By Rebecca Drew
MEET the inspirational young woman who was diagnosed with painful psoriasis when she was just eight years old and is now on a mission to break the stigma surrounding the skin condition – after admitting there were times when she wanted to cut her own skin off.
Nursery nurse, Alana Cairns (18) from Chesterfield, UK, first noticed patches of white dry skin on her legs, arms and stomach a decade ago and was soon diagnosed with psoriasis by her GP.
Alana wasn’t bothered by her psoriasis until she was 10 and began to notice other people’s reactions towards her. One day whilst on a family holiday, a stranger removed her child from sitting next to Alana, fearing the child would catch something.
Now, Alana embraces her psoriasis and uses different moisturisers to keep her skin hydrated and tries to avoid stress which can trigger her condition.
“I first started to notice that I might have psoriasis at eight years old, I didn’t know what is was back then as I was only young but I remember seeing white patches of dry skin appear first on my arms, legs and stomach,” she said.
“I felt confused as to why my skin was changing so my mum took me to the GP and that’s when they diagnosed me with psoriasis. I can also remember people looking and me and pointing when I was younger but didn’t think that much of it.
“I first started to notice other people’s reactions when I was nine or ten years old. I was on holiday when a woman pulled her child off the seat next to me on the bus saying she didn’t want her to ‘catch’ anything off me. That’s when I first got really upset over having psoriasis.
“Now I feel so much better about having psoriasis as I’ve gotten used to it and so have my family and friends, I do still get the odd looks from strangers when they see my psoriasis as many people assume it’s contagious – which it’s not at all.
“I still get self-conscious about it sometimes – especially when it flares up but that’s only natural. Everyone has something they’re self-conscious about.
“My psoriasis is now treated using various moisturisers such as hydromol and oilatum, it’s important to keep the skin hydrated. I also used a product from lush called dream cream which makes my psoriasis feel great when it’s sore as it soothes the burning sensation.
“However, UVB light therapy cleared my psoriasis up nearly completely as before I had the treatment I was around 80-90% covered.
“The main trigger for my psoriasis is stress so I try to keep myself as calm as possible – which isn’t easy at all. Cold weather is also a trigger for flare up as my skin isn’t absorbing as much vitamin D.”
Alana shares her psoriasis journey on Instagram under the handle, @psoriasis_support_. She first decided to embrace her skin condition and inspire others on social media after being fed up with feeling down all of the time.
“I first decided to embrace my psoriasis instead of trying to cover it up when I got so upset and frustrated about my skin that I literally thought about cutting it off just to get rid of it. It was at that moment that I thought ‘why am I doing this, I shouldn’t feel like this’,” she added.
“I then made the decision to start my Instagram page and help other sufferers that might have been feeling that same as me. I wanted others to be able to relate their feelings to someone else, as they may not have someone around to talk to face to face which can be really hard to deal with.
“I just didn’t want anyone to feel as low as I did about their own skin.
“My family and friends don’t talk about my psoriasis often, but I do sometimes get a few friends saying, ‘yeah you should wear that crop top’ when I’m doubting whether to wear it because of my skin.
“They’ll also respond with things like ‘why should it matter, it’s only us’. That’s the type of support I hope everyone with psoriasis gets from their friends and family.
“The main advice I’d give to someone in the same situation as me is don’t hide who you really are. If you want to wear something that shows your psoriasis and you think people will judge you – just ignore those that do.
“Wear those clothes and be confident. As when you’re confident people don’t often notice, if they do, then take it as an opportunity to spread awareness so that they can understand psoriasis more.
“The more people that know about psoriasis, the less stigma will be attached to it and the less discrimination sufferers will have to endure. #GetYourSkinOut.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/psoriasis_support_/