My name’s Sam and I have a skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis. It’s basically a super fancy name for a special type of eczema. It’s characterized by red, scaly patches that can be oily and dry ( of course, only my skin could somehow find a way to be both!) I have it all across my body too, but it’s mostly on my face.
The condition started to affect me just after I finished secondary school. A few small rashes started appearing under my eyes one morning after a shower, which got significantly worse after I was prescribed a cream by the GP. At university, my undiagnosed seborrheic dermatitis broke out majorly. As my condition worsened, I purposefully stayed up throughout the night and slept during the day so that people couldn’t see me. I spent every waking hour in my dorm room, watching episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and even went food shopping at midnight to avoid the glances and stares of others.
When friends came to see me, I’d only speak to them if I had a blanket covering my cheeks. I went to a pharmacy, and I can remember the uncomfortable looks on the cashier’s face as she stared at me. Honestly, I was filled with grief that I no longer looked like my old self. I struggled to cope and accept that I now looked different. It felt like I would never be viewed as attractive, and that the old Sam no longer existed. I mourned the loss of my former self.
17-year-old Sam deserved so much self-love that I wasn’t able to give him. That’s why, when my condition reappeared at 25 and no longer responded to medication, I decided that I was going to become the version of Sam that would make my younger self proud. I was determined to be extra generous to myself and shower myself with the love, kindness and compassion that I’d deprived myself of for so many years.
What’s helped me significantly is, funnily enough, online communities and social media. I get so critical of my red, dry skin, then I see others with similar differences and can’t stop thinking about how amazing and beautiful they are. Turns out, people with eczema and seborrheic dermatitis are not only beautiful, but they’re also… models?! And fashion designers, influencers and other jobs which revolve around their appearance. I thought I wouldn’t be seen as attractive to anyone due to my skin, and I was completely wrong.
One of my favourite things about a supportive online community is the ability to flip negatives into positives. As part of my condition, I get loads of itchy red bumps across my skin which can resemble acne at times. Online, these have been dubbed “strawberry freckles” and others actively show them off as a summer look. It can feel empowering and reassuring to search for influencers with your condition to find positive, inspiring content.
Also, guys can wear makeup too! Like, seriously. It’s a total life hack that’s brought so much control back into my life. Truthfully, my condition still gets me down and I have duvet days. However, on these low days, I can throw on a tinted moisturizer and, boom – confidence. There’s been an almost 80% rise in men searching for makeup looks online since the pandemic, and makeup shops have been so helpful and understanding. For me, my makeup is totally simple and everyone has commented that they had no idea I was even wearing any because it looked so natural.
If I’m not happy with my skin, I can also wear cool clothes; style my hair differently and appreciate the rest of my body. Being unsatisfied with one aspect of your appearance, doesn’t mean you can’t find appreciation and confidence in other areas of your looks – a cool new jumper, necklace or shirt will always make me smile even if my skin isn’t vibing with me that day.
The old Sam may no longer exist, but I like the new Sam more. I want to finish this piece with a quote from Nayyirah Waheed which encapsulates my journey:
“And I said to my body softly, I want to be your friend, and it took a long breath and replied, I have been waiting my whole life for this.”
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