A-Z

Eczema (young people)

Jobs, work and eczema

Some of the young people were in full-time jobs currently, others had experience of part-time jobs before or during university, and others had not yet had a paid job. Those who had been to university often contrasted this with their current working lives. Most people said that eczema didn’t have a big impact on their work, but it could for others. Some people said that having a routine with a job actually helped them look after their eczema.
 

Aman finds he has more of a routine for looking after his eczema now he’s working.

View full profile
Age at interview: 23
Sex: Male
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
because you’re working, you adopt a different ethic to your life, because you know I’ve to be somewhere for a certain time, put some effort in and it affects the rest of how you behave because you know well if I have to get up at seven then I need to be in the shower for this time and I need to do this beforehand. So your routine becomes a bit more regimented than it would be otherwise. So university you could get up at whatever time you wanted and you wouldn't necessarily if you had five minutes to dash to a lecture be bothered as much about your skin. But I feel you probably are a lot more when you’re in your working life. 
 

Cat sleeps better now she’s working than when she was at university.

View full profile
Age at interview: 24
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I think sort of normally, just get into bed and like fall straight asleep, sort of like tire myself out. Like quite, I’ve got into quite a good routine now, obviously being at work helps cos you get more of a day routine. So, normally I get to bed and sort of straight sort of out, but I think when I was at uni, and you spend so long just like watching TV in bed and things like that, where yeah you sort of spend more time in bed just cos it's better than doing work. So I think yeah that was sort of difficult, and when it's like sort of time to go sleep and you're not really ready to go to sleep, and it's easier just to sit there and sort of itch and scratch, and things like that.

But yeah I think sort of since I started work it's just getting in a better routine. And sort of like, I don’t, I scratch during my sleep but I don’t know so, I just sort of yeah, as soon as my head hits the pillow, sort of out, it's quite nice.
 
Text onlyRead below

Maham thinks work-related stress is easier to compartmentalise than study-related stress.

View full profile
Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I do like to think the most stressful stuff in my life is in the past, when it comes to, because the other thing about studying is you internalise the stress and you take it home with you. Then you’re always thinking about, “Oh, I should be studying”, and the guilt never goes away.

Whereas I think with a professional sort of workspace it might be as stressful while you’re at the office but it’s not a stress that you internalise in the same way so you don’t feel guilty about not working because academic guilt is directly correlated with your, is directly related to your success they say, so if I don’t study I’m not gonna be successful. Whereas with work it’s if I don’t do this I’ll do it the next day, so it’s not that bad. And you kind of leave your stress at the office and you come back and then you go back the next day and you kind of pick up where you left off. It’s not like you go home from the office and then you’re also stressing about how you failed as human being and all of that stuff [laughs]
Appearance and ‘looking professional’

Some people said having eczema made it more difficult to ‘look professional’ in a work setting. This includes the look of eczema and limits on the types of clothes they could wear, for example if some fabrics triggered their skin. Aman worried about scalp eczema being visible on his clothes and keeps his facial hair neat. Some people were worried that they might be discriminated against in job interviews for having eczema. Shams thinks the appearance of his eczema was the reasons why he was once rejected from a retail job interview. Others thought it was less likely that eczema would be seen as a problem by employers. Evie pointed out that lots of people have other conditions, such as asthma, and are in employment. Katie-Lauren said that visible marks on the skin, including tattoos, are more accepted by employers.
 

Ele tries to keep the eczema on her hands covered at job interviews.

View full profile
Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 2
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
When I’ve been to job interviews and stuff I have, even though I know it shouldn't make a difference I sort of have made the effort to try and keep my hands covered as much as I can and I get very self-conscious about shaking hands with people because most people shake with the right so, and obviously that’s the hand that has, that I have the most troubles with and that’s the hand where sort of like if I grasp someone’s hand they’ll probably be able to feel the fact that my skin is often down right sharp were bits have sort of come away and it’s so dry but also going to shake hands with someone when you’re covered in moisturiser isn’t ideal so it’s just kind of like which would you prefer do you want me to stab you or get you all gooey, it’s up to you or you could just not shake hands at all but then I’d seem rude. So yeh it’s hard, it is quite hard to come across as being professional in a way because of, just because I'm very self-conscious about shaking hands and because I’m very conscious of how my skin looks and you know, you try to present yourself sort of well-dressed and everything, but you’re rocking up with either bits of skin peeling off or you’re just covered in moisturiser, it’s just doesn’t give off the most professional vibe in the world so.
 
Text onlyRead below

Sarah finds that looking smart for work can be difficult with eczema.

View full profile
Age at interview: 23
Sex: Female
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
It limits what you can wear. So if it’s on your legs you can’t really wear tights. That’s really bad for it. But then also if you’re trying to go to work and you can’t wear tights, you can’t really wear like nylon trousers, which are also like quite smart. So it’s quite difficult to look smart at work. Thankfully my job now has like a really relaxed dress code. But even like skinny jeans, they’re quite tight. Leggings are quite tight. So like you have to think quite creatively when you’ve got bad eczema on your legs, to think ‘what can I wear?’ And I think that’s the same like on your back and on your like, on your shoulders and your armpits. Like ‘what can you like wear to let it kind of breathe?’ But then like on my face I think that’s really difficult. Cos if it’s bad like you shouldn’t wear ma-, make-up. Like I don’t think I should wear make-up at all. I think I’m allergic to most of the things in make-up. So, yeah, you-, that’s like quite annoying sometimes. 

Not wearing make-up to work I sometimes feel like ‘oh, well, I look a bit tired and awful today. But it’s quite good. Like I’m not wearing make-up, so maybe the, that shows that like you don’t have to wear make-up all the time if you’re a girl’. I, I quite believe that. It’s something that, like one of my friends at uni never ever wore make-up. And I just thought like ‘I f-, I don’t even care like and nobody cares. And she’s so beautiful and nobody minds,’ like. And that kind of made me think ‘okay, maybe like we don’t have to wear make-up all the time if we don’t want to.’ And that’s something that I try to like do. And then you just feel really comfortable. And it takes much less time for you to get ready in the morning. So that’s quite good.
 
Text onlyRead below

Cat doesn’t feel there is much pressure on appearance in her work environment.

View full profile
Age at interview: 24
Sex: Female
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Being a quite male dominated environment as well it's not, you're not under that pressure, whereas in some other companies you might sort of be under pressure to either look good or something. It’s like, you brush your hair one day and they’ll be like, “Oh, you've dressed up,” I was like, "No, I've just brushed my hair actually." [laughs]. It's quite a nice environment and, yeah, everyone there’s really friendly and they're like if, you know, your health's suffering then, like work from home, or something like that which has got the flexibility to do that as well, which is quite nice; or come in late or leave early. So yeah I wouldn’t really say it sort of, it impacts my work. As I say when it gets a bit stressful at work it might sort of, obviously stress is a bit of a trigger. So, it's yeah, that, yeah, not at the moment it's not, but in the future if you sort of, as I get more responsibility it could end up sort of obviously being a bit more of a trigger or something, but just gotta learn to control. They sort of promote a good work life balance, so I think that’s quite a key sort of thing; sort of leave work and go home and you just completely forget about everything, so it's quite nice just to sort of like cut from one to the other.
Different types of jobs and related tasks

Some jobs were seen as more suitable for looking after eczema than others. Desk-based jobs were said to be better for applying emollients. Physically demanding tasks, for example, reaching and lifting stock, can be difficult when eczema is painful. 

Retail jobs have added worries about customers making rude comments about the person’s eczema. Some of Evie’s customers wrongly thought her eczema was contagious (that they could catch it). Anissa didn’t like working in a shop because she felt it was about “selling your image”. Shams is aware of the pressures on appearance in acting careers. Georgia preferred working in the back of a shop when she was feeling self-conscious about her skin. Catching customers looking at her eczema used to make Katie-Lauren feel anxious. Some young people found that working with children, such as teaching, meant being asked questions about their skin.
 

Shams wants to be actor but thinks it will limit the roles he can play.

View full profile
Age at interview: 18
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 7
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And I think that would kind of, applies to [bang] future jobs that I want because I really want to try my work at acting; I want to be an actor, but problem is…if my skin is let's say flared up on a certain day that means I can't do a role or can't do what I'm asked to be. Obviously the directors would just cut me off straight away; they’ll find someone else who is more dedicated and more stable in a sense of doing the job. That’s what sort of concerns me about getting future jobs.

Is that something that you’ve been able to speak to maybe like a careers advisor or somebody who's gone down that path of drama and acting?

I haven’t really met, aside from my drama teacher, who've mentioned that acting is inhibited by physical appearance. Although I have seen sort of a pattern of where actors need to look their best for certain roles and things, and I've always…cos I don’t look as physically perfect as others; I've always looked for imperfect roles to play. I remember when we had plays in schools I would try and play the villain – someone who had more justifiable for my sort of appearance [bang]. And it becomes really difficult trying to look for acting jobs that call for that sort of appearance. I remember looking for acting directories – people who are asking for jobs and looking at the sort of description of a person and finding that I don’t match it. And not just because of my skin colour or my height as such, but also my sort of skin condition.
 
Text onlyRead below

Abid felt more comfortable using a shop-bought moisturiser at work rather than a prescribed one.

View full profile
Age at interview: 24
Sex: Male
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I used to work at a desk job and had a small cream which was, which was branded and looked pretty okay but if you had like a huge tub of like hydrocortisone or some, some huge thing, people are gonna ask you questions and if you’re not comfortable with that then it might be worth, you know, just taking the ta-label off or just keeping it in your desk or whatever and just using a little at a time. It’s a shame that we have to do that but if you want to I guess have fewer conversations around that then  yeah just, just slip it into your lifestyle a lot easier yeah.
Jobs working with food, including waiting tables, were often mentioned. Shams pointed out that food industry jobs are popular with young people, but he wouldn’t feel comfortable applying for one. Some people worried about skin flakes falling into food they were making or serving. Ele had an upsetting experience with a customer refusing to let her serve food once. Others found the conditions involved triggered their eczema. Katie-Lauren was unable to do pot-washing because of her eczema. Alice’s waitressing uniform was all black and she would overheat, causing flare-ups.
 

Molly talks about her experiences of waitressing and working in a school.

View full profile
Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 4
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
My first job was waitressing and I remember being so mortified that I was serving food with like flaky skin falling off my face and obviously like I couldn’t cover it because I was asked to wear like black T-shirts so I had my arms out and my neck out and I remember being like, every time being so nervous someone would confront me and be like “That girl shouldn’t be serving food cos her skin”, because when it’s dry, obviously it comes off and that was really horrid and I was so aware of it whenever I was working. But other than that, no – I worked in a school on my year abroad and, with 11 year old boys, they have some nerve when speaking to adults and they would make remarks but like by then I could like stand up for myself and by then I’d be like “Actually like that’s really unfair and it’s completely out of my power and I could say just has horrible things about you and you’re facial figures which are equally out of your power” and that’s kind of, cos I was a teacher I was able to kind of take it back and like teach them a lesson and be like “You can’t say that”. 
A few people had been inspired by their experiences with eczema to think about medicine as a future career. Aadam wanted to be an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) for a while after feeling well supported by the medical staff treating his keratoconjunctivitis (eczema-related eye condition).
 
Text onlyRead below

George is interested in studying medicine at university.

View full profile
Age at interview: 17
Sex: Male
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Having eczema has, having a condition has also it’s kind of inspired me to do medicine because, because of having eczema I’ve seen a lot of doctors and I like what they do and I like them as people. And it would be nice to maybe because if I, if I did a medical degree I’d learn about eczema in more detail and that would be quite interesting. So that’s just a small aspect of why I’d want to do medicine. 
Having less energy or focus at work because of eczema-related lack of sleep was a concern.
 
Text onlyRead below

Lack of sleep because of eczema has an impact on Ele the next day.

View full profile
Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 2
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I’ve never managed it get used to operating on little sleep so I can sort of get by but I’m just a lot slower in pretty much everything and yeh it definitely affects my work, definitely I can definitely tell that I’ve had a bad night when I'm in work just because I’m so stupid when I’m sleep deprived, so stupid. And it is like, and then obviously I get worried because I'm not doing my usual standard of work and I’m going to annoy everyone and with doing just poor quality work and then I get stressed out about it and then my skin gets worse so it’s… so yeh it is just a lot of the time just thinking well I’ll just go to bed early tonight.
Triggers at work

Job-related triggers and other aspects of some workplaces were talked about, such as:
  • uncomfortable and itchy work uniforms
  • stress
  • increased caffeine intake (e.g. coffee, tea)
  • air conditioning and heaters
  • dusty rooms and equipment
  • exposure to fragranced products, including hand soap in shared toilets
 

Ele explains about the difficulties of having eczema on her hands, including after moisturising and with using soaps.

View full profile
Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 2
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Having to touch sort of a keyboard and a mouse when I've just put moisturiser on its it is inconvenient because it just gets everywhere because I, when I moisturise I sort of have to whack a fair amount on and it’s between kind of putting a load on and just sitting there rubbing it in or putting a little bit on rubbing it in, putting a little bit more on and then rubbing it in. 

And I found that doing it gradually takes a lot more time so just for speed sake I’ll just whack a load on and rub it into my hands but then obviously you’re having to touch things and also if, so many times I’ve still not gotten used to moisturising just getting it all rubbed in and then being like I’ve got to go to the bathroom. So obviously going in, just moisturised, I have to wash my hands. And also in work it’s they tend to go for sort of cheaper soaps so going, and obviously I’m going to use soap when I’d been to the bathroom because to not would just be grim but at the same time just looking at it oh this is not going to be good. So just from that sort of point of view just having to be so careful about what I use on my skin and with washing up as well, sort of having to do washing up without marigolds the sort of yellow gloves that just turns into a three act play because, you know, they use it and then it dries out my skin. And then I've got to moisturise some more and it’s just sort of everything has to be done, anything sort of to do with water and my hands I’ve got to factor in the fact that I'm going to have to moisturise after doing it. Which does get frustrating especially when you’re trying to do something quickly and leave it and also leaving a bathroom with wet hands is never an option, ever. 
 
Text onlyRead below

Georgia decided against training to become a vet because she’s allergic to animals.

View full profile
Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 4
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I know just from being in contact with animals that I’m allergic to even, we’ve had cats and dogs and, sorry, cats and rabbits and birds, and I’ve been allergic to all of them. I’d love to have pets. I love animals. I, when I was younger I wanted to be a vet. But with sort of the way my skin is, I know that couldn’t be, that wouldn’t be a possibility. Cos I’d suffer too much to, to be doing something like that.

Has it affected any other sort of career options or things you’d like to do?

No, not in, not in that respect, no. I think it’s, because it’s held me back a little bit, it’s made me more sort of thoughtful about what I want to do with, do with my life. Like I know I like to help people. But it’s helped me, I think sort of dropping out of my A-levels and having to have a think about what, what route I’d have to take it, in that respect it’s, it’s helped me mature a bit more and think whether that would be a suitable option for me in, for the kind of person I am.
Getting time off work

People sometimes needed time off work to attend medical appointments or because their eczema was particularly uncomfortable. Cat says her manager is understanding and lets her have time off for attending dermatology appointments. She thinks this might be harder for people whose jobs are paid on an hourly rate. Georgia worked part-time when she had phototherapy and scheduled her appointments around work. She says this was good because she wouldn’t have felt comfortable asking for time off. There have been two occasions when Gary has been unable to come into work because his eczema made it too painful for him to move. Naomi was allowed to go home from work when her eczema became very sore.

Emotions and support in the workplace

Young people appreciated having supportive employers and colleagues. Naomi says there have been times when she’s felt very low about her eczema, especially when it’s painful, and it’s helped to talk to her work colleagues. However, not everyone had positive experiences. Gary says that he doesn’t mind joking about his eczema with some colleagues but that some are mean and say unkind things. Most people said though that their co-workers and employers didn’t comment on their eczema though.
 
Text onlyRead below

Naomi is open about having eczema at work.

View full profile
Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
It doesn’t bother me that much here cos everyone knows I have it, I just tell em and they go, "OK," you know, and they just sort of…no-one…it's so normal to people now. When you say, "I've got eczema, I've got psoriasis." People go, "Oh," you know, it's not like they go, "[intake of breath] You have a skin issue?" You know it's not…even customers they don’t really bother, they don’t really…I used to be worried about them looking at it, but I told my friend and said, "Oh my god is that?" She said, "No not really, not from afar," but they don’t know you personally; that could just be a burn or something you’ve had and they're not…it's none of their business anyway. So, I wouldn’t say it would bother me. It was only if I was to work with food which would be an issue. Like I thought of going into like bartending; I've always loved to like work in a club or something; not in the food but around. Maybe it's fine around drinks if I'm pouring drinks for people, cos I love working around people, don’t want to be sat in an office cooched up doing nothing you know, typing away, which is what I technically do but, here it's more peopley – you know you’ve got people coming in.
donate
Previous Page
Next Page