Everyone struggles with their own body insecurities, and most of us wouldn't dream of broadcasting them on social media—let alone to more than 135,000 followers. But that's exactly what Carys Gray, a fitness Instagram star from Wales, did when she shared a photo of an eczema flare-up on her face yesterday.
Gray's post featured two side-by-side selfies: In the snapshot on the left, her makeup is on point, and she looks, well, flawless. In the picture on the right, the upper half of her face is covered in red patches.
“We all have good days and we all have bad days," Gray wrote in the caption. "I have a skin condition called eczema and sometimes my skin is happy as Larry and sometimes it has flare ups!!”
Eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) is estimated to affect as many as 35 million Americans. "[It's] a genetic condition where the skin barrier is not functioning as well as it should, making it more susceptible to environmental allergies, irritation, and infection," dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, explained in a prior interview with Health. "The skin cannot maintain hydration and becomes inflamed, leading to characteristic red, scaly rashes as well as significant itch."
In a cruel twist, the mental toll of living with the condition can exacerbate the symptoms. "Stress can certainly impact the disease and make it worse," said Dr. Zeichner, who is the director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Gray noted that when her eczema isn't under control, her face is "very blotchy, sore, and I can't wear any makeup." She called it a "big insecurity," and said she struggles with self-acceptance during a flare.
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The Instagram star ended her post with a reminder that the pictures we see on social media don't show how people look "alllllll the time." She hopes her side-by-side selfies will serve as a reality check. "I'm learning to accept myself knowing that everyone has their own struggles and insecurities," she wrote, "and that's what makes us unique and special."