“I wish I had taken care of it sooner — and taken care of myself, too.”

Ivy Smith
Chapter 1
“I Wish I Had Taken Care of it Sooner — and Taken Care of Myself, Too.”

I experienced my first psoriasis symptoms in 2002, just after I had my second child. I noticed white and discolored patches of skin on my elbows. It didn’t necessarily look like a scab — it just didn’t look normal. It was a little itchy, too, so I thought maybe I was having an allergic reaction to a medication I had taken.

Soon after, I noticed the same thing on the back of my head, around my ears, and on my neck. It was very noticeable there and it was irritating and itchy. It hurt, too.

My focus became trying to hide it. I avoided wearing black or other dark colors that would show flaked-off skin. I had to keep my hair down and ponytails were out of the question. Trips to the salon to have my hair done were embarrassing and uncomfortable.

The flare-ups continued for a while, before I finally looked up my symptoms online. After some searching, I suspected it might be psoriasis, but some of the symptoms I had were characteristics of other skin conditions, too, so I wasn’t sure. I suffered for a while before I decided to get help.

Chapter 2
Learning to Manage

It was two years before I actually saw my doctor, who confirmed it was psoriasis. He said that stress was a major contributor, and at the time, I definitely had a lot of stress in my life.

It took months of trying various medications before I finally found a prescription shampoo that worked on the worst outbreaks on my scalp. Unfortunately, it didn’t work on flare-ups that happened on other areas of my body.

This meant I was going to have to manage some of this on my own. There were times when that was far from easy, but I started to figure it out along the way.

I began trying to keep the skin of the affected areas moist, applying Neosporin to the area and avoiding the urge to scratch. Eventually, my skin would clear up, sometimes leaving behind a light spot and I’d move on until the episode. This has become my go-to method of managing flare-ups over the years.

Chapter 3
Mom and Model

In 2010, I became pregnant with my third child — a son — and my psoriasis came back hard. The symptoms felt more irritating and it cropped up on more parts of my body than ever before. After birth, it returned to what I had been used to prior to pregnancy.

About five years later, I started working as an actress and model — a line of work where physical appearance is very important. I had to work hard to hide my psoriasis, hoping that no one would notice it.

Before filming a commercial or sitting for a photoshoot, stylists would sometimes freak out when they saw the patches on my scalp, neck, and ears. I learned to always mention my psoriasis to the stylists beforehand to avoid these embarrassing moments. Many people have never heard of psoriasis, so I’ve learned to take time to explain what it is and that it’s not contagious. People in my line of work are always sympathetic, but the whole routine gets annoying.

Chapter 4
Managing Stress and Loving My Life

It’s unbelievable to think that I’ve been living with psoriasis for 15 years now. Looking back on my journey, there are a few things I wish I’d done differently when I was sorting out my diagnosis. I wish I had just focused on myself and gone to the doctor earlier to see what it was — hopefully it wouldn’t have gotten so bad. I wish I had taken care of it sooner — and taken care of myself, too.

Over the years I’ve learned that if I manage my stress, flare-ups seem to happen less frequently. They still happen, and when they do, I manage them with topical products and they eventually go away.

My fiancé is huge source of support. He reminds me that I can’t control the fact that I have psoriasis and that I need to remember to relax. He’ll give me a gift certificate for a massage or encourage me to visit a spa.

Another stress-reliever for me is going to car shows. I drive a 2012 Dodge Challenger, and I love to go to this local meet-up called “Cars and Coffee” on weekends. I enjoy chatting with people about their cars, which range from muscle cars to exotics; antiques to random contraptions people have built themselves.

I’m still acting in commercials, but my main focus is my modeling career. I also own a cleaning business and take care of my three kids, who now range in age from 6 to 15.

My kids have never really worried about my psoriasis, which keeps things solid for me. Occasionally, my youngest might notice a patch of irritated skin on my arm and say: “Mommy, you have a booboo on your arm.”

I’ve never really known how to respond, but they’re so busy with their own interests, that it’s never been a big deal to them. To them, it’s just part of who I am, and they love me.