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Health - Top Stories

What It’s Like to Have ‘Bad Skin’ and Work on TV

Glamour logo Glamour 2019-11-07 Frances Wang
a couple of people posing for the camera © Frances Wang

For CBS Miami news anchor Frances Wang, broadcasting her face to thousands of people is just another day at the office. While that might sound terrifying to some, for Wang it’s always felt like second nature. But over the summer she was dealing with a skin condition behind the scenes that made her second-guess everything. After months of covering her face in makeup, she shared her experience on Instagram and went viral. In her own words, she opens up about what it was like to be on TV when she wanted to hide, and how going public changed everything.

For the majority of my life, I’ve had clear skin, save for the occasional eczema flare-up, but it was never anything that affected my work or me personally. So when I moved to Florida last December from northern California, I thought it would actually be better for my eczema. A more humid climate would help with dryness and flakes, right? Instead it got worse. Much worse. I went to see a dermatologist for the first time two months later and was prescribed topical steroids that I used through spring.

After I ran out of my second refill, I started to see my chin break out. At first I thought it was just stress, but then it started spreading—fast. I was diagnosed with perioral dermatitis, which I learned is kind of a general term; it just means inflammation around the mouth. But in some cases, a rash can develop elsewhere on your face—on your eyes, your nose, your forehead, the latter of which happened to me.

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*takes deep breath*⁣ OK. Here I go. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ I’m honestly terrified of posting these pictures, but I’m also so tired of trying to hide it. 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). ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ The 2nd slide is me usually when I feel great about my skin...the 3rd is NOW & the progression over the last 4 months of a condition I had never heard of before called ‘perioral dermatitis.’ Doctors don’t know the exact cause (although there are some ideas) and the treatments are trial & error, hence why I’ve been on 6 antibiotics in the last few months and have put on so many prescribed topicals on my face that I’ve lost count. ⁣⁣⁣I never had acne but I did have eczema on-and-off growing up. ⁣⁣⁣Between makeup & filters (and the 'lookaway pose' lol), most of you probably haven't noticed...but now it’s getting harder to hide, especially on TV. I’ve gotten a few mean comments, but also some really nice ones from people who are just concerned or want to help. Never in my life have I felt more self-conscious (not even in middle school 😩) on top of it hurting like he** sometimes. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ I know there are people dealing with much worse. I’ve felt a lot of guilt & shame from crying constantly over skin😔. My friends & work family have been SO supportive when I randomly just break down. I’ve also found comfort in strangers through a Facebook support group - so many say they have hid from the world or even quit their jobs. As someone who never had skin issues before, I wouldn’t have been able to relate. But now, I will be so much more understanding & empathetic and for that, I am grateful. ⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Some weeks, I do just want to go into hiding, but I like to joke that the only thing greater than my insecurity is my FOMO! I keep telling myself in my pep talks that this gives my inner beauty/witty charm the opportunity to shine, right 😩. I try to think that when this goes away, I will be glowing more then ever so just a heads up 🥺😭. ⁣⁣ #PerioralDermatitis

A post shared by FRANCES WANG (#FrannyInMiami) (@franceswangtv) on

I’m someone who tends to make light of everything. I used to post photos on Instagram Stories like, “Oh, look at this pimple!” But once it started spreading, I wanted to hide. When it got bad enough to the point where I couldn’t cover it on-air, I became incredibly self-conscious. Obviously I tried to cover it with makeup, but the more it spread, the harder it was. No matter how much makeup I put on, the redness and bumps still came through. Sure, you can put a filter on a photo and people on social media might not notice. But on TV, in the studio with the lights and 4K HD cameras, you couldn’t miss it. Over the summer I started noticing you could see it when I was anchoring, and in July I went into full-blown panic mode.

“My once rock-solid confidence had completely crumbled.”

At that point I didn’t only dread going on air, I didn’t even want to leave my building. I even called a friend and said, “I’m not meant to do this. I need to find a different career.” Whenever the shot was on me (before going to a package or a pretaped segment), it felt like an eternity. Saying three sentences felt like a whole paragraph, and I was so nervous I found myself messing up on air. My once rock-solid confidence had completely crumbled. I also got a lot messages from viewers. Most were trying to help, but there were a few mean ones that really threw me off and would make me cry.

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I didn’t want to go into the details of what caused my skin condition until after I found a way to cure it, but all the messages people have sent me made me feel like it’s my duty to share with you this PSA & warning. ⁣I’m sure there’s a bunch of other factors too, but all 4 dermatologists I’ve seen since believe that this was primarily steroid-induced. ⁣⁣ ⁣ LEFT: my face, no makeup in March after I used a bottle of steroid creams on my face prescribed for my eczema. I had no idea what I was truly putting on my face - no proper instruction & no warnings.⁣⁣ A powerful quick fix. ⁣⁣ RIGHT: my face, no makeup today after using TWO bottles. I was diagnosed with #PerioralDermatitis by 5 dermatologists but now that it’s spread to my forehead... I guess it’s no longer just Perioral. I also recently discovered many other people with #TopicalSteroidWithdrawl (theirs are more extreme) who also were not properly diagnosed or warned.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ The details are in my IG STORY HIGHLIGHT. I was used to having the same doctors my entire life, growing up in CA. I TRUSTED THEM WITH MY LIFE! But then I moved to a new coast, new state, new medical system. I have now found doctors I trust & feel truly care, but this damage, as you can see, is done. Lots of trial & error & unknowns. 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. #perioraldermatitis #eczemahelp #topicalsteroidwithdrawal #freeLikeFrances

A post shared by FRANCES WANG (#FrannyInMiami) (@franceswangtv) on

I think the worst part was waking up in the morning, looking in the mirror, and feeling like it looked painful. I knew I shouldn’t be embarrassed—it’s not something washing my face or slapping on an acne serum could fix—but I was. Doing my makeup was also taking longer because I’d begin tearing up and would have to start over. Sometimes I would just sit there in front of the mirror and feel down. I was in my head a lot. I’d try to give myself pep talks to “suck it up” or reassure myself that people wouldn’t stare or judge. Obviously that wasn’t the case, but I can’t blame people for noticing.

The guilt was also insurmountable. I felt guilty for being upset about my skin and for letting it affect me so much, because I know people who are battling much more severe health conditions. Especially in the news business, we cover so many tragedies. But at the time I was just so stressed it was all I could focus on.

You’re supposed to stick to a regimen for two weeks or a month before you try something else, and it can take up to a year to heal. I don’t feel like I have the time to take care of it—if I had any other job, or if it were anywhere other than my face, it wouldn’t really affect what I do so directly. If I worked in news but wasn't an anchor, I could still go to work and not wear makeup. I’d feel comfortable explaining to my coworkers, “Hey, this is what’s going on. This is how I’m going to look for the next few weeks.” With a local news audience, though, it’s a different story. I ended up deciding to take a month off to focus on my skin—and myself.

While my self-care hiatus didn’t totally get rid of my perioral dermatitis, it did make it slightly better. The month away from the cameras also drastically improved my mood. Without the pressure of getting ready every day, I had space to come to terms with the fact that the redness and bumps weren’t going to magically disappear and that wanting to hide was only making me feel worse. I decided it was time to talk about it and shared an unfiltered, un-made-up photo to Instagram with a long caption about my condition.

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My dear friend @lindsey_poole came up with #FreeLikeFrances & shared photos of her skin struggles recently. You know that I love hashtags & I loved that one so much! Especially because my name FRANCES means ‘Free One’...and that’s exactly how I’m feeling: FREE! ⁣I 👏🏼 FEEL 👏🏼 FREE!!! ⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ This month, I’m taking some time off & not wearing TV makeup, so I can figure this condition out. I’m so grateful to have a boss (@lroldan) & work family (@cbsmiami) who encouraged me to do so...and so many of you in my corner (I’m in yours too 💁🏻‍♀️). Now that I’ve shared (whew 😰😅), I’m looking forward to HEALING 💖💖💖 #perioraldermatitis #tsw #topicalsteroidwithdrawal #saynotosteroids #skincondition

A post shared by FRANCES WANG (#FrannyInMiami) (@franceswangtv) on

Once I hit “share,” I felt so relived, especially once I saw the flood of comments and messages come in. A few months ago, I couldn’t talk about my dermatitis without crying and getting choked up, now I feel so much more free. I still get nervous about going on air with “bad skin,” but I also feel much better knowing that people know the story behind it. I feel like I helped others by sharing. I’ve had people message me that didn’t know they have the same condition—and I’ve helped share others’ stories. You know how people say, “If I could just affect one person, it will have been worth it?” I feel the same.

Now that my photos are out there, doing things like grabbing lunch with friends or going to happy hour with no makeup on feels empowering. The more I felt like I faced my insecurity by letting people see it, the more confident I felt in who I was. I’ve always believed that beauty is skin deep, but I think what is happening with me has been a test. I’d like to think I passed.


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