You know how babies have really soft, smooth skin? Well, that wasn’t me. My mother said my skin was like an alligator: rough, dry and scaly. Lovely. Then it was discovered I was allergic to water. Yes, water! Turned out it wasn’t so much water as it was the high mineral content of our water. In any case, I had to be given a bath in a special solution, not like normal babies who got bathed in, well, water. Clearly, I was never normal, right from the beginning. My skin condition was never diagnosed. It was kind of like psoriasis, but that wasn’t it. No name was ever given to what I had.
Truthfully, I don’t remember how it affected me until I was a teenager., when it got really bad. The red, horribly itchy rash was on the underside of my forearms and my hands. Nothing helped, but a lot made it worse. I was not allowed to do the dishes or clean the bathroom, and as wonderful as that might sound, it was a real pain. Even gloves did not help, and actually made it worse because of the heat. I made little splints with tongue depressors (having a mother who was a physician came in quite handy at times) and band-aids that I would fill with either Crisco (hey, it worked and have no ingredients that irritated my skin further) or vaseline and slip over my fingers. If I didn’t do this, my hands would bleed. My skin was so dry that no amount of lotion worked, but my ‘invention’ with the vaseline helped.
Not much could be done to help my forearms, though. To help relieve the itchiness of them, I would use scalding hot water, which was really bad for it, but it was the only thing that made them stop itching, if only for a little while. I also had the rash in my elbow pits and my knee pits. Since I was told not to scratch myself with my fingernails, I used my hairbrush, and at night, since I would do it unconsciously in my sleep, I had to wear cotton gloves. I guess I was kind of a mess!
At one point, when I was about 12 years old, it was so bad that I got taken to the doctor. As this was not my mother’s specialty, and there was only so much she could do anyway, I went to a dermatologist. I showed him all the places I had it on my body, and he said that he needed to look at my entire body to make sure it wasn’t any place else. I knew it wasn’t anywhere else, but he insisted. This was incredibly upsetting to me, and I went out into the waiting room to tell Mark, my brand new step-father, that the doctor wanted me to take all of my clothes off and I didn’t want to because I knew it was only where I had already shown the doctor. Mark told me to listen to the doctor. I was 12 and had developed early (most guys thought I was 20 years old because of my body) and because I was 12 and had the body of someone much older, I sure did not want this doctor seeing me naked. I cried the whole time he was looking at my naked body, and when he finished, he said, “You don’t have the rash anywhere else.” No shit, Sherlock! Even now, thinking about it pisses me off. It was, and probably still is, so typical of adults not to listen to a kid, and I can’t help but think it was a thrill for him to look at me naked. Anyway, I was traumatized by this trip to the doctor and it just made me less likely to go again.
As I got older, I still had issues with it, but, eventually, I started growing out of most of it. I did have an incident in my mid-20s while living in the suburbs of Chicago. This was before they had Lake Michigan water. It was well-water, and as it turned out, it had a very high mineral content. This time I had it on my face and in my eyes. What made this especially bad is I was modeling at the time and I looked a little like I had poison ivy all over my face–not a good look. That time I went to the doctor and was given actifed, something I had taken as a child, though I had forgotten about it until then. It is an antihistamine, basically. He also gave me cetaphil, which was not available at that point, except from a dermatologist. He told me it was for people who are allergic to animal, mineral and vegetable fats. Well, dang! It worked though, and that was the important thing. I still use cetaphil to this day.
I still have really dry skin and hair, but I’ve recently discovered a cure for it. Olive oil! I eat a tablespoon of it almost every day. It has worked so well that I even gave myself oily hair, which I wasn’t happy about because it means I need to wash my hair more often. I used to wash it once a week. Now, I have to wash it every few days, though I probably should do it more often than I do. But, luckily, even when my hair is dirty, it doesn’t look it. And my skin is sooooo soft. I mean, the baby soft I never, ever had. And for the most part, I don’t have rashes anymore. The only exception is when it’s really hot, I can still get it in my knee pits. After all this time, though, when someone tells me I have beautiful skin, I probably look at them like they are crazy. I do say, thank you, but inside, all I can think is, if they only knew! Fortunately, the internal ‘scars’ don’t’ show and, for the most part, other than having an intense dislike of doctors, I am happy in my skin!