“My name is Emily, I’m 17 years old and I live in Missouri. I will be starting my senior year of high school this fall, and hope to be an English teacher when I grow up.
I started noticed the bumps on my skin about a month before my diagnosis. They were white, and looked like hives. When I itched them, they spread. One bump could quickly turn into thirty. It was quite painful for me for the longest time because I just couldn’t seem to stop itching. My mom determined that I was having an allergic reaction, but to what is the real question. I had no changes in my diet, nor in laundry detergents or soap. Nothing had changed, so I didn’t understand why my body was. Finally, we decided to get a doctors opinion. I thought that they were just going to tell me that it was an allergic reaction and to take Benadryl if it got too bad, because that’s what I had been doing. Immediately after talking to the nurse about my symptoms, he said he thought he knew what it was, but he was going to let the doctor check first. A couple minutes later I got my final diagnosis. It was dermatographia. I had never heard of it before. I kept asking questions such as “why did it just show up?,” “will it go away?” No one could really give me a straight answer, because they said most of the time you really just don’t know.
This was all about 3 weeks ago. I was so self conscious about my skin. I remember the first person I told outside my family was my hair dresser, and only because she made the comment that you could see where the bristles of her brush had touched my skin. I’ve shown a few friends, and have become a bit of a human etch a sketch with them. They’re constantly asking me to draw hearts on my arm or flowers on my leg. I still have a lot to learn about dermatographia, and especially how it’s affecting me. It’s been a long journey so far, but I’m learning to embrace my skin, and be happy that I can stand out in a world that seems so bland nowadays. ”
I am so happy to hear you say that Emily! It’s so refreshing to hear your story of embracing your skin, being unique in this world that’s so mundane sometimes. Cheers to that!
Emily and I have been corresponding for a couple of weeks, ever since she sent me the above story and some awesome photos of her dermatographia. I asked her a few more questions, and learned that she’s a budding artist thinking about incorporating skin imagery into her paintings.
Ariana Page Russell (APR): Please tell me a little bit about you. What do you like to do, what are your interests, etc.?
Emily Hayes (EH): I’ve never been one to stay with one hobby for awhile. I’m constantly trying different things, or trying to learn new skills. This past year, I’ve taken up painting and have fallen in love. I’ll turn up my “Weezer Radio” station, and just paint. Most times, I’ll start at night and won’t stop until the sun comes up.
(APR): Ha ha I used to listen to Weezer in high school too! But that was when they first started out. So funny how certain types of music really stick around.
Do you take anything for your dermatographia?
(EH): When first diagnosed, I took a steroid for about a week. Just something for my body to fight it off for a little. Now I take an allergy pill every morning, and a benadryl if I start to break out too bad. I keep itch cream handy wherever I go, and it’s been my lifesaver.
(APR): That’s great you found something that works for you! You should try coconut oil sometime too. (Everyone who reads Skintome knows I’m obsessed with coconut oil lol).
Now that a lot of your friends know about your skin, does it make you feel more comfortable sharing about dermatographia?
(EH): I’m still not 100% confident, and don’t think I’ll ever be. I’m young, and still in my “I care what people think” stage. But I’m more than willing to talk about it with someone who has questions. No use in trying to pretend like it’s not there.
(APR): That sounds like a great attitude to have! And trust me, you’ll totally come out of that stage… especially since you’re already so self-aware at such a young age.
What do people think about your skin once they find out about your dermatographia?
(EH): I’ve gotten different reactions. My coworkers are constantly asking if they can write their name on my arm, or if I could draw them a picture. Some of them have been my biggest supporters. But some people are a little worried about it. I don’t blame them, I was pretty worried at first too. The main thing I get is people freaking out thinking it’s contagious, and if I touch them they’ll have to be put into quarantine or something drastic like that.
(APR): It’s kind of fun to play tricks on people sometimes… freak them out by telling them it’s contagious and see how they react! Thankfully it’s totally not contagious, so people have nothing to worry about :^)
Do you find your skin inspiring?
(EH): I don’t know if inspiring is the word. I’m still regular ol’ Emily. But now I’ve just got some extra flare to me. I’m definitely going to strive to reach out to people my age who are self conscious about their bodies.
(APR): Awesome news! We need more strong voices for staying positive about dermatographia!
How do you think dermatographia will affect the way you live your life from here on out, for example, the way you take care of yourself or what you do in your free time?
(EH): I’ve read a lot of articles saying that eating healthier and exercising will help with breakouts. I hope eventually (when I find the motivation) that I can change my diet and living ways, to where I can be the healthiest possible.
(APR): You’re lucky to discover this at such a young age! Starting a healthy lifestyle now will help you live a long and healthy life.
Is there anything you’d like to know about dermatographia?
(EH): There is so much. I’m still clueless, and the only information I’ve gotten is over the Internet. I’m still curious on how it just randomly showed up one day, with no evidence of it before in my lifetime. That’s probably my biggest question.
(APR): Well, I hope you’re okay with some uncertainty in your life, because I’m not sure that question will ever be answered for any of us. Nobody seems to know why it suddenly shows up in some people and not others, but I think it just has to do with our unique responses to life in general: how we handle stress, what and how we eat, genes, where we live, what we do, etc. Somehow there was this perfect formula for your dermatographia to manifest… Lucky you :^)
Thanks for the interview, Emily!
All photographs courtesy of Emily Hayes
Sam (Samantha)on October 7, 2015 at 1:17 pm
I’m so glad I’ve found this website. I’m 17 too and I noticed something wasn’t quite right with my skin when I was about 7 years old but I ignored it. I didn’t even know that it happened to other people had the same condition until I was about 13 when I saw a tumblr post about Dermatographia. I found this site when I googled if I could get a tattoo or not. I’ve learnt so much already from here and I’m glad there’s a place where I can relate to people with the same condition as me. I’ve also noticed that my hives show up worse in places that the sun doesn’t regularly see (my back and my stomach) and I was just wondering if that happens to anyone else (sorry this probably isn’t the right area to ask but I’m just excited haha) but yeah I’ll stop now 🙂
Ariana Page Russellon October 7, 2015 at 1:29 pm
I’m so glad you found us here! My back and stomach also react very well to scratches, but I don’t know if that has to do with the sun. I was thinking it’s because my skin is thinner and more sensitive there.
Let us know what you discover about healing your dermatographia! I hope some of the suggestions here work for you 🙂
Laürennon October 18, 2015 at 12:28 am
Hi! It’s amazing that I found this page. This week I recently seemed to develop dermatographia, I’ve been having a lot of strange allergies recently so at first I didn’t think anything of the hives showing up all over my body. But the strange thing was that the hives would show up even though I hadn’t been in contact with any of the other things I’m allergic to. 3 days I spent trying to figure out what was going on, night after night around the same time giant welts would appear all over my body. I tried bathing thinking That maybe it was my laundry detergent or something but bathing only made it 100 times worse.I did as much research as I could and I Think I’ve definitely narrowed it down to being dermatographia. It’s a scary thing, but I think it’s great that I found this website that has shown me that people who are going through exactly what I have been going through are making the best of it! I still don’t know anything about dermatographia but I hope to learn everything so I can live life with this crazy skin condition to the fullest! 🙂
Ariana Page Russellon October 26, 2015 at 12:24 pm
Awesome thanks for sharing your story! Welcome to Skintome, please let us know how things go for you and your dermatographia :^) Glad you found us!
Rachelon January 18, 2016 at 3:32 pm
it’s quite interesting to see people who are surprised about their Dermatographia and are adjusting to it because I have had it all my life and have never had any problems and Instead of actually explaining it to people, i have always classified my skin as sensitive. When I slightly rub my face, my body releases histamine and sometimes looks like I was hit. I once mentioned my Dermatographhia to a friend who used to be my classmate and she told me that back when we were in school, she thought that I was abused(because of the marks on my face). That mistake still makes me laugh
Ariana Page Russellon February 2, 2016 at 7:37 pm
Ha! It’s a good thing she never reported you or anything!
Thanks for sharing. Glad to hear your experience of dermatographia is a mild one 🙂 You have a great attitude about it!
Carhla Villaron February 28, 2016 at 7:27 am
Hi I am Carhla 32 yrs old and I am so amazed that I am not alone. All the while I thought my skin is just sensitive , and now is called dermatographic. I had it aince my teen age years. Not sure exactly what age but since then I find it im cool and unique :). I dont even bother to take any medicine or ask a doctor about it because its not itchy and after a few minutes its not swollen. Just a piece of advice learn to embrace your skin. Make the most of it like look for the positive sides like you can draw or write in your skin which is considered as an art. You can be exempted to sone activities like volleyball (which I really dont like) my P.E. Teacher gave me a passing grade even I cant serve a ball just to avoid my skin to be swollen. Also, I am not sure if you noticed whenever I stumble or fall into the ground my skin started to thickens or started to have hive and it helps me not to have deep bruises. Sometimes I think I am a mutant. 🙂 lastly it is nice that you are given a special treatment like in a salon when ask for a thread of your eyebrows. They will panic as if they did something wrong so they are starting to offer extra care etc. I usually said its okay , im not hurt. It’s normal 🙂 cheers to all of us . 🙂
Ariana Page Russellon March 3, 2016 at 11:53 am
Ha ha great story Carhla, thanks for sharing! I love your positive outlook… keep it up :+)
Jameson November 27, 2017 at 9:15 am
Great story from a fellow Missourian! I’ve been having fun with my Dermatographia since 1966. Its great for parties! I’m lucky as the only symptoms I have are the skin swelling; no itching or pain. Thanks for sharing your story!