A Miami television reporter and anchor went off the air to treat a severe skin condition, but she’s returning to work slightly healed — and with a different perspective on beauty.
This year, Frances Wang of CBS Miami was diagnosed with perioral dermatitis, which according to the American Academy of Dermatology, causes “small, red, acne-like breakouts,” that can burn or itch, around the mouth, or eyes and nose. Along with irritating skin products, a possible cause is the overuse of corticosteroid medication.
Wang had dealt with mild eczema, a common dermatological disease that causes dry and itchy patches, since middle school, which she managed with over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams, Vasoline and a mild facial wash. However, in December, when Wang moved from Northern California to Miami, Florida her skin flared up.
“I would wake up bleeding, with cuts and scratches on my body, so I went to a local dermatologist,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Wang was prescribed a steroid cream for severe eczema and was instructed to apply it to her face and neck daily for four weeks, along with different topical creams for her fingers and body, plus a prescription shampoo.
Her eczema quickly improved, however, only briefly, so Wang called her dermatologist’s office for a re-fill, which was granted. She took the medication for eight weeks, but after she stopped, her skin severely broke out. In July, her dermatologist diagnosed her with perioral dermatitis.
After seeing four different dermatologists, Wang believes that she took steroid cream for longer than appropriate. She also claims that her initial dermatologist did not advise her on proper usage of the cream.
“All the dermatologists I’ve seen have different opinions on what happened but all agree the cream was the cause,” Wang tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Some said the potency was too strong or that I should have only used it during bad flare-ups, or on specific areas. Or, that I overused it. I was basically using it as you would a daily moisturizer.” One said that Wang might have steroid-induced acne.
When she wasn’t working, Wang retreated. “I was so embarrassed,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It was so hard to wash my face because it was so inflamed and bumpy. I wanted to crawl out of my skin.”
Wang was always self-confident, never believing that wearing makeup was necessary to work in television. However, she worried that people would only see her skin, not hear her stories — a fear compounded by letters from “concerned” viewers. “I also wanted to suck it up because it’s just skin, and I am lucky to be healthy,” says Wang. “My job is to cover real tragedies.”
In September, Wang decided to step forward on Instagram with before-and-after photos. “I’m honestly terrified of posting these pictures, but I’m also so tired of trying to hide it,” she wrote. “Those of you who know me know that I love feeling free to go anywhere at anytime not dressed up, with no makeup on. Which is why it’s been so hard for me to go from the picture on the left to the picture on the right (what I look like currently).”
Recently, Wang voluntarily took a month off from work and returned to Northern California hoping that a drier climate would improve her skin. She also temporarily swore off coffee, dairy, eggs, and makeup. The break helped — Wang’s skin has slightly improved and she’s returning to television this Saturday.
“When I first opened up about my skin, I wanted to make others feel understood — but now it feels like a responsibility,” Wang tells Yahoo Lifestyle, adding that due to a blanket trust in doctors, she didn’t ask many questions about her prescribed medication.
Wang recently wrote in an Instagram post, “I don’t blame anyone because at the end of the day, I am my biggest advocate. I learned my lesson the hard way and I’m still suffering — I really hope this will prevent someone else from going through the same physical, emotional, & psychological pain.”
Joining support groups for people with dermatological conditions has helped Wang heal psychologically. And now her focus is setting an example. “We live in a social media world where people only post their best filtered selves and I am guilty of that too,” Wang tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I used to pose to hide my face or ask my friends to touch up my photos. But there is beauty in vulnerability.”
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