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The Eczema Files

Updated on September 7, 2011

The Holy Beauty Grail: Perfect Skin

I can’t help it. Whenever I see a magazine boasting “Get FLAWLESS Skin NOW!” I promptly fork over $5 for the periodical, make a pit stop at Sephora, and spend my entire trip home fantasizing about a new technique finally delivering on its perfect skin promise.

It never does, and in the back of my mind I know that it won’t, but you can’t blame a girl for trying.

I’m sure these techniques work for a lot of people—after all, everyone’s skin is different—but they’ve never helped me. I have had eczema and rosacea on my face and arms since I was a baby.


The first time I remember truly noticing the ever-present red patches on my face in particular, I was ten years old, slowly becoming self-aware enough to reflect upon my athletic clothing, all-male retinue, and increasingly hairy body. That year, I experienced several beauty firsts; I started shaving my legs, got my first eyebrow wax, and bought a bottle of liquid foundation. Thanks to Seventeen Magazine, I was informed enough to apply the foundation to my face and neck, but, unfortunately, the concepts of blending and matching the product to my skin color were lost on me. I must have looked like I was wearing a Halloween mask for a week.

None of my teachers or peers had the heart to say anything to my awkward self until one of my classmates finally spoke up on Friday. “Are you wearing powder on your face?” she asked incredulously.

“No,” I answered automatically, turning beet red beneath my mask.

“It’s, like, a dark brown powder,” she insisted. “It’s all over your face.”

On Monday, I showed up with a clean, red-cheeked face.

The year after that, I continued to shave my legs (and underarms, by then), but a stick of ever-important deodorant was my only beauty accessory. My face was free of make-up and moisturizer, I still wore baggy clothing and was the only girl on the boys’ sports teams, my dark eyebrows were bushy again, and my cheeks were as pink as ever.

I was living in ignorant bliss of my condition, until one day a classmate (not the same classmate, thankfully) gasped sharply, pointed to the particularly embarrassing patch of eczema between my eyebrows, and cried, “Oh my Gawd! What happened?! Are you okay?!”

You mean besides having my middle school nightmare realized? Sure, I’m okay. Once again, my face turned bright red. We were in the middle of the hallway, and half of the students in my next class were staring at me. I believe my excuse was that that morning, I had been hit in the face with a baseball. Yes, really. Kids say the darndest things, don’t they?

That was the last time I remember anyone pointing out my eczema, but my skin condition has bothered me to varying degrees since I was twelve years old. I’m not too proud to admit a level of vanity at work here, but anyone with perpetually dry skin can confirm that it’s uncomfortable and even stressful.

However, I consider myself lucky for two reasons. The first reason is that my case is fairly mild. My skin is sensitive, dry, red, temperamental, and rough to the touch, but it’s not painful and has never peeled. I don’t have perfect skin and never will, but it could be so much worse, and for that I am thankful.

The second reason I consider myself lucky is that because of my “ailment,” I have obsessively moisturized my entire body since I was twelve years old. I take good care of my skin —even the unafflicted skin, and even when my attentions seem to make very little difference, if any—and that care has carried over to protecting the rest of my body as well. I’m certainly not the healthiest person in the world, but I have never taken my health for granted and have always taken great pains to protect myself. For me, therefore, eczema has had its silver linings.

At age fourteen, I was devastated when a dermatologist informed me that my condition is chronic, meaning that it will never go away, but it hasn’t stopped me from using what seems like every beauty product on the market. I am not above trying any product, regimen, vitamin, mask, oil, cleanser, or beauty tip, but so far none of them has worked for me.

None of the products out there, even the ones specifically geared towards eczema—and sometimes especially the ones specifically geared towards eczema—help. 101 Steps to Perfect Skin, 10 Ways to Clear Skin, celebrity beauty tips, and the like seldom seem to apply to the 15% of the world afflicted with eczema. This skin condition is widespread, mysterious, and often debilitating, yet no one seems to have a decent treatment for it.

To make an already long story slightly less long, I am determined to document here my quest for the best skincare products for eczema. I will try each supposed solution for six weeks—the somewhat universally agreed-upon test period for beauty products—and post updates about my trials and errors.

Even though everyone’s skin is different, I hope that my experiments will be enlightening—or at least entertaining—to all of you eczema-inflicted or eczema-curious folks out there.

I plan to start with several of the most commonly suggested treatments for eczema, the first being coconut oil. Any suggestions of potential cures would be greatly appreciated! When it comes to skincare, I’ll try anything once.


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