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Living With Ichthyosis: Learn to Love Your Skin

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We all suffer from so-called “bad skin” days, some more than others. Perhaps we were in the sun too long and our skin feels especially tight, or it’s a cold, windy winter day and we notice itchy red bumps covering our cheeks, arms, and the backs of our legs. On those days, we are more conscious to take extra care of our skin. But what if every day required exceptional skin care? The answer is: it should! Take it from 23-year-old Abigail Ovbey, from North Carolina, who suffers from Ichthyosis, a genetic skin disorder in which dead skin cells accumulate in thick, dry scales on the body. From Day One, she has treated her skin as a precious organ and worked hard to protect it. Here, Abbie shares her daily struggle with Ichthyosis and how she has learned to love her skin.

When were you first diagnosed with Ichthyosis?

I was diagnosed at birth. Since my older brother also has Ichthyosis, it was much easier for doctors to diagnose me.

What is it like living with this skin condition?

I wouldn’t say Ichthyosis defines me, but it definitely is a huge part of who I am. Ichthyosis comes from the Greek root word ICH meaning scaly. This condition causes my skin to be much thicker than “normal” skin and I can easily overheat. The thickness of my skin blocks both my oil glands and sweat glands. Therefore, I don’t sweat and I quickly overheat. Once overheated, it takes my body much longer to cool down.

Some people might see my skin condition as a hindrance, but I feel it is a part of me. It’s a life style and a process in which I care for myself and for my skin. I can’t tan or swim in the ocean because the salt water leaves my skin raw and uncomfortable for days. You won’t see me lying out in the sun or taking a dip in the pool, but you will see me chasing my nieces and nephews around the beach (wearing SPF 80).

Describe your daily skin care routine.

My skin thrives on oatmeal baths, Theraplex lotions, and scalp treatments! I shower twice, sometimes three times a day. While showering, I exfoliate my skin with a colloidal oatmeal and unscented body wash, and I use unscented shave gels and shampoos.

As soon as I step out of the shower or bath, I’m like a fish out of water. My skin becomes extremely dry and uncomfortable. I have found that many of the over the counter lotions only provide relief from dryness for about 10 minutes and I constantly have to reapply them. I have developed a routine where I immediately slather on Theraplex ClearLotion and Emollient or Barrier Balm from head to toe and let it all soak in my skin. Theraplex moisturizers were recommended to my parents by my dermatologist when I was a child and I’ve been using them ever since.

Does your skin change seasonally?

Yes, I like to call this the “in-between” stages. There is a one to two week period in between each season where the skin on my face and scalp dries out and peels more than usual. To combat the dryness, peeling and itching, I take frequent oatmeal baths and apply warm conditioner to my scalp and let it soak in for about an hour.

Are there certain products that irritate/exacerbate the condition?

I’m highly sensitive to fragrances. Products with fragrances, like certain laundry detergent, perfumes and scented candles can really irritate my skin. Aerosols, nail polish remover, chlorine, bleach, and alcohol-based products also cause itching and irritation. Another surprising no-no for my skin is baby oil. Baby oil clogs my pores and left my skin raw and burning.

Do you wear makeup?

I do wear makeup! I feel like ichthyosis has honestly positively affected my makeup application. When watching any makeup tutorial or reading makeup tips in a magazine, their first and foremost tip is to hydrate your skin before applying makeup. Because I have to work so hard to keep my skin extra healthy and smooth at all times, my skin stays super hydrated and well exfoliated thus making makeup application easier.

My biggest insight is to wear only what feels good. I love mineral makeup and liquid foundations that are oil-based. I have so much fun with makeup! I like to play up my eyes most. I love a good black cat liner.

When it comes to removing makeup, I apply Theraplex ClearLotion with a warm wash cloth. It’s the perfect combination of removing the makeup while adding moisturizing oil to my face.

What’s your beauty motto?

Love the skin you’re in—literally. I fully believe that when you feel beautiful, the world will see you that way. There is nothing more beautiful than feeling beautiful

The point I’d like to stress the most is to take care of your skin. No matter what skin condition you struggle with, keep your skin happy and healthy. I love my skin and the obstacles and adventures it has taken me on!

About the Author:

Freelance writer Ana Dragovic LoVasco contributes to Theraplex Company and various beauty blogs. She has written articles for Teen Vogue and Vogue, as well as PR content for Christian Dior Beauty.

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