Since the age of twelve, I’ve suffered with a skin condition called psoriasis. It has honestly made my life hell; from being bullied throughout my school years because people thought I was a “dandruff monster” to not letting anyone – except my hairdresser – touch my hair. It is astonishing to think of the impact that having healthy, clear skin has upon one’s confidence. Before I even continue, I want to make a clear distinction between dandruff and psoriasis.
Psoriasis is a skin disorder caused by your immune system that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered by thick, silvery scales accompanied by a burning sensation. It can occur almost anywhere on the body, whilst dandruff is caused by naturally occurring fungus/yeast and is the shedding of dead skin cells on your scalp.
I have psoriasis all over my scalp, elbows , my left knee, parts of my face/neck and flares up on my left hand. It’s worse on my scalp. It’s itchy, painful and not very nice to look at. It’s something that I am very self conscious of as I have very dark, heavy hair which makes it even more noticeable. For many years, I have been very very reluctant to even discuss this topic – it’s even very difficult to write about it today. I have my good days where it’s not so bad, but then I have days when it flares up so badly that it affects my confidence for the day.
Psoriasis is a very common skin disorder with up to 2- 3% of the population in the UK suffering from it.
Today was quite a bad day. I’d covered my hair with a makeshift turban/wrap to prevent my skin flaking and to resist the urge to just scratch and make it worse. When this happens, I usually shy away and stay indoors, but today I had to go out and run some errands for my grandma. I remember the mini pep talk I gave myself as I put my coat on: “It’s not that bad, you can’t see anything” to “Oh my god what if people go all UKIP on me?” In all honesty, I was more worried of people calling me the latter – there aren’t that many ethnic minorities in my town.
So off I went! I got weird looks, naturally, people avoiding to make eye contact, giving me dirty looks and walking away. Unfortunately I had a middle aged man shout abuse at me from his car window. I’m not going to repeat it because it is very upsetting. I hated how vulnerable and scared I felt – I’ve never walked down the street with my eyes glued to the pavement with a sinking feeling in my stomach. A part of me wanted to rip off the scarf, justify why I’d covered my hair and let everyone see how bad my scalp was. But the more rational part of me knew better than that.
Why should I have to justify that? Why should anyone have to justify what they choose to wear? We shouldn’t have to do that, just to make others feel comfortable? I find it ironic that the sight of a woman with her hair covered infuriates people more than a topless one on Page Three. When I got home I was very upset, but now I just feel disappointed at the cruel narrow mindedness of some individuals. I’m proud of myself for the way I got with a simple errand despite feeling so scared and so self conscious of myself. But would I do it again? I’m not so sure.