Influencers Insecurities About Eczema Become Her Strength

‘Skincare Is My Self-Care’: How a Beauty Blogger Manages Eczema

As a full-time actor, model, and social media influencer, Esther Hong loves expressing her personality on camera. And as a Gemini, she has many personalities.

“I’m known as the wild card of my group,” says Hong, of Brooklyn, New York. “You never know which Esther you’re going to get for the day, but whichever Esther you do get, she’s always a vibe.”

Hong wasn’t always so comfortable in front of a camera (or smartphone), though. She’s one of the 16.5 million adults in the United States who have atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema that causes itchiness, dry skin, and skin discoloration, according to the National Eczema Association.

Now 25, Hong was first diagnosed with eczema when she was just 5 years old, after her parents noticed rashes on her arms, hands, and feet that weren’t going away. Even today, the first place eczema appears is on her arms; patches also appear on her eyes, Cupid’s bow, and neck.

“It’s an itch that you can’t get rid of,” she says. “No matter how hard you scratch or what you put on, it just feels like a fiery spot on your body.”

At times, these symptoms took a toll on Hong. There were days when she didn’t want to leave her house. She’s even canceled gigs because a breakout appeared on her face.

“A lot of people talk about acne and how it affects them,” says Hong, “but no one ever talks about eczema.”

#NoFilter: Becoming an Influencer on Social Media — Despite Eczema Outbreaks

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She started out by testing and reviewing skin products but quickly realized they were triggering eczema flare-ups. And posting videos without filters left Hong feeling vulnerable. “All I could see is the eczema,” she says.

Because of that, eczema limited Hong’s ability to experiment with certain looks and express herself creatively on these platforms. That realization, she says, “definitely took a toll.”

One day, though, Hong decided to flip the script with her social media presence. She ditched the filters and started posting videos of what eczema looks like for her and how she manages it. “Instead of hiding that side of me, I decided to bring it to light,” she says.

“I think social media today has really glamorized this perfect image of what it means to be beautiful,” Hong says. “And I just always wanted to be an advocate for beauty beyond the perfect look. … I don’t want to be portrayed in a perfect image but to be seen as someone who was able to overcome those insecurities and be proud of the self that I am today.”

On Set With Eczema: Getting Camera Ready Without Triggering a Flare-Up

In 2020, Hong made her career switch. She loves acting, but it requires makeup almost all the time. Wearing a full face of makeup for the camera, especially for long stretches of time, can exacerbate her eczema.

Through a bit of trial and error, Hong has learned how to prevent a flare-up while doing what she loves most. When she’s on set, she brings her own makeup, which is easier on her skin. Taking steps like washing her face before camera makeup is applied and removing that makeup as soon as each gig is over have really helped her manage. On days when Hong can’t remove the makeup right away or stick to her skin-care routine, she does experience some swelling around her eyes and cracking on the skin of her lips.

“My body starts to feel the effects of the makeup on my face,” she says. “My skin starts to basically crack. I can feel the moisture slowly dripping from my skin.”

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Regardless, Hong has no regrets about quitting her 9-to-5 job to pursue her dream of working in entertainment.

“Eczema has definitely made me question whether or not this industry is for me, simply because I have to be in front of a camera all the time,” she says. “But I have found that my personality always pulls through and allows me to break through those times where I feel like this may not be for me.”

It also helps that conventional beauty standards are changing, she says. “Media today is doing a way better job at targeting those with diverse backgrounds,” she says. “I feel like today more than ever, I’m able to show exactly that to people. … I’m still considered an actress in today’s world being just me.”

All images provided by Esther Hong

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