I Have Hyperpigmentation On My Legs & I'm Not Letting It Ruin My Summer

In early April, after a winter of nearly perfect skin hidden underneath jeans and tights, my legs broke out into a vicious, unsightly rash. Isn’t it ironic? More like plain annoying, I think. Whatever you call it, this situation was something I have been dealing with my whole life. I was born with Netherton syndrome, a rare genetic skin condition that looks like an aggressive form of psoriasis or even shingles (I wish I were being overdramatic) when it flares up a few times each year.

For as long as I can remember, these irate rashes would linger for about a month of uncomfortable itchiness. It was something I had learned to live with, but this time around things took a darker turn. After three weeks, the red, scaly patches that plagued my lower limbs started to heal, yes, but to my horror, they were replaced by grayish-brown marks a few shades darker than my skin tone. I immediately went into panic mode and called up my specialist for a phone consultation (we’re that tight).

My twin sister (who also has Netherton syndrome) and I have been seeing pediatric dermatologist Albert Yan, MD, since we were teething — and even though we’re now 21 years old, he continues to treat us. But despite our long history with Dr. Yan and my fondness for the guy, after talking to him for about 15 minutes about the hyperpigmentation that had appeared on my legs, a part of me hated him. A part of me hated everything.

In his ultra-calm voice, which had soothed me so many times in the past, he said the post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation was caused by leftover inflammation from my rash. There was really nothing I could do but wait until they faded (he couldn't say how long that would be) and wear sunscreen to make sure they didn't get even darker. Acne sufferers, if you’ve ever dealt with dark marks left behind after a particularly brutal breakout, then you get how utterly maddening this can be. It was bad enough to have had to deal with these rashes all my life. It felt like a sick joke, especially as we were heading into summer.

So I hid under boyfriend jeans, maxi-dresses, and printed pants. But as the temps began to rise, I knew that I could only cover up for so much longer. And the fact that my summer internship was getting closer increased my anxiety twofold. As I watched my peers parade around in sundresses and cutoffs, I couldn’t help but harbor major resentment. I felt like I couldn’t be my truest self when this hyperpigmentation was hindering my confidence — and my wardrobe options. So I decided to look for solutions on my own.

Test-Driving Solutions
My first instinct was to try a treatment serum with known brightening and lightening ingredients, like vitamin C, hydroquinone, and licorice. I applied it eagerly to my legs twice a day, and the hopeful kid in me almost expected to see instant results. But after a week or so, I only noticed minimal improvements, which left me feeling even more defeated. It was time for plan B, also known as going back to the internet.

After some thorough research (er, reading MakeupAlley), I came across Dermablend's Leg and Body Cover, a heavy-duty cover-up I could use on my legs. I'd never thought to try foundation on my body before — partly because it conjured up images of a cakey, streaky mess, but mostly because the rashes I suffer from are dry, bumpy, and nearly impossible to cover. But the hyperpigmentation was actually smooth in texture, so I figured it was worth a shot. I went to Ulta and sat on the floor swatching the makeup on my legs (as one does). After purchasing a fresh tube, I rushed to the car and smeared it over my spots. After seeing the results, my mother (whom I had brought along for moral support) said, "Wow, that makeup is some next-level shit."

It felt surprisingly lightweight considering its killer coverage, which hid the scars almost entirely. For the first time in months, I felt comfortable enough to flaunt my gams in public. I was on cloud-fucking-nine — in a short skirt. You know when your favorite TV show returns after a way too long hiatus and it calls for a celebratory wine-night viewing with all your girlfriends? Well, that’s exactly how I felt when I found this amazing fix.

Loving My Squad
The makeup had single-handedly solved all of my hyperpigmentation issues — or so I thought. After a few weeks of using the Dermablend and feeling great, my friends and I were invited to a pool party for one of our close friends from high school — it was going to be like one big reunion, sans the kids who were "too cool" back then. Naturally, my friends were pumped. Me, though? I was back in panic mode. Although the foundation stayed on super-well in the sweat-inducing humidity of NYC, I had not been swimming yet and was scared the water would wash off the makeup.

I told my crew I couldn’t go — I couldn’t risk having people stare at my legs. They were quick to argue: “Kaleigh, that’s seriously ridiculous. You can’t let this stop you from living,” one friend said. “Yeah, Kay, don’t you get that no one cares about your scars? The only thing they care about is if you’re there,” my bestie Caitlin chimed in. “No one is going to look twice at your legs, but they will definitely notice if you don’t come.”

A sheer sense of adoration for my squad washed over me, and I realized that they were so right. I put on the hologram bikini I’d been dying to wear since April, applied a light layer of foundation, and got ready for the party. We swam, jacuzzi'd 'til we were pruned, and laughed over stupid high school memories. I'm aware that this sounds like a Judy Blume novel, but I was able to completely let go and enjoy the moment. It made me realize just how good I've got it. And I didn’t think about my legs the whole time. It was a defining moment for me in this whole experience. Shoutout to my homegirls for opening my eyes.

Livin' My Best Life
A month has gone by and my hyperpigmentation is fading more and more, but I still reach for the Dermablend on most days. There’s something so calming about rubbing it into my skin and watching as the marks disappear. I advocate not letting society dictate your beauty standards and embracing things that might be deemed as “flaws,” but when it comes to my hyperpigmentation, I feel more confident covering it up. The only thing that truly matters is what makes you feel good, right? We recently published a story about a woman who underwent rhinoplasty because she wasn’t happy with her nose, and how she’ll never apologize for that. I say, all the power to her. While my situation may not require surgery, I completely resonate with how she felt — no one should be judged for changing (or covering) something they don’t love about themselves.

I’ve also learned that, makeup or not, I can’t let hyperpigmentation — or whatever else comes my way — stop me from living my best life. Hell, I have pool parties to go to. I grew up on a fucking lake! As my girls helped me see, I’d be selling myself short if I let my insecurities win. I hope to always get by with a little help from my friends — and maybe a bit of concealer, too.

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