"Psoriasis is just a small part of who you are, so don't let it define you."

By Faith Brar
October 25, 2018
Photo: Getty Images / Charley Gallay / Stringer

You might know Louise Roe from her über-popular blog, Front Roe, where she shares fashion and beauty tips, travel guides, and stories about her life as a new mom. While the fashion blogger and journalist is known to keep things candid with her 690,000+ followers, she's chosen to keep one major part of her life secret until now: her diagnosis with plaque psoriasis. The chronic autoimmune disease causes cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin, often forming scales and red patches that are itchy and sometimes painful.

"When living in London nearly a decade ago, I had quite a stressful job where I was getting in to work at about 6 a.m. and not getting back home until about 11 p.m. every day," Roe tells Shape. "Although I was having fun, I didn't realize the toll that routine was taking on my body."

One winter, when Roe was 25, she noticed that her skin broke out in scaly red patches that were itchy and that caused quite a bit of pain. "I ignored it for a while, thinking that eventually, it would just go away," Roe says. "But it never did."

Once she realized that it was more than just a strange rash, Roe went to go see a skin specialist who diagnosed her with plaque psoriasis, the most common form of the disease. "It's a mixed feeling getting a diagnosis," Roe says. "On one hand, you're happy to have an answer. But then you're left with something you have to deal with for the rest of your life."

In total, approximately 7.5 million people in the United States have psoriasis, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. And while there is no cure for the disease, as we previously reported, certain lifestyle measures can help reduce psoriasis flare-ups-something Roe learned over time.

For the next decade, however, Roe hid her diagnosis from the world-both literally and figuratively. "I only felt comfortable telling a few people very close to me," she says. "It even took me a while to tell my husband when we first started dating."

"I also hid the plaques quite literally with the clothes I wore," Roe continued. "Fashion for me became more about hiding my skin rather than expressing myself, and that became difficult to keep up with over time."

Roe struggled with the diagnosis on an emotional level as well. "Being in an industry where looks mean so much, constantly trying to hide something that was a huge part of my reality was difficult," she says. "I found myself feeling sad, frustrated, and even angry because of how uncomfortable I felt in my skin." (Roe isn't the only notable name with psoriasis. Read how Kim Kardashian deals with the frustrating skin condition.)

After years of trying to figure out ways to best manage her illness, Roe met a dermatologist whose advice changed her outlook in more ways than one. "Because psoriasis presents itself on the outside of your body, it's easy to overlook the fact that it actually manifests on the inside," she says. "After speaking to a dermatologist, I learned that my flare-ups could be a result of living a high-stress life and not taking enough time to take care of myself." (Related: 5 Skin Conditions That Get Worse with Stress)

So, Roe decided it was time to make some much-needed lifestyle changes. "Yoga became an important part of my routine as well as being strict with my bedtimes and focusing on eating clean," says Roe. "I also stopped bottling up my feelings about my diagnosis and used my mom as a sounding board for my frustrations, which made me feel a huge weight off my shoulders."

While a change didn't happen overnight, Roe says that making these small lifestyle changes not only helped minimize her flare-ups but also helped her gain a positive perspective on her situation. "Slowly, I stopped letting the fact that I had psoriasis dictate my life and my confidence," she says. "Instead, I found the strength to embrace it."

Recently, Roe was part of a new campaign with Celgene and Otezla dubbed Inside Perspective where she had the opportunity to swap worlds for a day with another woman also living with psoriasis. She used the campaign as a way to come forward and share her experience with the disease. "We got the chance to gain an inside perspective on each other's lives with psoriasis," she says. "Together, we shared the importance of embracing who we are both inside and out-psoriasis or not." (Related: Missguided's New Campaign Is Celebrating Skin "Imperfections" In the Best Way)

Roe hopes that being open and honest about her diagnosis will help other women find confidence. "We live in such an empowering time right now where women are embracing themselves as they are," she says. "I hope that by sharing my personal experience, other women struggling with psoriasis learn the importance of self-care and that taking care of your body and mind can help you feel comfortable in your own skin. And at the end of the day, psoriasis is just a small part of who you are, so don't let it define you. Embrace it and continue pursuing your hopes and dreams."