Erica’s Story

Two years ago while a sophomore in college I developed eczema. I can’t quite remember exactly when I started itching and scratching in the shower but I do remember how uncomfortable and irritable I was during the time. The eczema started at my neck and worked its way to my face and hands. By the time I went to the dermatologist, I had red splotches all over my face and arms.

The dermatologist prescribed me two topical steroids (one for my face and one for the rest of my body), which I finished off pretty quickly and soon I was back at his office, getting even stronger prescriptions.

When I was introduced to the world of topical dermatitis I, of course, immediately went online to find out as much as I could about my condition and what I could do to make it go away as fast as possible. Interestingly enough, most of what I found had to do with children with eczema. I learned that many children who develop dermatitis in infancy have a chance of developing eczema as adults. That’s when it hit me. I was allergic to milk as a child and I had many skin issues that ranged from rashes to red blotches that my mom would treat with calamine cream. Did my past run in with allergies have anything to do with my present condition? Most likely, yes.

Of course, I took into account the stresses of college, living and working in New York City and the climate changes that my skin was being exposed to as I traveled back and forth semi-humid and polluted NYC and dry Texas. Many conditions lead to my developing eczema, including my childhood allergies.

After two years of dealing with my eczema, I am less bothered by my occasional outbreaks (which I treat with topical steroids) and I know how to manage my skin and lifestyle so as to not have as many. In my research, I’ve found that many people have topical dermatitis and that made me feel much better—at first I felt like I was alone with my irritated skin. That is when I began to make lasting changes to my lifestyle that helped me deal with my skin condition.

As a college student, it’s really hard to eat “properly” but I realize that a healthy diet with vegetables, fruits and whole grains is extremely important for healthy, non-irritated skin. It’s also important to pinpoint the foods that you’re allergic too and have an antihistamine ready for changes in weather and/or climate. I found that moisturizing lotions work less well than thicker, purer creams like Shea butter and oils like coconut oil (which works really well in the summer).

Erica Cheung is a senior at New York University studying Journalism and Gender & Sexuality Studies. A former intern for HuffPost Style, Erica loves fashion, cats, and cheese. She is also a freelance theater critic for

2 Responses to Erica’s Story

  1. On 31/01/2013 at 11:38 christine said:

    My daughter has had severe atopic eczema for 6 years but since seeing a dermatologist she is improving. Do you not find cats make you worse. Thx for sharing your story and thereby raising the profile of this horrendous disease. We are over in nyc in april to stay with my sister who helped to set up an eczema support group there. Best wishes. Christine

  2. On 02/02/2013 at 04:45 Erica Cheung said:

    Thanks for the read Christine! Yes, I have 5 cats in my house in Texas and definitely cats make matters much much worse. Unfortunately for me, I love cats so what I normally have to do when I go home is start taking strong antihistamines and be very careful not to touch my face after touching my cats. Great to hear about your sister! Best, Erica

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