“Did you burn yourself?” a friend asked me in an AP Calculus class my senior year of high school. Embarrassed, I pulled the sleeve of my navy letter jacket further down my right hand; seeing how I am right-handed, it wasn’t enough to hide the dry, mottled patch of skin that ran down my pinky finger to my wrist.
“No,” I replied. “It’s my eczema, and it’s really giving me problems.”
Simply put, eczema is a persistent inflammation of the skin. One doctor told me that a person with eczema tends to also have asthma and allergies because it seems as if the individual’s immune system is in a slightly heightened state. Lo and behold, I have all three issues.
For reasons unknown to me, my eczema worsened when I was seventeen. The patch on my right hand was The Worst and despite continuous applications of cortisol cream, it was growing faster than the Sahara Desert. It was itchy, it was painful, and it was embarrassing. Quite frankly, it was a big part of the reason why my letter jacket became a staple in my fashionless high school wardrobe.
Eventually, I went to a dermatologist and there met the item I have been in a relationship with for more than ten years: a prescription-strength steroid eczema cream.
Now, most people don’t know I have eczema unless I tell them. Yet what happens when I don’t have access to my medicine when I’m abroad for an extended period of time in a country with shortages even on medicine (like I am now) or simply jobless without health insurance (like I have been before)?
It’s a moment I try to avoid.
This is where an amazing woman from my group of best girlfriends from home comes in. An intern at the skin care giant Johnson and Johnson this summer, she attended a conference on eczema and sent me a box of samples.
Although I always make sure to have enough prescription medicine to last me until my next return to the United States, I was eager to try the samples, many of which were full-sized! One day I would love to not be tied to a prescription.
As I packed the one 50 pound suitcase allowed for my return to Venezuela, I had to decide which eczema products would go with me. My criteria were simple.
- Is the product cost-efficient? Skin care products can truly eat into your pocketbook when you have to buy items like Aquaphor (which rings in at $14.49 for a 14 oz jar)
- Is it long-lasting?
- Does it create a thick moisture barrier? The dry, itchy eczema patches form because the body does not produce enough oil to create a moisturized barrier to the outside world; a thick moisturizer is a must because it’s literally standing in for the body’s lack of one
- Does it heal and not just alleviate the discomfort eczema causes?
I own absolutely no makeup. Thus, my skin with its eczema and other issues has to be my main sign of health and beauty and my best accessory. In the next post, I’ll discuss which items made it in my suitcase to Venezuela and which ones were left behind.