A woman has taken to social media to share the realities of living with painful eczema all over her face.
Elise Loubatieres-Phan Ngoc has spent the majority of her life trying to hide her flaky and cracked skin.
But now aged 32, Elise has finally accepted her appearance and is showing other eczema sufferers that they're not alone.
The full-time content creator from London told the Daily Star: "I get stared at when I go out, I feel so self-conscious. I'm so glad for masks because I can actually hide some of it but my eyes get quite swollen and crusty and the same with my hairline.
"It's reached the point now where I just don't care. So I go out and I'll have flaky arms and if anyone asks anything I'll just tell them it's an autoimmune disease."
While Elise takes the time to share the details of her skin condition with her followers online, she explained that it isn't her job to educate people when she's out in public.
Now she isn't letting the stares bother her and embracing the skin she is in.
"I've just been fed up with hiding away. I'm 32 and in the last two years I've become more comfortable but I spent 30 years of my life hiding and I'm sick of it," she explained.
Elise was born with eczema, which is a common condition that causes patches of skin that are itchy, inflamed or have a rash-like appearance.
People have differing levels of eczema, with Elise's being so bad she is often in pain.
She goes through various flare-ups, with the current one having gone on for three months so far.
"This three-month flare-up has caused depression. For me, the mental toll of eczema is more intense than the physical," the influencer shared.
"My doctor wants to put me on antidepressants and that's fully due to this flare up and people don't realise that. It's relentless."
Elise explained that change in weather is also a trigger, which is why going into autumn and winter is especially hard.
Stress is also a major factor, as is diet, which is why Elise tries to avoid eating gluten and dairy.
Elise has spent her whole life dealing with her painful skin and sometimes it feels neverending.
"Physically I'm in pain most of the time if I haven't lathered my skin in ointments or creams," she said.
"If I don't put cream on my ear it cracks open and bleeds and then I'm at risk of infection. It's extremely uncomfortable and then I'm very self-conscious so I don't go out a lot when I'm like this.
"People don't understand the mental side of it, people think it's just a bit of dry skin but it's not, it's all-encompassing.
"My life has been completely taken over by this in the last few months, I can't work because I need my face but my face is falling apart."
Elise explained that she had been on various atopical steroid creams for 30 years but decided in 2020 to stop using them completely.
She said that this is because she found out that they're meant to only be a short term solution.
"After 30 years of using them I've got scarring and I've got thin skin. The inner crease of the arm where you get eczema when I tan that does not tan," the 32-year-old said.
"That will just be a patch of bleached skin, which is from overusing steroids for many many years."
Elise said that this is because she didn't know any better, she was just listening to the advice of her GP.
After extensive research, she decided in September last year to stop using steroid creams completely.
"I said to myself I cannot keep going through this cycle of it getting better than it getting worse," Elise said.
"I went through atopical steroid withdrawal last year and that was intense. It can be worse than eczema itself."
Elise wants to spread awareness about the realities of what living with eczema can be like.
For some, the skin condition can be completely life-altering.
"I've had a lot of people tell me they've had to take time off because of their skin," she said.
"People try and make you feel better by saying 'it doesn't look that bad' but it diminishes the experience of what you're going through.
"I can't even wear makeup, I just want to wear a bit of makeup and I can't do that. It sounds silly but that's a massive part of my life, trying on makeup is part of my job."
Elise started posting videos on TikTok about her experience with eczema three weeks ago and her account has been skyrocketing ever since.
She has been bombarded with messages from young people who are facing the same issues, and Elise said she is happy to be a role model for them.
The influencer added: "The number of messages I have received from teenagers in the last week or so has been incredible, they've been saying things like 'Thanks so much, I look like this and I used to be embarrassed to go to school.'
"All of the comments are like 'I've never seen someone with skin like mine.' Social media has been great at connecting people who are going through the same thing, it's like a support group."
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