Mediaplanet sat down with a panel of social media content creators to learn how they’re managing to live comfortably during the hot summer months and ultimately — break stigmas around niche conditions to feel confident in your skin again.
Q&A with Amy Shio
Tell us about your experience managing eczema
My journey with eczema started back in the spring of 2018. Up until then, I hadn’t experienced it at all, so when I got it, I wasn’t 100 percent aware of what it actually was. Immediately I googled my symptoms to self-diagnose as many people do. Following this, I changed my diet to a candida protocol thinking I had that or leaky gut syndrome. I wasn’t really sure and the answers weren’t super clear based on my actions from what I consumed but I noticed that my symptoms diminished here and there.
However, the moment I wasn’t strict about my diet, my eczema would come back even harder. I then got a standard allergy test to prove that I was correct. Since skin health starts from the gut, I was convinced that it was my gut and something I was eating but no allergies came back on the test. This was the hardest part because that meant it was something more, something that couldn’t be tested in a clinic.
We got our ducts cleaned, changed all the household products, changed the sheets to organic ones without dyes, changed the mattress, and even upholstered our sofas — everything you could think of as an environmental factor, we changed.
Along with that, my skin and beauty regime changed — and I’ll get to that part — but from managing my eczema, I felt fully connected to how I actually reacted to it. What story I would tell in my head about what people would think, getting worked up over it, thinking how embarrassed and ashamed I was of it. The reaction to how to manage it helped me keep things at bay, and the longer I was on my eczema journey, the more it got better and better. Guided meditations and binaural beats on YouTube have truly been a saviour.
Skin conditions can be seen on the surface but often go more than skin deep. How has eczema impacted your overall quality of life?
My eczema travelled from my wrist to my neck, face, and eye folds. Do you remember the movie Hitch and the reaction Alex Hitch got? That would be my face twice or thrice a month. It felt debilitating, to say the least, and hard to manage in terms of attending events for work, booking work, making plans with loved ones, or working out. All of it made for a spiral of the mind and made it hard for me to feel like I couldn’t control much of anything. Being newly wed at the time, it made me feel sad that our entire new life now revolved around an extreme diet, cancelled plans, mood swings, and a face that didn’t feel like mine. Luckily, I had a partner that reminded me about the sickness and health part of our vows, and I was very lucky to have support at home when all I saw were the negative aspects of my skin and appearance.
Communication is key with friends and family, just to state how you’re feeling before moving on. I remember reading something about not giving it too much thought and airtime and the moment that I put that into play in my life, I felt like it wasn’t my entire identity anymore. The binaural beats I was speaking of earlier also became very key for me. I would listen to them overnight with headphones and truly would feel an immediate relief in the morning. I think our thoughts are strong. Our manifestations are strong and the more believe in something, it will be heightened. If I’m stressing about my skin, it’s heightened. If I’m listening to positive affirmations about the quality of my skin, it gets better. Anyone suffering — if you’ve tapped out on all your resources, try it, I 100 percent correlate it to a better quality of life living with it for me.
What do you do to feel comfortable and confident with your skin condition?
Honestly, this might sound a little out there, but when you’re living with a debilitating condition which affects your mental health, you move towards things that aren’t specifically an over-the-counter solution. That has been one of my greatest gifts to find during my deep dives of looking for something else. Positive skin affirmations are a must. No negative skin talk and this includes talking about it when people ask you about it in a sad way.
Affirmation examples like “Every day my skin is getting better,” “I take pride and pleasure in looking after my skin,” or “My skin is feeling better every single day.” I also ensure that I have a routine for my skin in the morning and post-workout in the evening. I use skin care products like I choose the ingredients for my food. I use what makes sense based on what’s happening currently, so at times that can mean two to three open oils and creams (instead of finishing one and moving on to the next). Being intuitive about your skin, the triggers and the cycle of the eczemic process is great and noting what you can do better next time.
Does your eczema get affected in the summertime with the change in weather?
My eczema is a bit of a roller coaster, affecting me in extreme cold and heat. It depends, and everyone’s body is different — again it’s going back to knowing your body and how you feel before, during, and after an episode. During the summer and winter, I do cryo chamber sessions and Infrared Pilates classes to keep my skin happy. Consuming the right amount of vitamins and listening to your body is helpful, so always take notes.
What advice can you share with Canadians who are affected by eczema going into the summer months?
I think taking care of your two brains — your gut and actual brain / mental well-being can help regulate eczema specifically. I’m all about finding the root cause to treat the issue — even though eczema is a topical issue — much of it stems from imbalances elsewhere in the body and that’s the key, well at least to me to keeping the condition at bay.
Q&A with Cassie Johnston
When you were diagnosed with alopecia areata, how did you initially feel?
I was diagnosed with alopecia three years ago. It initially started with two small spots on the back of my head. As time went on, it started to fall out more and more. I went to see a dermatologist and a doctor. Both of them stated that there is no cure for alopecia. We did multiple testing — blood work, CT scan, urine samples, and many more but never got another answer other than alopecia.
What were some challenges you experienced following your diagnosis?
Navigating how to wear a wig was my biggest challenge. It was something I never thought about. I wore extensions here and there but how does one wear a wig with some hair left, or how to wear a wig with no hair left. It was difficult and took me a long time to figure out. There are so many options. Lace front, silk top, bleached knots, and the list goes on. I had to rely on friends on social media who also had alopecia and one friend I knew who also had it.
Losing my eyelashes was another challenging thing. Putting on eyelashes to go out was never my thing so now having to put them on every single day to look normal is frustrating. But as time goes on, they get easier and easier to put on every day.
How did you come to accept your diagnosis and ultimately see it as a strength?
It’s something that’s different. I’ve always been a confident person, and this was just something I knew that I had to deal with. I understand that it can be frustrating for a lot of people and can ultimately be very upsetting and I was very lucky to feel okay about it all. That’s why I decided to use my platform to speak about it and spread awareness. It has helped women around the world feel more comfortable. Spreading awareness is something I’m very passionate about doing because I believe that bald women are just as beautiful as women with hair.
Is there a community of people with alopecia that you can turn to? Who has been part of your support system?
Yes, so many influencers that I can and have leaned on during this process. Finding people on social media has been a huge help. I fill my explore bag on Instagram with other girls who have alopecia. This is a huge part of why I feel so happy and okay in my skin with being bald. My family and friends have been a huge part of my support system. Since the first day, they have been nothing but supportive — ensuring that I’m okay, checking in on me when things did get hard, and being beside me every step of the way.
What advice can you share with Canadians who are struggling with confidence when losing their hair?
Own it. You can’t change it so enjoy it. It makes you unique, it makes you who you are. Find the right wigs for you and the ones that make you feel most confident. That might take some time but don’t give up. Lean on your family and friends and lean on the alopecia community. If that means a Facebook group or an Instagram influencer, things that like do help a lot.
Q&A with Nikki from Ugly Duckling Skincare
As someone who has dealt with acne-prone skin, what has your experience with the skin condition been like and how has it affected you — beyond just skin deep?
Where do I even start? Acne has shaped the last decade of my life in more ways than I want to admit. It takes a big toll on your mental health and can make you feel really isolated.
My skin is the first thing I think about in the morning (sometimes I subconsciously catch myself feeling for bumps before I even open my eyes — a habit I am trying to break). Whether I had a good or bad day was always determined by how my skin felt on that day. If I had deep cysts, it was a bad day.
I love that social media has enabled supportive communities to form and discuss acne, share their stories, and normalize it (because it’s normal!).
How has your skin changed throughout different periods in your life?
Skin changes as you change or when you go through periods of stress in your life. I didn’t have much acne as a teen — I would occasionally get a small pimple during periods of stress (like studying for exams), but not serious.
My acne came full force when I was in my 20s and got progressively worse from there. It’s funny, most people in their late 20s start to think about incorporating retinoids and exfoliants to combat early signs of aging. Having to deal with that and cystic acne was no fun.
How do you treat your acne-prone skin?
I could write a book about this! I feel like I’ve tried everything. Acne is very tricky to treat and can require a customized approach depending on the person (I know that was the case for me). I did a series with a dermatologist, and the key takeaway was “If you’ve tried salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or adapalene and none of it is working, it’s time to see a professional.”
In my experience, some ingredients worked amazingly well, like Benzoyl Peroxide, minus it bleaching all my pillows! Adapalene, which is a retinoid and can be found over the counter, is an amazing and affordable option that worked for me.
The biggest lesson I learned with my acne is to stay patient and consistent and not overdo it. It’s so tempting to want to slather everything on at once, or change up products frequently, but that can cause more problems. I always stick with a simple cleanser, treatment, moisturizer, and sunscreen. I do love double cleansing!
When that’s not enough — which sometimes it isn’t — a dermatologist is extremely important. Not only is it nice to have someone on the journey with you, guiding you, but a dermatologist gives you access to other treatments like isotretinoin.
What is your go-to skin care solution in the summertime to help with acne breakouts?
My treatments don’t change with the seasons and the only items that I swap are my cleanser and moisturizer. When the weather is warm and it’s more humid, I opt for gel cleansers and moisturizers. I love a good salicylic acid cleanser! The INKEY List has a nice affordable one, and I love the CeraVe gel cleanser as well.
Always remember to wear sunscreen! The Beauty of Joseon is my favourite for warmer weather since it’s so lightweight.
What advice do you give to Canadians who feel overwhelmed by the many opinions and choices available for skin care?
Keep it simple! Don’t overcomplicate your routine (this applies to most people, acne or not). Try to stay away from “trendy” new ingredients or products that overpromise and underdeliver. Keep an eye out for shady marketing tactics. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If cost is a factor for you in seeing a professional, follow some dermatologists online. There are so many on there that provide great advice for free!
Finally, always remember you are not alone, and you are beautiful and strong, with or without acne.