'People assume you just need to moisturise': The impact of eczema on Black skin

Eczema effects one out of 10 adults and one in five children in the UK – but representations of the skin condition, and how it typically presents, are very limited.

For Black people with eczema, the condition doesn’t cause the classic redness that you associate with the condition, and a lack of awareness about this can cause isolation and a kind of stigma for those with different experiences.

‘Widespread pigmentation completely affected my entire complexion – I experienced extreme darkening of my skin,’ Aramidé Onashoga tells Metro.co.uk.

‘I don’t think I’ve ever been more aware of colourism since the change in my complexion.’

Aramidé, who is 31 and from London, started to have skin reactions at just three weeks old. Her mum discovered that she was actually allergic to cow’s milk.

In 2018, her skin started to flare up and her eczema was the worst it had ever been. She was prescribed steroid medication, which may have helped short-term but had huge negative effects in the long-term.

Over the years, Aramidé has faced rude and offensive comments about her skin – including being told that she is ‘too dark’ thanks to the discolouration.

‘You feel like you are always fighting for yourself and justifying yourself,’ she says. ‘I’m this dark because I have a skin condition. But so what if I didn’t have a skin condition – what is wrong with being dark?  

‘I am various shades of black and brown. I change colour because I have been battling a long-term condition and hyperpigmentation.’

‘I have come to realise eczema is something that can be managed quite well,’ she says. ‘However, topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) has a wider impact. It has taken me years to recover from steroids.’

Aramidé found herself suffering from repetitive infections, slow wound healing, and swelling.

‘Throughout the worst of TSW, I wished for my childhood eczema,’ she says. ‘Steroid withdrawal has had a massive impact on my life. I was bed-bound, isolated, I had to leave my job due to a lack of long-term support.

‘Now that I have recovered, I am trying to make up for the things I lost out on during that time. My confidence, finances, and general ability to plan and look ahead long term.

‘Gladskin was a product I used when my skin was very prone to infection. I believe it helped to restore my skins pH, and helped to alleviate my eczema symptoms.’

Aramidé wants to spread awareness about this condition because she says there is not enough understanding about how eczema can impact those with darker skin.

‘There is a lot of shame around skin in the Black community and in other communities of colour,’ she says. ‘I believe this is due to how dryness presents in skin of colour. Anything beyond dry skin is then amplified because of how it looks.

‘Skin conditions can present with darkness in skin of people of colour. A lot of people hide their condition because of this impact. They hide away because of the shame and deal with it in private.  

‘My entire complexion changed and the experience showed me colourism is a real thing.

‘As my complexion has healed, there are times I have found myself longing for my face to be the same shade as the rest of my body. However, I have learnt to embrace the change every step of the way. I hope other black women can be inspired by my multi-coloured complexion, this in itself may challenge racism and colourism.’

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