I have the same affliction and the thought of turning it into the art, or even sharing it with the world is something that really hit me right in the gut. -Ryan Quintal
This sentence in an email is how I met Ryan. Pretty great introduction! Little did I know, speaking with Ryan would only get better… Ryan is a product designer at Squarespace and also lives here in New York. He does design work, along with an excellent podcast called Save As, where he interviews designers and artists about everything from what inspires them to their favorite food. He interviewed me last week about acknowledging your flaws, owning what you find annoying about yourself, and feeling comfortable in your own skin. You can listen to the interview, including Ryan’s awesome introduction, here.
I asked Ryan some questions for SkinTome, but to really get to know him, you should listen to the podcast. What he has to say about his skin is incredibly powerful and moving. Thanks for you honesty and openness, Ryan!
Ariana Page Russell (APR): When and how did you find out you have dermatographia?
Ryan Quintal(RQ): I remember being in High School, and whenever I would do something like accidentally scrape against a desk or even itch something like my cheek people would start to ask me “how did I get that”. I didn’t know what they were talking about until someone had me go to a mirror and take a look. I can distinctly remembering hoping it would go away, and that I hadn’t “scratched too much”, or even that I might be allergic to something. I noticed people calling it out increasing, my mother would be quick to ask what happened to my face.
(APR): How long have you had it? Is there any event and/or medication that you think may have triggered it?
(RQ): I can’t point to anything specific. I’ve always generally had pretty terrible skin, with Keratosis Pilaris to thank for dry, irritated skin. I used to receive allergy shots as a child, but only have vague recollections of those events. Though I’m allergic to cats, our whole family was fond of them, myself included, though with all of that stuff going on and in a developing body, I can’t say it sounds good.
(APR): What are your symptoms and how do you manage them? Do you take antihistamines, for example?
(RQ): I “dose up” almost every single day. If it’s not the allergies that get me, it may be a colleague with a lot of pet hair on their stuff, or even just a super dusty location. Whether it’s the Keratosis or the dermatographia, if I haven’t taken something after a few days one small itch will quickly grow in intensity and spread all over until I have to take a cold show to just moisturize and kill the irritation and damage I’ve done to myself. Of course it makes things like haircuts somewhat of a nightmare for more zealous barbers who are quick with the comb. It also can make for awkward explanations after kissing someone why my lips are slightly red and inflamed.
(APR): Do most people know you have dermatographia or do you keep it to yourself?
(RQ): It was only a thing that I would share with the person I was dating. Inevitably they’d have to ask the question and rather than having that high-school feeling all over again I’d head it off and bring it up.
(APR): How does it make you feel?
(RQ): I link the condition in with other general body issues I have. Dry skin, dandruff, being overweight. I’ve always been a reasonably confident person, but never in my body. I think a lot of my personality, humor, sarcasm, a lot of it developed from wanting to be accepted despite how I looked or what “weird skin thing” I thought I had.
(APR): Have you been inspired by your dermatographia or skin?
(RQ): Once I found the work Ariana was doing and this blog, I was really affected. It’s a complete cliche but I had never even heard of anyone else having what I had, and for the first time I didn’t feel like I had to go join up with the X-men and have the lamest super power of all time. I never considered it to be art, or positive at all for that matter.
After reaching out and asking Ariana to be on my show Save As Podcast I started to really get excited about all of this stuff. I’m one of you guys, I’m a Dermagraph! I went into work and showed my colleges, even did the “thumbnail” trick on the back of my arm to a collection of “woahs” that, for the first time ever, I found rewarding, rather than isolating.
(APR): Amazing Ryan, thank you. I’m so glad you’re helping me tell the world about dermatographia and how it can actually be cool!
These amazing images are courtesy of Ryan Quintal