Camille Knowles is the founder of The Beauty of Eczema, a line designed for eczema-prone skin. Here, she recounts her experience with the skin condition — including the time it landed her in the E. R. — and shares how her biggest insecurity became her life’s mission.
I developed eczema at the age of 6. As a child I remember being wrapped in bandages to cover my sore skin. I was a very happy child though; art and sports took my mind off my skin condition. But as I grew older, it started to bother me more and made me kind of shy and quiet. I remember once in computer class when I was 13, a friend asked if I was self harming. When I told him I scratched my skin at night, he couldn’t understand. Honestly, I couldn’t either.
By the age of 16, I was so fed up of sleepless nights, days off school and waking up in pain in my skin that I went on a mission to stop the flare-ups. This turned into very restrictive eating. Things got better for a while when I was at boarding school with an amazing group of friends. I was captain of the netball team and felt generally carefree. But at 18, when I started university, the flare-ups returned. I would skip lectures to read nutrition books and couldn’t seem to focus on anything but my skin. I felt like it was taking over my life.
At 21 is when it got really bad. I’d recently returned to the U.K. for a new job after studying abroad in California. The warm climate there had done wonders for my skin, but now I found myself in the middle of a very cold English winter. I felt increasingly stressed and started lacking sleep from scratching at night. The flare-ups took over my whole body. It got so severe that I would wake up in bed covered in my own blood. Even showering hurt. I also noticed my hair had begun falling out. But still, I’d get dressed every morning and try to put on a brave face at work.
This went on for about five months until my skin had become so raw and infected that one evening, my head swelled up to double its size. That’s when I realized how sick I had let myself become. I called my manager who lived around the corner since I didn’t know anyone else in the area.
He rushed me to the hospital and as the nurse took me into a room, I saw myself in a mirror and burst into tears. I held up a picture of me in California and said, “This is me. Please help me get back to me.” After some tests, I was told my inflammation markers were off the charts and that I was deficient in zinc. But as an adult living with this condition, my best-case scenario was steroids and antidepressants to cope.
I felt so exhausted from fighting to live a normal life with this skin that I had thoughts of giving up. All my life, I’d been prescribed steroid creams and tablets and antibiotics to deal with infections, and although these things would help for a while, the eczema always came back. I knew I didn’t want to live my life in and out of doctors’ offices, like I had growing up. I wanted to understand why my skin was flaring up like this.
I started searching online for someone who could help me and quickly found that millions of other people were suffering with sensitive skin like mine and had also lost hope. I decided, in that moment, that I would make it my mission to embody health, well-being and glowing skin, and then teach others how to do the same, too.
I got certified as a health coach and natural chef, and in 2018 I launched my brand, The Beauty of Eczema. As someone living with the condition, it had always been impossible for me to find products that were suitable for my skin but still looked beautiful and smelled nice and were full of high-quality natural ingredients. That’s how the range was born. I wanted those with sensitive skin to have the option of having pampering products that weren’t white and clinical looking, and that didn’t leave their clothes all greasy.
I made the packaging fun and pink because I know the depths of despair sensitive skin can bring. Our packaging represents the life you can live despite living with sensitive skin. You can lead a beautiful, vibrant, fun, joyful, luxurious existence. What I learned on my journey is that my skin was actually my superpower leading me toward my best life. Every time it was feeling more sensitive, it was a sign that I was out of alignment.
Now, I see my skin as a friend that nudges me when I need to take better care of myself. That could be through reducing stress, moving to my dream environment or prioritizing things that make me feel good. Whenever I listen to my skin, it glows. That’s why I called the line and my book The Beauty of Eczema. Because I truly see the beauty in it now and I want to empower others with sensitive skin to see the beauty in their skin, too. — as told to The Kit
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