It’s National Eczema Week this week and a time to highlight the painful skin condition that affects up to 15 million people in the UK. Here, ANGELA KELLY talks to one sufferer

ECZEMA is very influential in the life of Bolton businesswoman Nicola Rostance.

She was born with the condition that leaves skin dry, cracked, itchy and sometimes weeping.

And, at 30, she has learned to live with it, adapting anything she needs to but refusing to let it rule her life.

“It’s just something I was born with that I cope with,” she explained.

There was no previous history of atopic eczema – the most common form – in Nicola’s family when she was born. Her mother dealt with it by putting creams on the little girl’s sore, red arms and legs, covering them with bandages when necessary and mittens at night to let the cream permeate and stop her from itching. At primary school, she was bullied because of her eczema and called Red Tomato, but learned to fight back.

She remembers not going to swimming because the chlorine irritated and inflamed her skin “and there just wasn’t time afterwards to put on all my creams,” she recalled.

Secondary school was also difficult as she was embarrassed by her cracked “granny hands”.

She could not wear the latest trendy jewellery because she is allergic to a variety of things including nickel and, at 16, she found that she was also allergic to nuts.

Thereafter, she has had to carry life-saving epipens which allow individuals to inject themselves with adrenaline.

Nicola has had a couple of worrying episodes over the years where she has unwittingly had nuts.

“So I am extremely careful about what I eat,” stated Nicola, who also has asthma.

When she was younger, Nicola’s mother was advised to cut out dairy products in her daughter’s diet to help her condition “so I spent my childhood having orange juice on my cornflakes,” she said.

As an adult, she has to be very careful about skincare products and make-up brands.

She uses Dermalogica skincare and finds the Urban Decay range of make-up is good for her skin.

She can only wash her clothes in Fairy Non-Bio and cannot use a fabric conditioner or her skin erupts.

She also reacts badly to fur and feathers and when she stays in hotels, has to take her own pillow in case they have feather pillows. She also cannot wear wool or cashmere.

She uses Diprobase cream morning and night and, if she needs it, she also uses three different steroid cream which she steps up or down depending on her condition. The most outbreaks are on her hands, arms and legs although she does have eczema on her torso.

“I find that if I am stressed, anxious or rundown, I often get an outbreak so I have to keep an eye out for that,” she added.

Nicola also found that employers generally did not understand her eczema and just thought it was “a bit of dry skin.”

The result is that Nicola, who works in insurance, has started her own business, Purple Panda Solutions, and finds this style of working life is better for her health and wellbeing.

Her husband Tom, a sports journalist, is both understanding and supportive and helps her tailor her life to cope with the eczema.

Nicola herself is positive about her condition. “I have no choice but to work with it and just plan everything,” she said. “People do have worse things.”

* For more information contact the National Eczema Society on

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