If you live with the inflammatory skin condition known as eczema (atopic dermatitis), you may be no stranger to rude or insensitive comments about your skin. The most common symptom of eczema is a skin rash that can be red, brown, purple, or gray (depending on skin tone), dry, scaly, and painfully itchy. Unfortunately, a lack of awareness and education around skin conditions like eczema may cause people who don’t experience eczema to misunderstand it. People may stare, make rude comments, or ask insensitive questions about eczema because of its visibility.
“People are always asking, ‘What’s wrong with your skin or why don’t you put this or that cream on it?’ They just don’t understand that I have tried everything,” wrote one MyEczemaTeam member.
People who don’t have or don’t understand eczema might have impolite comments about its appearance or make unhelpful suggestions for its treatment. If you have eczema, there are healthy ways to prepare yourself for rude comments and feedback. These tactics, including some standard retorts, can help you to avoid the negative ripple effects these comments may have on you.
Rude comments about your eczema can have a variety of negative effects on your self-esteem and mental health.
Insensitive comments about your eczema may affect your self-esteem (how you feeling about yourself). A study in the Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery explains that simply perceiving eczema as a stigma may negatively affect a young adult’s psychological development.
“I’ve been feeling so off … my eczema makes me very insecure,” wrote one MyEczemaTeam member. “I have man-like hands, my face is super sensitive, and all of a sudden, my chest and neck have gotten super red. I’m stressed.”
Another MyEczemaTeam member weighed in, “People don’t understand the social embarrassment that eczema sufferers can feel, the funny looks, people looking at you like a leper.”
When people make impolite comments about your eczema, you may feel so embarrassed that you try to hide it, or take other measures to make sure that your eczema flares are not visible. You may wear extra clothes to hide your rash or even stay at home to avoid contact with others. A MyEczemaTeam member shared, “I have to wear long sleeves, even in 90-degree weather, because my scars are so horrible. I’m embarrassed.”
A 2018 survey of 602 adults with atopic dermatitis reported that their eczema negatively impacts their quality of life. They also noted that because of their condition, they limit their activities and avoid social interactions. Rude comments about the appearance of their eczema may further negatively impact their quality of life, their work, and their social interactions.
“Eczema has now decided to appear on my face. It makes me embarrassed to leave the house knowing the way people think in this day and age,” wrote one MyEczemaTeam member.
Another member commented, “As of now, I have no quality of life because my atopic dermatitis is so severe. I’m embarrassed and afraid to leave my house because it’s so bad.”
Adults and children with eczema have a higher risk for mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. A study from the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology discusses how dermatological conditions like eczema can affect a child’s psychosocial development. It also discusses comments and bullying about the appearance of the skin can lead to depression and social anxiety.
People with eczema are already at a higher risk of mental health disorders. Experiencing negative social interactions about their skin only fuels many of them.
Fortunately, there are healthy ways to address rude comments and cope with potential negative impacts they may have. Here are some approaches to try.
Because rude comments about eczema may come from a lack of understanding or knowledge about the condition, you could try responding to comments with openness and honesty. If others get a better understanding of eczema and your experience with it, they might stop rude commenting. (And never forget, if you know the person, you can send them links to MyEczemaTeam articles.)
It may help to explain that eczema is not contagious, caused by fungus, or due to a lack of skin hygiene. Rather, eczema is caused by several different factors. For instance, you are at a higher risk if you have a family history of dermatitis, asthma, hay fever, or allergens. Environmental irritants and stress also contribute to eczema. Ultimately, eczema happens when the immune system overreacts to irritants and allergens, and your skin grows inflamed.
You can share that, while eczema symptoms and severity may differ from person to person, the skin condition commonly affects visible areas of a person’s body, including the hands, neck, face, inner elbows, ankles, and feet.
Perhaps you’ll explain that your symptoms get worse during flare-ups. Let them know there is no cure for the condition, but dermatologists help you find effective eczema treatments, like prescription topical creams and emollients that repair and replenish your skin barrier. Also, you might point out that effective systemic treatments that minimize flares and skin inflammation have recently emerged.
One MyEczemaTeam member shared the benefits of opening up about their eczema at work. They wrote, “My coworker made a derogatory remark about the slippers and socks I wore to work. I sent her a picture of my feet in an email and she apologized over and over. That shut it down immediately. People are so insensitive. My supervisor is very supportive though. He said I can wear the slippers and socks to work.”
In the unfortunate situation that someone makes a comment, offers advice, or asks prying questions about your eczema, it may be helpful to have a few, go-to responses on hand. A few standard comebacks quickly address and diffuse these situations so you can move on.
Some responses to consider include:
Consider sharing MyEczemaTeam article links — if you know the person. The resource section is loaded with great pieces that explain eczema simply.
Sometimes the best defense against rude comments is ignoring them—and choosing to be confident. One way to do that is by acknowledging you cannot control other people, nor what they say or do. You do, however, have control over yourself and your actions.
As one member wrote, “Some days you really can’t help what’s going on with your skin and I just don’t pay people any mind … As long as people don’t physically touch me, they can say whatever they want.”
Talking to your general practitioner, dermatologist, or a mental health counselor or therapist may help you process your feelings around people who are insensitive to your eczema. These trained health care professionals can connect you with support groups. And they can offer solutions to living with comments about your skin.
Having someone to confide in like this, especially a person who’s not a friend or family member, can be helpful if only to vent or otherwise express your emotions. “I personally see a therapist and I tell her what’s been going on,” wrote a MyEczemaTeam member.
On MyEczemaTeam, the social network for people with eczema and their loved ones, more than 42,000 members meet to connect and help one another as only someone familiar with the condition can.
Do you have eczema and get rude comments or questions about it? How do you handle those situations? Share your experiences in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyEczemaTeam.