New research has revealed encouraging findings about the effectiveness of apremilast (Otezla) in treating genital psoriasis, a condition that often carries a significant stigma.
Eve Stern: From Migraine Warrior to Psoriasis Advocate
June 7, 2023
Eve Stern is a true inspiration of resilience. Despite facing challenges from chronic migraine attacks and eczema flares, she manages to juggle her work as a digital marketing consultant and her passion project, dealingwithmigraine.com. Her maternal grandmother, Cecilia, played a significant role in shaping her strength and determination.
The 32-year-old Queens, NY, resident bubbles with enthusiasm when talking about this key figure in her life: “I loved doing everything with her, from cooking, running errands, and traveling to doing her hair and makeup,” says Eve. “She had the most beautiful, thick, white and gray hair that she always kept perfectly cut and styled.”
Cecilia, who lived with gust until age 89, struggled with a severe case of psoriasis and the stigma that came with it. Times were different then, psoriasis “wasn’t something her friends really knew about,” says Eve. “Yet it was a big part of her life; her scalp was so sensitive, and she would deal with a lot of pain. Even so, she had enough patience to let me brush her hair when I was a young girl.”
Eve’s experiences with her grandmother taught her to navigate life’s obstacles with grace and patience, and she is now a patient advocate, using her voice to help educate hairstylists and barbers on the challenges faced by people living with scalp and skin conditions.
“Psoriasis stole my grandma’s self-esteem”
Psoriasis took a toll on Cecilia’s self-esteem. “The way she presented herself to the world was very important to her; she was always well dressed and put together, but her scalp psoriasis made it impossible for her to get her hair dyed — and that was a really big thing,” says Eve. “She was so embarrassed by it.”
What’s more, simply going to the salon became stressful: “She would mention her challenges in finding a stylist who knew how to set her hair. And if maybe a stylist hurt her by accident or they asked her questions she was uncomfortable with, it would put her in a bad mood and make her irritable.”
“I hope to make a difference through HEROES”
So when Eve had the opportunity to work on The Global Healthy Living Foundation’s new HEROES (Health Education + Reliable Outreach + Empathetic Support) program, she jumped at the chance. “From my experience with my grandmother and throughout my years of dealing with eczema, while not on my scalp but on my body and eyes, I have developed great compassion for anyone who deals with the heartbreak of managing these painful skin conditions in such a public area like our hair and scalp.”
The goal of HEROES is to educate hairstylists and barbers on the challenges faced by people living with scalp and skin conditions and to give hair pros the tips and tools to treat such clients with expertise and compassion. “One of the ways I’ll be participating is by collecting research and finding people who can share their stories,” says Eve, who already has ideas about how salons and barbershops can become places of support and confidence-building.
“Open up to your stylist or barber”
If you have a chronic skin condition like psoriasis, eczema, or seborrheic dermatitis that affects the scalp, Eve urges you to “put things out on the table and start the conversation with your stylist or barber. When people don’t open about what they’re going through, it can feel isolating,” she says. “You might feel like you’re the only one who deals with the condition and the hairstylist is going to look at you like you’re crazy!”
The fact is, many professionally trained stylists have seen clients with scalp conditions and shouldn’t be taken aback. Still, it’s a good idea to call a salon before you book an appointment to say, “I have xyz condition, which by the way, is not contagious, and I’m looking for a stylist who has experience with it.”
The right pro will understand your needs and can recommend flattering styles, suggest products, and make your overall session more pleasant. They will be gentle on your scalp, won’t pull or tug hair and will ask about your sensitivities — for instance, does excessive heat from a blow dryer or other device bother you?
It’s the kind of care that would have made a difference for Eve’s grandmother Cecilia. “Toward the end of her life, she found so much comfort when I brushed her hair,” remembers Eve, who is working to bring that same kind of comfort to others through the HEROES program.
Making your salon visit a soothing experience
Try these tips to enhance your salon visit and create a calming experience:
- Prep your scalp. Wash and treat your hair the day before with any medicated shampoos, ointments, etc., to help reduce plaques and flaking.
- Ask about products. Find out what shampoos and conditioners the salon has on hand and run by your dermatologist. If necessary, take your own products.
- Consult with your stylist. Tell them where you generally have a problem with plaques so they can suggest an appropriate style. If they’re using a razor, make sure they’re gentle when shaving over plaques to avoid irritation. Also, tell the stylist not to try removing any scales and to go easy when brushing or combing your hair.
Join GHLF’s HEROES Program
GHLF invites you to make a difference in your community with our FREE and unique program called HEROES (Health Education + Reliable Outreach + Empathetic Support). HEROES is a FREE education and outreach initiative that equips beauty professionals to better support clients living with scalp and other skin conditions and offers people living with skin and scalp conditions helpful resources and information on getting a proper diagnosis, managing symptoms, and becoming an empowered patient. To learn more, visit GHLF.org/HEROES today.
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