. It’s great. Yeah. We love it. I also, trying for my KP, it’s been hard to find something that really works for it.
If I keep up with it, a low, not hot, heavy, not the green bottle, but the purple bottle of amylactin, the purple bottle. Makes my skin pretty smooth and helps tone the KP down a little bit. But in the end, it’s more for texture than it is for helping get rid of it.
I’ll hop in. And I’ll say for self-care, anyone with, anyone who has eczema, I would highly recommend, it’s a whole slew of different products.
You have to create for yourself the perfect maelstrom of positive, active, self-care treatments, like you have to just do as much as you can because it’s no one thing that’s gonna cure you. It really is a multi-step process. So for anyone struggling: antihistamines, you need to take your antihistamines.
That means Allegra in the morning, Zyrtec at night. If you have moderate to severe eczema or even if you have mild, then just take one. Some type of antihistamine will help your body counteract that inflammatory response.
Cotton. We don’t want synthetic, polyester clothing. It doesn’t let your skin breathe. It makes you sweat. What does that do? It makes it traps all the moisture and it irritates your skin. It just, it’s bad, it’s a recipe for disaster. We want to be careful about fragrances if we have sensitive skin, that means. Soaps. Fragrance-free soaps. Dove. Scentless soap. That kind of thing.
Anything with added moisturizer. We love it. Antihistamines. Moisturizers. Sunscreen. Cotton. Cotton materials on your skin. AC. Again, helps prevent sweat. Exercise. If you go out in the sun, any situation where you’re sweating, or if you hop in the pool, chlorine, salt water, anything, you want to rinse that off. You want to reset your skin as soon as possible. Don’t wait. If you’re intimate with your partner, don’t wait till the next morning to shower. These things are, it’s crucial to act immediately. If you’re in a flare, if you’re not sensitive, you’re good. Yeah, use at your discretion.
Shampoos. So for anyone with Seborrheic Dermatitis, heavy dandruff, itchy scalps, we love Ketoconazole shampoo, which is an anti-fungal, because at the end of the day, any type of dandruff is, if I’m not mistaken, it’s an overgrowth of fungus, basically, yeast in your scalp. So Ketoconazole shampoo, zinc, parathionic zinc.
That’s a very common ingredient. And then selenium sulfide, I believe. So those are three things you want to cycle through if you have that on your scalp. And you don’t want to use the same shampoo every time because your body will get used to it. So that’s why oftentimes people are prescribed three different shampoos.
And for creams, the most important part for anyone with eczema, you need, this is my holy grail, hydrocortisone 2.5 percent, not less. If you get over the counter at Rite Aid or CVS or whatever, it just doesn’t, it doesn’t work. Maybe if you have a really light, not flare-up type of eczema, but if you’re having a flare, you want that 2.5 percent prescription-grade and you want it combined with the other two creams. There’s a trifecta you need. The second thing you need is triamcinolone 0.1 percent. That is for your body. So hydrocortisone, you’re going to use on the most sensitive, thin parts of your skin that are delicate. So your face, and then triamcinolone for everything else.
And if you want to use that one a little less, I think it might be slightly stronger. Last thing, it’s called mapuricin. I forget the percentage. It’s basically an antibiotic. Because when you scratch your skin, especially with severe eczema, it creates all these open wounds and lacerations, or if you have, I forget what kind of eczema it’s called, but dyshidrotic, I think, but it’s when your skin gets coated in hundreds of tiny little blisters that are filled with fluid and bursts and are also open wounds.
Crucial not to ever put steroid creams, which are the other two. You don’t want to put those in open wounds. You want to put antibiotic cream first to seal them up, and then you cover it with your steroid creams. They’re called corticosteroids. Which is the creams that were listed, I was listing earlier, but yeah, that’s, those are all the products I use. Highly recommend it.
Hey, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that you wrote a handbook on the entire spectrum of taking care of your skin. Genuinely, write it up, sell that. That is incredibly detailed. Incredible.
I need to become an eczema influencer as well. That’s my dream, honestly.
Camara Rauen: You can! You can! As we know here, it’s fair.
Shruti Shivaramakrishnan: My advice is mostly to do with, take care of your mental health. Take time every day to do the things that you love. Find whatever helps you destress and do that every day. Cause that would really help with your skin. I live a very Ayurvedic lifestyle. People don’t really subscribe to it over here, but there are a lot of, they call it pseudoscience, but there are a lot of elements in that which does make sense science-wise. But essentially what that means is I’m very conscious about what I put into my body. I cook my own food. I’m a vegetarian so I eat a lot of veggies, sometimes even grass if it matters.
And I use a lot of things from the kitchen on my skin. So that has helped me. And go to a dermatologist and get products that they recommend because that has been a game changer for me. Anything that I bought at the drugstore didn’t help, aggravated my condition. I only buy what the dermatologist prescribes.
And comfy clothes. time because we all live with sensory overwhelm as well. So just get cotton, get clothes that you feel comfortable in. If you want to just stay in jammies all day, go ahead and just do that. Change your clothes often, change your bed sheet, your pillowcase especially, because that can aggravate your condition, and shower whenever you can.
I love how expansive these suggestions are. I know for my own self, I have a nightly self-care routine to make sure I’m taking care of my skin. Especially, I am somebody who wears makeup almost every day because it is a very big part of my own self-care routine. It’s constantly fighting those two things of wanting to, and I do a lot of like, all of my makeup primers whatever I’m putting directly on my face, have salicylic acid in them.
Just something to help make sure it’s counteracting what else is going on my skin. But I noticed that, yeah, if I even miss a day, immediate impact. So it is something that I have to be very on top of. And used to be way more on top of the deeper self-care of that, which was, like, using a steamer on my face, immediately following it with a face mask, and just trying to give it all of the repairing things it can, but it’s a lot of work to keep on top of it.
Thank you all for sharing all of those tips and all of those potential things for people to try if you are struggling with your skin journey and you need some tips, but let’s go into our last section here, which is, ‘What Made me Feel Mighty This Week.’ So if you have a brief thing to share about what made you feel self-empowered, whether it is a very tiny thing, whether it is a very huge thing, and everything in between.
Over the last week and a bit, it’s been really important for me to remember that grief truly isn’t linear. We say that a lot on The Mighty, and learning to internalize that has been really important to me this week.
Learning to just focus on myself, things that I have to do, and the things that are in my control.
For example, I have a huge list of tasks, both at work and personal this week. If I focus on, let’s say, my husband not taking the trash out, etc., that would really make things worse for me mentally, so I just focus on the things that I need to do, and I’m getting it all done. So that makes me feel really good.
For me this week, it’s been be kind to yourself, like being kind to myself, even when I make mistakes. It’s like things are going to work out, and if you’re focusing so hard on the mistake, it’s gonna stop you from moving forward. Obviously, emotions are valid, and I want to be able to process, and like everyone should be able to go through that, but like it’s really being kind to yourself, and it can be really hard, but taking that time to being a good friend to yourself, I think is really important, and important for how you show up with others.
I think for me, this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about, similar to what Camera was saying about being gentle with yourself, I guess specifically with your creative self, if you’re struggling with expressing yourself or if the kind of work that you do isn’t, feeling fulfilling enough or up to your standards, it’s important to remember that your creativity is not something that’s a finite resource that you exhaust, it’s a relationship that you constantly are in a rapport with and it’s changing and it’s reacting to other things in your life. And it’s just important to be aware of that and not be deterred by going at a pace or comparing yourself to the pace that other people are at. Just embrace the process of failure and exploring and having fun with yourself.
There’s power in playfulness.
Absolutely. I think for me, it was just being a patient advocate this week for myself. It’s always easier said than done to push for your care and try to get a doctor to answer your eighth phone call because they haven’t called you back yet. I’m feeling that this week because it’s hard when you’re feeling off and you’re trying to get the care you need to help you not feel so off. Can be a real challenge.
So I feel really good that I managed to work myself up to the courage and ability to really push that. Thank you all. Before we say goodbye, I would just love to see if there were any resources or where people can find you that you would like people to know about.
If you’re in a place to do so, I’d recommend donating to the Marfan Foundation.
That’s been on my mind this week. I made a donation yesterday. And yeah, if you have the disposable income to do so. I recommend it.
You have a podcast you can absolutely promote.
Yeah, if you like Mighty Podcasts and wanna listen to another one, may I recommend ‘Health and (un)Wellness.’ Our first season is ‘Mighty With Migraine’ and could join fellow Mighty staffer, Kat and me on a journey through everything migraine. What it’s like to live with it. How do you go to work with it? What’s it like to get a diagnosis been? It’s been a fun time.
As the producer, highly recommend.
That puts us to you then Camara.
Ah, you can find me here on The Mighty. I produce some of the content, some of the podcasts, mainly. Also, my socials are @camararolling, c-a-m-a-r-a-r-o-l-l-i-n-g, if you want to find me.
And you, Shruti.
You can find me here at The Mighty, where I’ll be typing away stories on all things health and unwellness, in a way. You can also find me on social media. My handles everywhere are @ChronicallyMeh. So it’s c-h-r-o-n-i-c-a-l-l-y-m-e-h. And I illustrate on Instagram, so catch me there.
And over to you, Katia.
Wait, Shruti, did you say you illustrate on Instagram?
Yeah, I do.
Oh my gosh! OK, I’ll definitely look it up later. That’s so exciting, fellow illustrator. My socials are @Analoguete, so that’s a-n-a-l-o-g-u-e-t-e, analog, like analog cameras and then my website, my film photography portfolio and video portfolio is analoguete.com. Thanks for having me on, guys! It was so great talking to all of you.
Everyone here does such incredible work, so definitely go listen, read, look at all of the things. And thank you again. Thank you everyone for being here. It was so great to talk about this, especially in honor of Psoriasis Awareness Month.
Thank you all for joining me today.
Thank you so much for having me on. Thank you. It was great, great talking to all of you.
Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be on a Mighty podcast.
Thank you so much. This was a lot of fun.
Thank you. Bye, everyone.
Thank you for listening to this episode of ‘The Mighty Podcast.’ if you want to continue this conversation, head over to TheMighty.Com. or download The Mighty app to become part of our community. Find ‘The Mighty Podcast’ along with our other podcasts, ‘Table Talk With the Mighty; and ‘Health and (un)Wellness’, which first season ‘Mighty With Migraine,’ on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and on The Mighty. Be sure to rate and review all of our podcasts on your favorite platform. And join us on our next episode. Stay Mighty.