I turned to social media to find out how others living with chronic skin conditions are navigating dating and relationships.
If you’ve recently watched “Love is Blind” (don’t sweat it, I’m not judging), you’re probably aware that there are many factors that go into a successful relationship. One of them that crops up often, despite the show’s name, is appearance.
For better or for worse, the way you feel about how you look affects your self-esteem and your confidence going into relationships.
Dating can be difficult as it is, but add in a chronic skin condition and the whole idea can become overwhelming. From acne to hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), chronic skin conditions have an impact that’s much more than skin deep.
Personally, I’ve found that living with psoriasis has heightened my anxiety around unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations — and dating is certainly one. Feeling self-conscious can really hinder my ability to feel happy, have fun, and just go with the flow.
This can make it feel difficult to put myself out there, physically and emotionally. Even if somebody else weren’t to pick up on my emotions, necessarily, or notice my symptoms, it is always on my mind.
I’m constantly wondering if my psoriasis is going to flare and worrying about what will happen when it does.
Living with a chronic skin condition can lead to a range of psychological and emotional impacts. These impacts can affect how you go about your daily life, including how you approach dating.
I reached out to Dr. T. Amuthalingam, a specialist in dermatology. He commented: “Skin is the largest organ and the first thing you see when you interact with anyone. Dating is a high pressure setting where you can be really conscious of how someone sees you.”
He went on to mention that the impact of chronic skin conditions on mental health has even become its own specialty, called psycho-dermatology.
A 2017 survey from the National Eczema Association estimated that people living with eczema experience depression at four times the rate of the general population.
Dating often boils down to confidence. For some, not feeling confident in how you look on the outside because of a skin condition can make it hard to feel the way you would like to when dating. Not feeling confident in yourself may keep you from wanting to put yourself out there altogether.
I turned to social media to find out how having a chronic skin condition impacts the way other people are navigating dating and relationships.
Emma, who has lived with vitiligo since she was 14 years old, felt exactly this way when she first started dating as a teenager. She shared that she found dating “horrible” until her early 20s. She told me about how bullying impacted how she felt about herself and her skin.
“[Living with vitiligo] made me feel paranoid and I hated myself. I did everything I could to hide it. I started wearing fake tan as it helped to disguise [it]… I didn’t even like boyfriends to see me without makeup and I felt ugly for a very long time.”
Emma found that embracing her skin condition was the key to finding the dating experience that she wanted.
“Since becoming more confident and accepting myself, I have ended up with an amazing man. At the same time, I know I would be good on my own now too… I talk openly about my vitiligo with everyone now because the more people who are aware of it, and understand it, the more normal it becomes.”
Skin conditions such as HS can throw another factor into the dating equation. HS is a long-term skin condition that can cause lesions and scarring all over the body. According to a 2020 study, HS is known to affect people’s sex lives, especially for those who have active or painful lesions in the groin or genitals.
Lindsay McGlone spoke about how she often found herself posting about her HS on platforms like Instagram in an effort to spread visibility and share her experience.
She shared, “I’d often post about it on social media as a way to raise awareness but to also show those who were potentially interested [in dating] that I had HS. I often thought that potential partners would think I’m dirty or contagious.”
Now, however, she feels free of shame, saying, “Skin conditions are highly underrepresented. I spent years feeling vile about mine — and I mean truly vile! People’s lack of understanding isn’t necessarily their fault.”
When she thinks about what advice she would give to those who are concerned or worried about dating with a skin condition, she suggests being open to questions.
“Be prepared for questions and allow questions. My partner said that he did research on Google and I was OK with that. Questions show that someone wants to learn and understand,” she said.
In a survey of dermatologies, 9 out of 10 said they think the psychological effects of skin conditions aren’t addressed enough.
With chronic skin conditions posing a range of effects on dating, from potential partners asking if you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) to lowered self-confidence affecting your libido, it’s important to normalize the prevalence and impact of skin conditions. We need to start relieving some of the pressures that make us feel like our external appearance determines our self-worth.
Ultimately, dating with a chronic skin condition is a very personal and individual experience. Everyone will approach and navigate dating differently. Some may use humor, some may want to talk about their condition before dating, and some may not want to discuss their skin condition at all.
McGlone believes that knowing your own worth is the best thing you can do while dating with a chronic skin condition: “You aren’t the only one. There are so many people living with skin conditions… Don’t give the time of day to those that judge you.”
For me, I’ve noticed that when my psoriasis flares, it’s far more distressing to me than it is to anyone else around me. My flares result in more physical pain and anxiety for me than it does negative attention from others.
Of course, this isn’t always the case with skin conditions, and I recognize that I am lucky that I experience less outward judgment than others may. Still, it’s difficult navigating a condition where my symptoms are so visible.
Being “seen” in this way has definitely caused me anxiety about not being seen as “perfect.”
I’m trying to remind myself that I would never judge anybody else in this way, so why should I hide myself away for not achieving that idea of perfection?
If somebody doesn’t want to learn about the many types of moisturizer I use (it’s a lot!) because they think my skin should be picture perfect without it, then they’re not going to be right person to have in my life.
The moral of the story? Swipe left if they’re not on board with valuing you, whether you have a skin condition or any other health concerns.
Medically reviewed on March 14, 2022
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