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 Los Angeles, 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.
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 pre-taped 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.
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 in my mind, 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 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.
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.
The post News Anchor Frances Wang on Being on-Air With Perioral Dermatitis appeared first on Glamour.