How many times have you hidden away from the world when the eczema on your face is at its worst? How many invitations have you turned down, how many excuses have you made for turning over and rolling the duvet around your head in the morning? Too many to count I’m guessing. Well – you’re not alone.
Anyone with a face full of red, inflamed, dry and itchy skin knows how hard it is to show up to anything. Besides which you can’t quite believe that people won’t be able to see that the way your skin feels is dominating every thought in your head, that every bit of will power you possess is telling your hands and every urge in your body not to scratch and tear at your face – to make it stop! But I imagine it’s mostly because your face looks different. Maybe a bit like this?:
It definitely doesn’t look like the pictures in the magazines of women with flawless skin and immaculately made-up faces (and neither do theirs, but that’s another story!). Some days, rolling over and giving in is all you can do. But, according to the report Costing the Invisible from the Centre for Appearance Research and AnyBody, low body confidence is having a profound effect on the aspirations of women throughout their education and in the workplace.
Researchers interviewed almost 50,000 women between the ages of 10-60 across five continents and have found that adolescent girls are not engaging in classroom debate and are missing school due to concerns about the way they look. For example, 20% of girls don’t give an opinion in class and 16% don’t go to school when they feel bad about their looks.
Many adult women are not turning up to work or job interviews due to body image concerns.
And for women with skin conditions there are even greater issues to contend with. Changing Faces, which supports people with disfigurements and campaigns for ‘face equality’ and better quality of life for patients, revealed in their report Look at Me, last year that the psychological and mental health issues attached to skin conditions are on the increase.
“There is huge stigma attached to skin disease,” said James Partridge, the charity’s chief executive. “Conditions are often wrongly assumed to be contagious or associated with bad hygiene, and the visibility of skin conditions mean that people have to deal with the double whammy of the reaction of others as well as the physical symptoms such as itching and pain.”
Don’t I know it – when I went out looking like this, a lady in the supermarket asked me if I’d tried moisturising and, “is it catching?” – and it wasn’t even all that bad.
The famous author of Fat is a Feminist Issue, Susie Orbach says that, while the impact of body image concerns on physical and psychological health is well documented, what is new in this report is the growing evidence on the academic, social and occupational consequences of this concern. In short body image concerns are holding girls and women back from realising their full potential and aspirations. Does that sound like you?
“What emerges from this report is devastating,” says Susie Orbach. “Young girls and women’s appearance concerns are hampering their economic and intellectual capacities. Yes they succeed. Yes they are doing well in school but they could be doing better. Their efforts are undermined by an ever vigilant inner eye that diminishes their contribution because of their view of how they look. This has nothing to do with how they do look but entirely to do with how girls and women are seeing themselves as less than adequate and in need of perfecting as though the beauty culture is the way to a sustainable life.
The assault on appearance must stop before it robs more girls and women and increasingly boys and men from expressing themselves as ably as they might. The imperative to look good as the rich industries which feed the beauty culture suggest is not a solution but a prescription for dissatisfaction.”
I’m not denying that it’s fun to play around with make-up and make the best of your features when your skin allows you to wear it, I’m always on the search for products that I can play with and not make my skin erupt. I’m sure there are plenty of men who are seriously envious that its not 100% mainstream for them to transform their faces into something different either for fun or to hide some stuff they’d rather not make public for whatever reason. But it’s when it is deemed necessary, when it becomes a normal way of life to never leave the house without a face contoured and painted like Kim Kardashian that it becomes a worry. And for eczema sufferers there is just no choice but to face the world with only the eczema doing the highlighting and contouring for us!
Have a think about this the next time you wake up with a massive flare-up all over your face. Will you choose to turn your back on that devastating inner eye and fight for your right to fulfil your potential? It is possible to halt this personal assault on your appearance because ultimately it’s you who is making the attack – granted, it’s based on the assumptions and a society full of people judging women based on their appearance – but you have a choice. Will you let it cost you as dearly as it has all of these women in the study? Take a long hard look at the invisible costs to the way you choose to let your eczema change the way you live your life today. Let’s make Eczema a Feminist Issue.
Same face – inner eye banished!