Karishma Leckraz is an easy-going and genial 27-year-old makeup artist from Kent County, U.K. She has had eczema since she was two and describes how she grew up battling the beauty expectations of two worlds.
“I would have white people tell me that my skin was exotic and beautiful, and then I would have people from my community tell me that I was too dark and that I had been out in the sun too long. I was given the “fair and lovely” cream. It suppressed the melanin in my skin so instead of making me lighter it turned my skin into a gray, ashy color. My eczema got a lot more sensitive then. Before, I had triggers, but after using the cream, anything would just set my skin off. My flares ups got so bad that I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t sit down, and even showering was extremely painful. This really stressed me out. And as soon as I’m stressed, I want to scratch and pick. This made it obvious that what was happening to me wasn’t normal, but everyone still told me that it was just dry skin. So, at that point, I was like - what do I do?
Nobody in my family had eczema. No one around me suffered with skin problems the way that I did. Being invalidated in such a major way pushed me to share these things online. I felt like I needed to show people that it’s not easy. Plus, I was a makeup artist, and I was tired of taking weeks out to do my makeup and to create another video. I didn’t want to hide anymore.”
Karishma explained how she grew up concealing herself and fearing that she wasn't considered feminine because of her skin. “It was difficult to deal with these standards whilst having dark skin and eczema. That’s probably why I’m so quiet. I always felt like I had to watch what I said because I didn’t look the part. I was taught that if you don’t look your best, there must be something wrong with you.”
As Karishma grew into womanhood, she tried to reprogram herself and to find new ways of healing her skin. She explains her experience with eczema treatments like steroid creams.
"Steroid creams in the short-term work great, but in the long term, your skin gets addicted to the steroid cream. It made my skin even worse. My skin couldn’t look after itself, and I got bacterial infections. I could barely open my mouth to eat or open my eyes. There’s no cure for it. You just have to ride the wave, and it’s a terrible experience until you narrow down what works for you and what doesn’t. Having a community really helps. That’s why I create content around skin positivity. It’s why I also want to come out with a makeup line specifically for people with skin conditions because there’s not a lot out there that we can use, and that is a really lonely feeling. Looking the way that you want shouldn’t put your health at risk.”
To Karishma, looking different shouldn’t stop you from getting to know yourself. She believes being present and having a seat at the table should have nothing to do with skin. “We should all have the chance to relax and to admire things about ourselves,” Karishma says. “Otherwise, we’ll never realize who we are.”