Eczema. The word alone makes me shiver. To me, it means self-consciousness. It means the difference between wearing a delicate, feminine top and covering up in an oversize t-shirt. It means itching. Lots of itching.
My eczema flared up following one of my infamous (among my family at least) bouts of tonsillitis, emerging as a red, scaly rash on my chest and back. At 14 years of age and extremely conscious of my appearance, I hid it as best I could and hoped it would go away, but it came back again and again. Now it has settled into a constellation of red, flaky patches, varying in size, recurring in certain areas on my upper body, and two huge patches on the backs of my knees.
This picture isn't me, but is a pretty good example of the type I get. (Warning: Do not google "eczema" if you've just eaten.)
Nothing has particularly worked for me except applying steroid ointment, which I loathe. Like the word "eczema", even the name sounds nasty. Ointment. OINTMENT. Just gross. And very thinning and harmful on the skin, if I’m to believe what I read about it on the internet.
Half the time, I can’t even be bothered to apply it – craning my neck to scrutinise my body for patches in the mirror is so defeating, and the patches are so hard to keep track of, that I end up throwing down the ointment in frustration.
Eczema even started to converge on my freshly-done tattoo, meaning I couldn't show it off for a good two weeks. Of course, I learned after I got my tattoo that eczema can flare up in places where skin had been damaged, and considering a tattoo is basically a needle poking into your skin - yep, it decided my new ink would be a great place to hang out. Fortunately it's gone now and hasn't recurred, but I would advise any eczema or psoriasis sufferers thinking of getting a tattoo NOT to panic and definitely grab the steroid ointment when they see it happening.
All this sounds very attractive, right? Especially in this unbelievably good weather, which requires bare upper arms and the naked backs of knees to be shown to the world in tiny summer dresses and vest tops. At first, it seemed like the only thing to do was cover up, but after enough sweat to sink the Titanic I had to abandon my shame.
I’m very glad I did, because sun happens to dry those feckers up very quickly. This is very unfortunate for us Irish eczema sufferers, as we don’t get nearly enough of it to clear us of the scales all year round.
So I’m appealing to any eczema suffers out there – what do you use to combat the patches? Is there a miracle moisturiser on the market, or is steroid ointment the only way out?