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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collinson

My blog post with Changing Faces



My name’s Andrew and I’ve had Atopic Dermatitis (AD) my whole life. Mum always says one of my first words was itchy or “ishy”. Any person with chronic AD will tell you that while the physical symptoms are hugely significant, it’s the psychological impact which is the most catastrophic.


While my AD has at times affected all over my body, it’s my face which has always been my warzone. My condition constantly oscillates seemingly with a mind of its own. The lack of consistency and control (despite doing everything “right”) is incredibly anxiety inducing and frustrating. I’m the kind of person that if the Dermatologist told me I needed to run 10 miles before work every day to have clear skin I would be glad and happy to do so. However, despite seemingly endless medications and routines I ultimately have very little control.

Having a supportive and loving family meant that I started life fairly confident and self-assured. However, this was gradually eroded throughout school. I had to work very hard (often unsuccessfully) to not be a target of bullying. With a visible condition there’s just nowhere to hide and the comments were relentless.

The stares, double takes and whispers can be very hard to cope with.

Growing up my family were very religious, even on holidays we went to church on a Sunday. We were on holiday in America when I was around eight or nine and we went to a church which was enormous compared to back home. I was in a class of around 50 or so kids my age. As there were a few new faces the teacher took turns introducing us. When it got to my turn, the comments quickly began and before long the whole class was staring at me. All I could hear was “wow he’s so red” “I’ve never seen someone so red” “look how weird he looks”. I felt surrounded and humiliated. The more the comments and laughter came, the redder I became. None of the adults did anything and I just wanted the ground to swallow me up.


When my skin is in full flare, I feel incredibly ashamed about the way I look. I try not to let it hold me back, but I feel like every centimetre of me is tense. The stares, double takes and whispers can be very hard to cope with. For around five years, I ran a small electrical firm. I would go into meetings with potential big clients knowing I needed to come across confident and competent when really, I was mortified about how I looked, and my mind was taken up by the pain I was in. It was tough.







Flare ups can cause Andrew to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable



The psychological impact is obvious when I’m in a full flare, but when my skin isn’t “too bad” it comes with its own challenges. As my AD presents itself as redness, I’m constantly anticipating the next thoughtless comment: “wow you’re so sunburnt” or “you look like a lobster”. This creates a complex situation where I’m embarrassed and want the situation to be over as soon as possible, so sometimes I just laugh it off, but I also want to educate them, so it doesn’t happen again.


There’s also the added complexity that if I explain that I have a condition, they’re usually mortified and very apologetic, which also extends the situation and makes me feel uncomfortable. As I’ve begun doing more and more advocacy work, I am trying to reframe these situations in my mind to be grateful for an opportunity to educate someone. However, that’s easier said than done.


Representation has become a key social issue and rightly so, but for people with visible differences there’s still a long way to go. That’s why I think Changing Faces’ #IAmNotYourVillian campaign is so important as it calls on the film industry to stop using burns, scars and other visible differences as a symbol for villainy.

You deserve the right care, so don’t have any guilt or hesitation in asking for it.

I regularly hear comments casually thrown around that can have a deep impact on all those who are suffering. For example, I’ve always been an avid reader and growing up I loved a series about a teenage spy called Alex Rider. I can’t remember the exact quote, but it was something along the lines of “he should have been handsome if it wasn’t for his skin condition” to describe the villain. At a young age, this was very difficult to hear.


I’m fortunate to be in a better place now. My mental health is at its best when I feel like I’m achieving and progressing. However, there was a long time where facing the world every day was incredibly difficult. Now for the work I do I am able to be productive from home, which makes life so much easier on my worst days. I also have a wonderful support network, and I honestly don’t know whether I’d still be here without them.


If I could give one piece of advice to others, it would be to strongly advocate for yourself and don’t allow yourself to be dismissed or ignored. This was something my mum taught me growing up – sometimes unfortunately you’ll have to demand the help you need. You deserve the right care, so don’t have any guilt or hesitation in asking for it.

I recently stumbled into patient advocacy, and I’ve been really inspired by this work and want to help those who are suffering in any way I can. I’ve started a blog (which is very much a work in progress) about my journey with AD, so do give it a read and reach out to me there.

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