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Karishma Leckraz's love of makeup runs deep. Growing up, she watched her mother put on makeup to get ready for work or for parties, and she knew she wanted to try it, too.
At 14, she began experimenting, and soon she was creating glam, ethereal looks on herself and others as a freelance makeup artist. She also happens to have eczema, a skin condition marked by chronic, itchy rashes. At the time, her eczema was only prominent on her arms and legs, and it didn't bother her much.
But when she was 16, her flare-ups appeared on her face. "I worried I'd never be able to wear makeup again," Leckraz, 27, tells Health. Leckraz, also known as @yasitskrishy, tried virtually every cream and remedy in search of something to manage her eczema, before realizing they simply didn't work for her.
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London-based Leckraz, who is of South Asian descent, often felt ostracized by her family, since her condition left dark patches on her skin. "Because eczema can cause quite a bit of hyperpigmentation, I have patches of different colors of brown everywhere on my body, especially on my neck at the moment," Leckraz says, adding that she naturally has the darkest skin tone in her family. "It's quite hard because especially in my culture, being lighter-skinned is adored. It's what everyone seems to strive for."
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Instead of battling eczema in silence, she decided to speak about the skin condition on her personal Instagram community last November—leading to an overwhelmingly positive response. "When I put out my first post talking about it, I just threw my phone away for the day because I was absolutely terrified of what the response could be like," remembers Leckraz. "The response was so great and people were so kind. It's helped me talk more about it, show more of my skin, and [explain] the effects that I've had to go through." And with the positive response came more makeup requests.
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After one particularly painful eczema flare-up earlier this month, Leckraz decided to use it for makeup inspiration—creating her own take on the ever-popular "cut crease" look. Her take uses special-effects makeup to mimic the appearance of an eczema flare-up, especially the cuts and scarring the skin condition causes.
The look definitely struck a chord, and she received 60 comments from eczema sufferers who said they can relate. "I would love for people to recognize that we all deserve to be part of the beauty community," says Leckraz. "Our skin doesn't determine who we are or what our skills are."
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Through painstaking patience and self-care, Leckraz came up with a skincare routine that keeps her skin calm and smooth, allowing her to still create the makeup looks she loves. But she hasn't been flare-free, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic started. "I've found that stress and anxiety is a big flare for me," says Leckraz. "As soon as I get a little bit worried or anxious, I go straight to scratching."
So she turns to mindfulness practices like yoga, deep breathing, and meditation to help her find her center when she's having a flare. She also looks to the love and care of the eczema community online she found after she went public with her story. "We always share tips and advice with each other—though what works for someone else may not work for others. We're all just looking for something to ease the pain a little bit."
Leckraz wants others dealing with a chronic skin condition to know that they're never alone nor have anything to be ashamed of. "Before, I was so frustrated about not having that representation out there for others with skin like mine, thinking we have to hide because of that," says Leckraz. "I want people to take into account that we all should be included, and there's nothing wrong."
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