5 Socially Stigmatizing Myths About Skin Disease

Merely Me Health Guide
  • One common struggle for people who cope with skin ailments such as acnepsoriasis, and eczema is the lack of public understanding about these conditions. There are some misperceptions, which may increase feelings of social alienation and depression for the person who has been diagnosed with a skin disease.


    Here’s what’s wrong with those myths:  


    Myth #1: Skin diseases such as psoriasis or eczema are contagious. 

    Sometimes when people view the scaling and inflammation that either psoriasis or eczema can cause, they may fear that they will somehow catch the disease if they get too close to the person with the condition. Eczema, psoriasis and acne are not contagious. A person cannot transmit these skin diseases to anyone else. This seems to be a particularly difficult myth to dispel. 

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    Myth #2: People with skin disease are dirty and don’t wash properly. 


    One thing you often hear about a person with acne is that they need to wash their face more often. This acne myth may come from the appearance of blackheads which some people inaccurately surmise to be filled with dirt because of the color. A blackhead isn't dirt and cannot be washed away. A blackhead is just a combination of sebum (oil) and dead skin cells. The pore is clogged but open to air, which oxidizes the material inside and turns it dark. Scrubbing repeatedly or harshly does nothing but irritate the skin and make acne worse. Acne is primarily a result of genetics and fluctuations in hormones. Acne is not caused by having dirty skin. 


    Myth #3: Skin disease is just a temporary cosmetic problem. 


    Sometimes the public is not very empathic to people with skin diseases because they believe it is just a relatively minor inconvenience affecting only the person’s appearance. The truth is that skin diseases, such as psoriasis and eczema, can be chronic and lifelong battles for the sufferer, and there is no real cure. These skin diseases are not just “skin deep.” They affect most areas of a person’s life, including relationships, employment and one’s mental health. Depression, anxiety and even suicidal ideation may result from having to cope with a chronic skin disorder. In the case of psoriasis, there can be physical pain and serious co-morbid medical conditions. In short, having a skin disease is a not merely a minor cosmetic problem for most sufferers. 


    Myth #4: The person with the skin disease somehow caused their condition. 


    Too often, people tend to place the blame for skin conditions on the people who have them. People with psoriasis or eczema may be told that they don’t have good hygiene or the right diet, or that they simply haven’t chosen the correct treatment to cure their condition. For psoriasis and eczema, there is no cure. In most cases, genetic factors are much of the reason for developing a skin disease. There are also multiple environmental triggers which can aggravate the symptoms, many of which are out of our control. The bottom line is that a person diagnosed with a skin disease is not to blame for his condition. 


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    Myth #5: A person with a skin disease is ugly. 


    This is probably the most difficult of the socially stigmatizing beliefs to address when it comes to skin disease. A person with acne, psoriasis or eczema may feel that he has to go to great lengths to cover up his skin. Patients with eczema or psoriasis may avoid going to the beach or wearing clothing that exposes his skin, for fear of ridicule or judgment.  But there are many beautiful people who have skin ailments. For example, Jessica Simpson, Cameron Diaz and even Brad Pitt have all struggled with acne. Singer LeAnn Rimes  came out publicly to discuss her long battle with psoriasis.


    Perhaps with more education and public awareness we can broaden societal expectations of beauty to include those who have less-than-perfect skin.




Published On: December 06, 2010