Be a slave to fashion, not flakes
Being stylish takes work, and psoriasis doesn't make it any easier. Itchy and uncomfortable, the visible signs of psoriasis also garner rude comments and stigmatization.
These eight psoriasis patients, who have overcome the challenges of living with psoriasis, shared their struggles and successes in an essay contest by Addressing Psoriasis, winning the chance to walk the runway in a September fashion show hosted by Tim Gunn.
Read their inspiring tales, learn how they came to be comfortable in their skin, and vote for your favorite story.
Photo: Getty Images
"I used to dread gym class"
For a long time Matthew Ehnle felt uncomfortable in his own skin. Psoriasis kept him from wanting to wear shorts and tank tops during P.E. class and led him to drop out of basketball, track, and wrestling because his peers made fun of his skin. Choosing clothes that concealed his plaques, Matthew feared that his aspirations of becoming a model would never come to fruition.
After leaving "the high school drama," and moving to Colorado, he met friends that made him feel confident about his looks. Learning to accept his plaque psoriasis, Matthew has renewed his sense of confidence in himself and is working his way back to modeling.
"My breakthrough moment was wearing shorts in public"
Laura Hurd used to spend hours managing her plaque psoriasis with the simple hope of feeling comfortable in summer sportswear; she even wrapped her legs in plastic wrap. But she went through summers without even one visit to the pool.
She got a needed confidence boost from friends and family who were infinitely patient with her wardrobe changes and “How does this look?” questions. Her breakthrough moment came when she first wore shorts in public. Though she could only focus on her exposed skin at first, by the end of the day, she was completely relieved—there were no weird stares, no pointed questions, and no children running away, screaming.
Photo: Getty Images
"Friends and family helped boost my confidence"
Cynthia Lawrence cringed at the thought of exposing her skin for fear that others would see her plaques. Her wardrobe consisted of white, nontextured tops, which disguised the flakes from her scalp. To limit flaking in public, Cynthia even attempted to restrict her movements.
One day, while attempting to sell a sofa, Cynthia had an avalanche of flakes fall on the black fabric. It was this incident (and other similar incidents) that made her commit to managing her condition. She revealed her plaque psoriasis to friends and colleagues to ensure their support. Their positive feedback and compliments helped take back her personal style favorites—bright colors, textured fabrics, and pleats and ruffles.
Photo: Getty Images
"The emotional pain was crippling"
Cynthia McGowen felt the emotional pain associated with psoriasis. The way people gawked at her skin, too embarrassed to ask about it and too nervous to be around it, devastated her self-esteem. As a defense, she assembled a wardrobe of long sleeves and pants to hide behind.
Cynthia realized that concealing her skin wasn't the answer, so she saw a doctor. She educated herself about the disease and started her own support group. She met people who felt the way she did and found the courage to stop hiding behind her clothes. Whereas she used to cover up her arms, now Cynthia loves to show her neckline and arms off with a beautiful top.
Photo: Getty Images
"I make psoriasis work for me"
Stephanie Waits chose to hide her plaques under long sleeves and pants, which left her limited when it came to expressing her personal style. After many years of avoiding skirts and dresses, she now opts for clothes that highlight the clearest areas of her skin.
She’ll wear sleeveless tops when her arms look better and switch to skirts when her legs are clearer than other parts of her body. Stephanie has also incorporated textured and patterned leggings into her wardrobe (she has more than 50 pair of leggings and stockings). What started as a clever way to cover her legs has become her signature style!
"Scarves are my trademark fashion statement"
Saskia Shuman's earliest memories of the disease consist of wearing Band-Aids to cover her fingers, which often cracked and bled due to psoriasis. It was embarrassing and emotionally painful to look different than others, but she used flair (layers of costume jewelry!) to feel better about her fingers.
Her trademark style includes wearing colorful scarves, no matter what the weather. Not only does this make a fashion statement, but it also helps mask the plaque psoriasis on her scalp and back and acts as a barrier so that she can wear dark-colored clothing. In fact, Saskia’s friends now buy her scarves as souvenirs when they travel!
"It took all my courage to wear a bathing suit"
Isabel Esteviz once wore a bathing suit in public, only to catch a woman and her daughter gawking at her skin and rudely commenting on her condition. She began hiding from the world (and from herself) with scarves, long-sleeved shirts, hats, and two pairs of opaque pantyhose. Finally, Isabel hit the Web, educated herself about her condition, and attended a psoriasis conference.
She says there was no better therapy than meeting other people with the disease, and realizing she wasn't alone! Now she feels more comfortable baring skin. Her secret? Wearing a fashionable outfit. The confidence Isabel feels when she’s wearing a killer outfit gives her self-assurance in the rest of her appearance—including her skin.
"Even my pajamas were uncomfortable"
Trisha Lagaso Goldberg has used fashion to express her individuality since childhood. When she was diagnosed with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis in 2007, even her most comfortable pair of pajamas felt like “a thousand daggers.” Wool fabrics and fits that used to flatter her figure began to irritate her hypersensitive skin.
Not wanting to sacrifice her sense of style for comfort and functionality, Trisha embraced her condition and began working hard at an annual holiday craft fair to earn extra money (up to $1,000) for what she called her “psoriasis clothing fund.” She invested her hard-earned money in lightweight skirts and sleeveless tops that made her—and her skin—feel great.