Even models do get skin complaints


Psoriasis affects one in 50 adults, including the model Cara Delevingne, but help is at hand.

Even models do get skin complaints. Cara Delevingne may be the hottest face in modelling right now, but as the 21-year-old with the trademark eyebrows revealed last week, her career may be blighted by the skin disease psoriasis. Still, at least she won’t have to ring a bell warning of her approach, as did psoriasis sufferers in the Middle Ages.

The model, who told W magazine that she was “covered in scabs” during Paris Fashion Week, is not the first high-profile figure to suffer from this distressing condition: reality star Kim Kardashian was diagnosed with it in 2011, while the author John Updike, who died four years ago, was plagued by it from childhood.

The condition, afflicting one in every 50 adults, occurs when immune cells called “T cells” attack healthy skin ones by mistake, which speeds up the production of new skin cells. These form flaky, scaly “plaques” that can appear anywhere, although common sites are the elbows, knees, lower back and scalp. About a third of people with psoriasis also develop painful joints.

“Psoriasis tends to run in families,” says Dr Tabi Leslie of the British Association of Dermatologists. Flare-ups can be triggered by several factors, she says, including infection, smoking, certain medicines such as beta blockers, and stress – hence Delevingne’s flare-up during Fashion Week.

“Psoriasis stops people going out, going to the beach, taking part in activities – it affects their relationships, professional lives and self-esteem,” says Dr Leslie. “It’s not just the plaques themselves, but the ‘shedding’ of skin that is distressing. Imagine going to a job interview and bits of skin appearing on your nice outfit.” An estimated one in three sufferers experiences depression and anxiety, according to the Psoriasis Association.

The condition has also been linked to cardiovascular disease although, says Dr Christine Bundy, senior lecturer in behavioural medicine at the University of Manchester, researchers aren’t yet clear whether psoriasis directly increases the risk.

“It could be that someone who is depressed by psoriasis may be more likely to smoke or drink and less likely to take exercise,” she points out. “Inactivity, excess alcohol and smoking are all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”

The good news is that although there is no cure, a wide range of treatments can help control this condition. Depending on the severity, these include topical creams such as steroids and vitamin D analogues; phototherapy (light treatment) with narrow-band UVB rays, using carefully controlled doses to reduce the risk of skin cancer; drugs that reduce the production of skin cells such as methotrexate and cyclosporin; and biologics – drugs that target overactive immune cells, whose long-term effects are still being evaluated.

Research at Manchester University has found that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy, can help clear people’s skin. “CBT helps people manage their stress levels and this reduces immune activity, having a direct effect on the skin,” says Dr Bundy. “CBT also helps people feel more in control of their condition, so they are more likely to ask for help early and to make healthy lifestyle choices in terms of diet and exercise.”

She is pushing for an “integrated package” of psychological and medical help for people with psoriasis. “CBT should be provided as part of their dermat-ological care,” she argues.


  • babbington

    Just about anyone can have skin problems, including models. Check out celebrityclose-up.com – lots of photos of models that have skin issues from time to time.