Guest Blogs


Mind over matter

Mind over Matter: Ellie & Eczema


Six years ago; if you had asked me what Eczema was I would have told you a mild irritating patch of skin that you can pop cream onto and it will disappear. I’m sure most of the general population think this too.

Why wouldn’t they?

My own perception of eczema changed six weeks after my daughter was born. She was perfectly healthy when she was born, breast fed like a champ and we had no complications. Physically, everything was going along nicely until she hit six weeks old and the red, itchy “monster” started creeping over my daughter’s face until it covered every inch. Here our long, eczema journey began. I’m going to fast-forward now through six years of infections, appointments, broken nights, lotions, potions and hospital stays. Let’s skip past the emotional toils, the blood stained clothing, the medications and the self-doubt.

We were at a stage where my daughter wasn’t able to go to sleep without me physically observing or restraining her to some capacity. The journey to sleep time had turned from a time of day into dread. Sleep time brings the itching to the surface and whilst drifting, her sub conscious self would let go of all of the itching and scratching she had held in through out the day. At this point, she was prescribed a large dose of a sedative antihistamine called Hydroxyzine. Though this medication worked to some extent, it came with morning hangovers, dry mouth and tooth decay. She also was developing a tolerance to it. It was around this stage that I had become involved with various research studies and I found myself becoming engrossed in academic papers about Eczema.

Anything to find a cure, right?

I stumbled across a paper by Dr. Joachim Heinrich which stated that children who have eczema beyond the age of 2 were more likely to be susceptible to mental health problems in the future. I realised there and then, in my quest to ensure my child was physically healthy, I had to ensure she was mentally healthy too.

This is when I introduced mindfulness and meditation to her when she was five years old. I know how much meditation has helped me control my own anxiety and I was confident that providing her with a guided, relaxation/meditation at bed time would provide enough distraction and allow her to fall into a more calmer sleep. I’m pleased to say it has worked, my daughter rather than being heavily medicated in the evening is now (we joke) heavily meditated and it works for us.

What else does mindfulness do for her?

We work on mindful exercises to help reduce anxiety meltdowns, which more often than not would create widespread itching, which would make her bleed. So we distract by getting her to tell us 5 things: 5 things she can see, 4 things she can hear, 3 things she can smell, 2 things she can taste and 1 thing she can touch. This is just a small example of what we do.

A year into this, my daughter still has severe eczema and a few other skin conditions but she is now has the emotional coping skills she needs to manage it. She is thriving emotionally and socially despite her physical symptoms and I’m confident that she is going to carry this forward growing up.

My vision is to deliver sessions to other children with eczema. To invest in the mental health of these children, to boost self-esteem and give them the emotional coping skills they need for this world of ours. It won’t make the itching go away but it will help them along the way to cope with their symptoms as adults.

By Kate Henaghan-Sykes





Ellie’s Journey to a Happy Ever After:

Nottingham Support Group for Carers of Children with Eczema:






Acne & I

Acne & I : An anonymous submission 


During my teenage years I was hounded by skin problems. From the age of about eleven my face had a cycle of going through bad to very bad acne. At the beginning friends and siblings made fun of me, called me names and said I was unhealthy, but as the years went by everyone my age experienced something like this and had a bit more understanding. I never stopped feeling self- conscious about it though and sometimes I went to extreme lengths to try and get rid of it. My aunt suggests rubbing my face really hard with a sponge, which made me look as if I had scraped my head against the wall. Another friend suggested putting toothpaste on the affected areas, which really dried my skin out and probably, wasn’t the healthiest solution. Eventually I just accepted it as one of those inevitable problems of youth. It made me feel unattractive and disgusting, but I settled into it.

When I was 16 I hit a pretty bad patch of depression. I imagine my skin problem was apart of it, I had this horrible perception of myself that wouldn’t really budge. When my panic attacks began I decided, very quietly, to visit the doctor. It is important to tell a professional, see it like a physical problem. Anyway, I went to the doctor and he instantly saw the link between my skin and emotional problems. He gave me a range of options and methods to treat my acne. He prescribed me some pills that worked very well, I mean they didn’t completely get rid of it, but the cycles changed to good to less good.

My mental health did improve after this, of course my depression didn’t just disappear but I did feel better. These things take time, today, at the age of 25, depression and anxiety attacks still come and go as they do for a lot of people. But by focusing on your breathing, and taking control of your mind, you can observe, apply logic, and accept it as a part of life that will eventually pass. Talking to people also helps, even if you do not have anyone you can really speak to there are plenty of organisations, such as the Samaritans, who will listen to you.


When we genuinely love and accept self

When we genuinely love and accept self


By Ogo Maduwesi


A few months ago, I got a call from a man whose wife is living with Vitiligo and we met in their city in two days. They met me that evening in the hotel lobby and whilst I talked with her husband, she sat there staring at me, the husband assured me that he is neither disturbed nor worried about her vitiligo, but would want to know if there are helpful treatments and some self-help guides. I found him a very positive man, I was really impressed with his positivity and approach to all (yes a very positive one in the society I live), I commended him on that, but he wouldn’t accept he is that positive. This is one trait I found out about people who are genuine and real, they have a great attitude and are really quite humble.

Suddenly she called my attention to her spots and patches with the wife speaking for the first time. The spots and patches were not on the exposed areas of her body but she was going to show them to me there in the lobby. I had to smartly stop her. I noticed the husband was surprised at the wife being so open and free with me but did not say a anything. They took their leave at about the same time, as I walked them to the door; she leaned on me and asked:

“How do you do it? How can you talk boldly and confidently? Is there something I need to do to be able to stand like you?”. She continued, “I am so happy meeting you, knowing that there is someone I can talk to that understands exactly what I am going through, “It’s been hard for me, really hard that I find it difficult taking off my clothes before or around him, I feel so unhappy and ugly”.

All I could do at the point was to extend my hands for a hug and then I said to her, you are so lucky, you have a very supportive and appreciative husband who seems to accept and love you as you are. Then she whispered, how am I sure? What if he is just acting? Sadly, he heard it and that broke the husband’s heart, he asked, “How possible?”. He was trying to control his tears as his voice had already been shaky. This is the part I always wish it doesn’t get to when counselling or discussing with married couples.

This brings me to my topic “When we genuinely love and accept self”. The expression above is one I have heard from different couples, more from women. What makes people feel that way? I mean, doubting their loved ones even when they show all love and affection?

Here is what I think and believe having been working in this area for years, until we accept and love ourselves, we will continue to feel insecure and socially excluded. Now I know very well that this is not an easy path yet it is the only path to win the situation. For as long we continue to doubt and question compliments and good endeavors, we will never accept nor believe in us because we can only give what we have. We often times look at others and conclude that their life is perfect and we desire it, yet every human I know is struggling with something directly or indirectly. The beauty queens, the movie stars and celebrities are all inclusive.

The happiness, self-peace, love and acceptance we seek, all begins with us. Truly, when we genuinely love and accept self we worry or bother less about what the next person thinks. Self-acceptance brings happier life, true freedom, the freedom to live above societal expectations, demands and pressures.

I personally think it’s the best gift anyone and any person can give self. When you have accepted you, you become a more confident person, you become more appreciative, you become healthier, you heal, you look younger. Then what any other thinks about your appearance becomes the least of your worries. After all, we all have our individual styles, perceptions, imperfections and flaws. That the society feels that a particular hairstyle is the best of the moment doesn’t make it the best, please go with your own style, go with what works for you and that which makes you happy and comfortable. Armed with self-love and self-acceptance, walking your style will be effortless and when you do, you exhume self-confidence, amazing self-esteem and you conquer social exclusion, no person can possibly exclude you socially when you love and accept yourself.

Then, I saw this quote a few days after the encounter with my friend “Self love has often been seen as a moral flaw, akin to vanity and selfishness” –  B. Kirkpatrick ed., Roget’s Thesaurus (1998) p. 592 and p. 639

Written by

Ogo Maduewesi



  • Founder/CEO

Vitiligo Support and Awareness Foundation VITSAF

  • Founder/CEO

Outer Shell Africa – Skin and Appearance Social Lab


“Vitiligo: A Different Type of Beauty”

“Vitiligo: A Different Type of Beauty”

By Natalie Ambersley


V-I-T-I-L-I-G-O is by far, the one thing I thing I give the most thought. Like most, I see my skin first thing in the morning, throughout the day as I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and last thing at night. Most people probably don’t give their skin a second thought, which is what makes me different because my skin tells a story. A story of a difficult past that journeyed towards self-acceptance and a more positive future.

Five years ago, it was a word I hated. Everything that surrounded Vitiligo was negative – the stares, the judgements and the inquisitive questions I struggled to answer. It was an ugly word that stripped me of confidence. I didn’t want to talk about it. Instead I chose to ignore it, praying that one day it would go away.

I developed Vitiligo when I was 2 years old, an age where I couldn’t even say the word, let alone understand how it would impact me later in life. Its life started as a small spot on the back of my hand, no bigger than a ten pence piece. It was relatively unnoticeable and didn’t cause me any pain.

As the months progressed, so did the spot. It started to expand rapidly, eventually spreading to my arms, legs and worst of all, my face. By the time I was 4 years old, my once caramel coloured skin was 70% white.

The process to diagnose me wasn’t an easy one. My parents visited my GP twice and it was only on the second visit, that my GP casually suggested it was “Vitiligo” because he was still uncertain if it really was that. Vitiligo was a relatively unknown condition when I was a child and so a confident diagnosis by a GP wasn’t common. It was only when I was referred to a Dermatologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, that it was confirmed as Vitiligo, and that it was incurable. My parents were devastated.

Being mixed race, my porcelain white patches were a stark contrast against my brown skin. But that didn’t matter because I was none the wiser. Body confidence and beauty stereotypes weren’t something that existed in my innocent world.

My parents refused to cover me up and have anyone treat me differently. They dressed me in shorts and t-shirts during the summer and allowed me to wear a swimsuit on holiday. My patches were exposed for all to see. Automatically, my skin became the easiest thing to target. I was occasionally called a ‘cow’ or ‘zebra’ by the other kids, which made me a little sensitive, but I tried to remain strong by ignoring such jibes.

Fortunately, during my primary years, I didn’t give my skin much thought, as everyone in my community knew I had Vitiligo. It was my teenage years where things turned sour. I began to self-hate as I started to take note of the barrage of images around me ‘teaching’ me what ideal beauty looked like. I developed an unhealthy attitude towards my appearance and refused to have my skin on show. I covered myself in camouflage makeup, fake tan and the clothes I wore. I hated what I saw in the mirror. I hated that I was different and obsessed about not fitting in with my friends.

Now in my thirties, I’ve finally learned to embrace my indifferences. I came to realise we live in a world where beauty is very distorted and the images we are forced to consume, aren’t a true representation of what beauty is. In fact, I feel somewhat embarrassed that I allowed magazines, air brushed celebrities and social media to define what beauty was to me.

My biggest challenge has been learning to accept myself and not seeing my Vitiligo as a “flaw”. I spent many years allowing my skin dictate who I was. I avoided the ordinary things in life such as swimming, dating and beach holidays with friends. Nothing else about my existence mattered … my nice personality, warm heart, gentle nature…everything revolved around having Vitiligo.

I love that I have a uniqueness and that its shaped who I am, and now that I accept me, my future as a girl with Vitiligo is a much more positive one.






Accepting Alopecia Areata

Accepting Alopecia Areata

By Jeanna Olsen


Most people thought I was happy, and why would they think any different?

I was 21, having an incredible time at University in Leeds and I was always busy. I had amazing friends and family and I had the world at my feet. Life was good.

The truth was I was struggling.

I was experiencing a flare up of Crohn’s disease, an invisible illness which when it’s at its worst is completely debilitating. In order to avoid major surgery I was advised to start taking new medication. Naturally I jumped at the chance, unaware that my life was about to change forever, as this is the day I would start losing my hair.

I developed small bald patches all over my scalp. In a panic I stopped taking the medication and doctors told me it was likely to grow back within weeks. This was not the case.

The patches continued to spread and by the time of my major surgery I had lost 20% of my hair. Thankfully, I was still able to hide it at this point, but my self-esteem was unbearably low. I felt like I was losing control of my body and my mind.

I became very ill after my surgery and had to stay in hospital twice as long as intended. It was here that mentally and physically I was at rock bottom. My hair littered the hospital bed. The nurses had to help me shower as I was in too much pain and too weak to move. I remember masses of my matted hair spilling down my back, filling the plughole. I had never felt so exposed and vulnerable.

During recovery my hair continued to fall, the front of my hair was disappearing at a drastic rate. I went to the doctors for answers when the heart breaking news was revealed. It wasn’t the medication, which caused the hair loss. I had Alopecia Areata.

My heart sank, I refused to believe her, I was devastated. What made it worse was that she couldn’t answer any of my questions. I had no idea why I had been dealt this card, when, or if it would ever grow back or how much I’d lose. Her only advice was don’t stress about it as it makes it worse. I found this to be impossible, especially when considering the importance of appearance in the superficial society we live in.

I bought myself a wig, but still, looking in the mirror was a daily struggle and I felt disgustingly ugly and repulsed by my own appearance. Day by day my bald patches would grow, whilst any hope I had of my hair returning was fading. I had lost approximately 70% of my hair I looked extremely ill and bald. Trying to hide my depression from my loved ones was proving more difficult and people were starting to see through my forced smile.

Thankfully, graduating University and travelling through Australasia encouraged the regrowth of all of my hair. Clearly this was the much needed break that my body had needed. My smile was no longer forced. I felt well for the first time in years. Life was good.

My hair was almost all back to its original length when looking for work sparked the relapse of my hair loss. It would be a lie if I said that the second time round wasn’t equally as heart breaking. The only difference this time was that I knew how to control it. I understood that stress was my main trigger and it encouraged me to look after myself more. I am however, still losing hair to this day.

It has taken me over 5 years but I have now learnt to accept and live with this condition. Of course I still get frustrated, but I have finally reached a point where it no longer controls my mental state and through the experience I have gained wisdom and strength.

I often feel guilty for being upset about hair loss, as physically Alopecia Areata is harmless, however the effects the diagnosis had on my mental health before I found acceptance were catastrophic. I tend to blame the judgemental, superficial society which have found ourselves living in. I can’t help but worry for future generations who will be diagnosed in the social media driven world that thrives on perfection.

Personal experience and losing a close friend to suicide has taught me that it is normal to feel low and more importantly it is vital that you seek help. The sooner you do so the quicker the looming grey cloud can clear and your mind and body can find peace.

Even as an optimist I am aware that life will bring us loss, grief and new challenges, but to others who are suffering with hair loss I urge you to view it as a gift. One which not everyone has been blessed with. Alopecia is a visual indication that something in our lives is not quite right.

Use it! Trust your body, give it what it needs. Find your confidence. Surround yourself with good people. Have hope.

This way Alopecia may have control of your hair, but it cannot control your mind.



Anxiety of Starting a New Job

My outfit was sorted, I had read up thoroughly on the company I was about to work for and my route was planned for the journey to my first day of my new job. I felt confident in my ability to do the job, I felt comfortable with the people I had already met at the office, but one thing played on my mind. My skin.

The night before my first day, I must have tried on at least ten outfits, trying to find the right one to mask the flakes of skin that fall profusely from my scalp each day. I decided on a patterned wrap dress with a white blazer which would be sure to camouflage the flakes! I find that patterned clothes and pale colours work well in giving me confidence as they mean that my psoriasis isn’t prominently displayed on my body in the form of small white dots of skin. Often, a black dress will come to resemble a black and white spotty dress from the back thanks to the graceful fall of flakes with each movement of my head and each swish of my hair.

Back to work. It is a lovely office, not far from the banks of the river Tyne so the walk to and from work is a delight. All who work there are incredibly friendly and welcoming and the KFC at the end of the road is a tempting treat on a Friday afternoon!

The fact I had mentioned my psoriasis during my interview when describing ways I manage my workload and stress (meditation and exercise) made me feel more at ease about it on my first day. When I was shown my desk I was pleased to see it was by the window, with natural light, overlooking Byker Bridge. However, the second thing I thought was how my back would be facing the rest of the office. Silly thoughts ran through my mind, worrying about what people would think, and throughout the day I regularly checked my shoulders for flakes, brushing them off if necessary. By the end of the day, my red, swivel chair looked like a snowstorm had hit! That evening, there was an assessment session for applicants for another role. As the day was ending, my colleague was setting up the chairs ready for the session. I had two options: try to hide my chair and the shedload of skin on it, or address it.

I said to my colleague that she probably would not want to use my chair as it was peppered with skin which might put the applicants off! I didn’t want to be extremely serious as I prefer laughing about it as it makes me more comfortable. She laughed too and we carried on with our conversation.

I used to feel far more anxious about situations like this, but after twelve years of living with this condition, I have become more comfortable with discussing it with other people. However, sometimes I can still feel that old familiar pang acheter viagra of embarrassment if someone mentions it or if I have to explain it to someone. I made a note to talk to the lady who cleans our office the following morning, asking if she would vacuum my chair when she did her cleaning routine. I came in the following morning and it was free from flakes. She did it without me even asking – discretely and professionally. I was thankful as it would save me the embarrassment of asking her myself.

Since then I have become far more comfortable at work and am much less aware of my skin. I continue to wear patterned clothes and light colours that give me more confidence. Make-up is an essential tool as well. Last week, I got my trusted full fringe cut back in to cover the psoriasis on my forehead and now I am feeling far more confident!

The advice I would give to anyone starting a new job and feeling anxious about their skin condition is to be open about it from the start. If it is appropriate, talk about it during your interview. You will not come across confidently if you are thinking about your skin or trying to hide it. Don’t be afraid to address your condition. A chronic condition is part of you and should be seen as such. If there is any way your workplace can adapt your working environment to accommodate your condition then take that opportunity.

Once you have got the job, if it helps, think about your outfits. Personally, I find clothes give me a huge amount of confidence. Patterned clothes and pale colours work well in disguising the shed skin.

Ultimately, focus on the job you are doing. People of all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life go to work each day to do a job. You would be surprised how many people do not notice things that you spend hours agonising and worrying over. Each and every person has their own personal ups and downs that they deal with every day. Often people will be too focused on their own issues to think about anyone else’s.

Be proud of the skin you are in, for beauty is found in everyone and everything!


Vitiligo: Matthew

Art from Matthew


Vitiligo: Matthew

My name is Matthew, and I have vitiligo. I was a young child, around the age of 6, when I first started to notice it, and by the time I was 9 years old the white blotches had spread over my entire body. I remember in grade school I used to be so self conscious about it, always pulling my long shirt sleeves over my fingers, hoping that nobody would notice it. The blotches on my eyelids are a purplish-white color, so people would always ask if I was wearing eye shadow. Once I got to high school I became much more comfortable taking my shirt off, especially playing sports, and that was a way for me to show people that I have a skin disorder and it really doesn’t bother me. Now I’m completely open to discuss my vitiligo, and I even spoke about it in a presentation for one of my classes. I used to want so badly to get rid of it, and while the sunburn really sucks, I’ve realized that my vitiligo is something that makes me unique.


This image was provided as part of  the Painting Vitiligo Project from Sue Mills. Thank you to Matthew for sharing his artwork with us. We hope you enjoy the the paintings as much as we do.

For more details about Sue’s work please visit her website:

Twitter: @suecurlymills


Vitiligo Art – Sue Mills

Art from Sue Mills


We recently received some charming artwork from Sue Mills who paints to spread awareness of the skin condition vitiligo.

We here at Mind & Skin embrace creative artwork with our young persons support service Be.You. We believe that artistic creativity can come in many forms, whether it be drawing, colouring, painting, writing and photographing. Being creative is a great outlet to expressing your feelings, thoughts and ideas, especially negative thoughts may sometimes crowd your mind. It may also help you to make sense of the world around you and your experiences within it.

In Sue’s own words:

“The Painting Vitiligo project was started to spread awareness of the skin condition vitiligo, which Sue was diagnosed with at 32.  Vitiligo affects around 1% of the world’s population and causes loss of pigment turning it totally white, usually in patches all over the body. People from around the world have got in touch and shared their photos showing the condition, which have then been turned into portraits. Some have inclued their stories about their condition to help send a positive message on how they manage with vitiligo.  Supporters of the project include The British Skin Foundation, The Vitiligo Society and The Vitiligo Project.”

I would like to say a special thank you to Sue for her time and for sharing her artwork with us. We hope you enjoy the the paintings as much as we do.



I would like to say a special thank you to Sue for sharing her creative talent and raising awareness of the skin condition vitiligo. For those of you whom might be more interested in Sue’s work, her details can be found below:

Sue’s website is:




Christmas message & 2016


I enjoy this festive period as I can reflect back on what has been achieved during the year.

As 2015 is coming to a close, we end the year much stronger in being able to serve our beneficiaries. Despite our small size and all members of staff being volunteers with full time employment, we launched community drop in support groups and a young person’s support service called Be.You. Inherent in all of our objectives is the aim to promote communication between health practitioners, doctors, academics and patients. On both our website and Be.You. service you can find blogs, creative artwork, academic and advisory articles from all areas of the community.

This is the evidence that we have shown progression and are moving forward as a charity.

I hear frequent calls of support from all areas of psychodermatology and I am moved by what I hear. I can assure you that we at Mind & Skin are determined and focused to improve the current landscape for dermatology patients. We will develop and we will define ourselves further.

Next year we have plans for much greater growth. We are currently organising a small series of podcasts with health practitioners and dermatology patients, expansion of community support groups (London & Newcastle) and skin camouflage open day services. We will notify you when these services are ready. In addition, we also have a secret project being developed. It is both exciting and innovative.

In order for us to expand on our plans and services for 2016 we need your help. Your donations are absolutely vital to our work. To put it simply, your donations equate to community services. All donations make a big difference whether it is £1 to £50. Please help us.

Donation can be made via:


I will be attending the PsychodermatologyUK conference in January. I look forward to presenting and meeting you all.

To all of our volunteers, supporters and social media supporters. I appreciate your efforts, time and donations you have given to us. Thank you.

I hope you all have a great holiday, Christmas and new year.









Our website and social media links:

FB: Mind&Skin

Twitter: @mindandskinUK





Millefeuille: A powerful short film at The Electric Cinema

‘A measure of flour, a packet of butter and a spoonful of hope’ is the tagline of this stunning short film I had the pleasure of seeing last week.

The special preview at The Electric Cinema in London, was an opportunity for industry professionals, film-makers, charity workers, pharmaceutical companies and patients of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, to see Millefeuille.

Millefeuille, made by Turtle Canyon Films in association with Bedrock Healthcare Communications, follows the protagonist, a French pastry chef, Elodie, as she struggles to cope with her psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis in a new environment. She has recently moved to London and befriends a young neighbour, Holly, who brightens her life and offers her hope.

The twenty minute film manages to pack a real emotional punch and accurately captures the feeling of isolation often felt by psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis sufferers. As a sufferer of psoriasis myself, I identified with aspects of the protagonist, Elodie, played in a beautifully subtle way by Anne Parillaud. A particularly moving moment in the film was when Elodie looks in the mirror and sees the psoriasis on her scalp and face much more severe than others see it, a situation all too familiar to myself and thousands of others I’m sure.  The film itself doesn’t solely focus on the condition. It is rather, a story about a friendship that can provide happiness and relief to an aspect of life people may struggle with, in Elodie’s case, her psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

In a Q&A session after the screening, Parillaud said that while playing Elodie, she discovered how much of an ‘emotionally overwhelming disease’ psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis can be and how it can affect the brain just as much as the body. However, acclaimed rheumatologist, Dr Lubrano, who was also on the panel, offered his insight, saying that the two characters in the film were ‘two sides of the same coin, the reality of the disease, and the hope we can find it and in others.’

The producer of the film, David Youds, said that clinical definitions of the disease are based on what we see and not on what patients feel. Indeed, Millefeuille focuses on both the physical and the psychosocial impact of this disease. His aim, through his work with Bedrock Healthcare Communications, is to develop ‘edutainment’ which aims to ‘thrill engage and teach audiences across healthcare issues.’

Millefeuille does just that; rather than being a didactic educational film, it tells a moving story of human relationships, struggle and hope, things which all of us, psoriasis or no psoriasis, experience throughout our lives.  It sheds further light on the condition, demonstrating the personal struggle of the protagonist, but focuses on the positivity of enduring and dealing with the condition with strength, hope and confidence.

With a European cast, this film has the potential to reach a wide international audience. Distribution plans have yet to be finalised, but I do hope that those outside of the capital will be able to see this film as it deserves to be screened across the country and further afield. With 19 million people across Europe suffering with the disease, surely we all deserve to see this gem of a film as it will no doubt offer hope and comfort to those millions.