Dana R. Jackson was living what many people would consider the good life in Atlanta as an entertainment business manager, guiding entertainers in making smart business and personal financial decisions. Then, in January 2011, after battling cystic acne on and off since high school, she found herself seeking the expertise of a dermatologist because her “skin was breaking out like crazy.”
Offered a prescription for an antibiotic called Bactrim, Jackson found her hope for relief turned into despair. “As soon as I started taking it, I was having nightmares and my joints were locking up and my face was swelling. I woke up one morning and my eyes were swollen shut,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Jackson immediately stopped taking Bactrim per her doctor’s orders and started treating the side effects with hydrocortisone shots. “After three weeks of shots, I wasn’t getting better. They told me I should get an ANA [antinuclear antibody] test because I might have lupus,” she says. “I took the ANA test, and it came back positive, and from there I needed to get tested for lupus.”
While waiting for the test results, she reflected on the general state of her health. Plagued with the type of fatigue where Jackson “could sleep the whole day and still be tired,” migraine headaches that were becoming more frequent, and now skin issues, she hadn’t considered that it could all be part of a larger problem.
By the time a Houston-based physician diagnosed Jackson with the most severe form of lupus (lupus nephritis), she had lupus rashes that stretched from her face to thighs and was told she would need dialysis and eventually a kidney transplant. Jackson admits, “I was still not accepting what was happening. I would start taking the steroids the doctors had me on, and then I’d stop again.”
She flew back to Atlanta and made a salon appointment to have her hair extensions removed. “Most of my hair came out with it,” says Jackson. “My stylist was in tears and I was trying to be strong, but when I got in the car I broke down. My hair had been long all my life, and now I’m realizing how superficial it was that losing my hair hit me harder than potentially losing a kidney!”
Jackson sank into a deep depression. She locked herself inside her apartment, ordered grilled cheese sandwiches and French fries every day for two weeks because she was too “embarrassed to leave the house,” and stopped answering phone calls that weren’t related to work.
“My mother called the concierge in my building to have them knock on my door to see if I was alive. I didn’t want to be. I contemplated jumping off my balcony so many times,” she says.
Jackson first became “sickly skinny” and later “gained 100 pounds in water weight.” She compares her latter appearance to the Michelin Man: “My skin was stretched so tight that it hurt to touch it.”
She admits to being very angry at God in the early stages of battling lupus. Jackson explains, “I felt like I was being punished for something, like I must have been a bad person. I went through the ‘Why me?’ phase. I felt like I had already lived through the toughest times in my life when I was younger. I felt like God must not love me to keep putting me through stuff.”
But once Jackson started drawing closer to God, she was determined to stop making excuses and not just exist. “After I accepted that this was happening to me, and that I was not going to just lay down and die, I was going to do whatever I had to do,” she says.
Jackson traveled to Los Angeles to undergo chemotherapy. There she learned how to cook vegan food, started “boiling and drinking the most bitter Chinese herbs,” and did a “lot of spiritual and mental healing.”
As her mental and physical health improved, Jackson was inspired to repair the damage that was done to her skin and hair. “I wanted to be extremely careful about what I was putting on my skin. I’d never treated my skin like an organ prior to this. When I looked online for products to combat all the effects from lupus and the medications I was on, I couldn’t find anything I wanted to be absorbed into my body. Everything was either super toxic or super medicinal,” she says.
So in 2012, she whipped up the Heal Whipped Skin Soufflé. “I never created it to sell, though; it was just to heal and repair the damage done to my skin,” says Jackson. Her curls began to flourish, stretch marks eventually faded, and her complexion looked more luminous. Once she started giving out the shea butter, vitamin E, and essential oils enriched moisturizer, people would ask her for more, and that helped her to recognize she had something special.
Jackson’s skin, hair, and body care brand, Beneath Your Mask ($20-$100), adds much-needed luxury to the natural and organic beauty world. The rising skin care star got a lot of buzz at the 2017 Indie Beauty Expos in New York City and Dallas thanks to her scrubs, serums, and masks, which are poured into dark Miron Violet glass bottles. No doubt this looks pleasing to the eye, but the design actually helps to maintain the quality of the 11 to 18 active ingredients you’ll find in each product.
The American and small-batch line is a godsend, especially to individuals with sensitive skin. Reviews on beneathyourmask.com boast about the goodness it’s done for treating dry, itchy scalp and leaving skin incredibly soft and shiny. Fellow lupus sufferers have also chimed in on how the products have drastically transformed their skin and hair for the better.
Jackson has certainly found purpose on her journey toward healing by creating a skin care brand that addresses serious concerns. However, the entrepreneur’s secret to a quality life can’t be bottled up. She explains, “True wellness requires a total approach — mental, spiritual, and physical.”
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