in conversation... karishma leckraz

Makeup artist 
Karishma Leckraz
talks Atopic Eczema, represent-ation and challenging beauty standards

29th June, 2020

“There are so many people dealing with different skin conditions and skin tones, and pushing more realistic standards will help people talk more openly and honestly about what they have to deal with”

Karishma Leckraz is a London based makeup artist and skin condition activist.

Karishma has suffered with Atopic Eczema since she was two years old, a skin condition that causes dry, itchy and cracked skin. It wasn’t until she turned sixteen that her condition began to flare severely, in which Karishma’s skin would crack and tighten making it impossible to speak.

In early 2020, Karishma came out publicly about her condition on Instagram. Tired of skin's unrealistic portrayal within the fashion and beauty industries, Karishma decided to be the representation she and others needed.

Karishma’s activism has led to features in I-D magazine, VICE, BBC Asian Network and Cosmopolitan India.

*This article includes sensitive images

You okay hun?

My usual response is “yeah, I’m okay”, just to avoid having an unwanted conversation about why I’m not. Lockdown has been a rollercoaster for me, but today I don’t feel so bad. The sun is shining, the skies are blue and I’m surrounded by my other halves family with a barbecue. It’s nice to forget for a while, you know?

You have an important relationship with makeup, particularly as a makeup artist, and in relation to your own skin. What does makeup mean to you, and how important is it that makeup artists are aware of differing skin conditions?

Makeup has been an outlet for as long as I can remember. It allows me to focus on something other than what’s in my head. I love doing out of the box kind of looks, transforming into whatever I feel like that day. It’s relaxing and keeps me grounded, as long as I’m not rushed.

Working with whatever makeup you come across can vary due to people’s different skin conditions. It’s important to understand how to work with each skin type and what products work best because the results and finish aren’t always the same. It’s important because it gives your model confidence, allowing them to feel comfortable with how they look.

What are some of the challenges you face suffering with atopic eczema?

The challenges of dealing with a chronic skin condition come in all forms, and can affect you mentally and physically. It affects my personal life, my job, my relationships and my mental health. I suffer with a severe form of eczema, and just prepping my skin for the day can take 45 minutes in itself. So unlike “normal” people this condition robs me of a lot of time. I worry about waking up in the morning and looking in the mirror to see what kind of condition my skin’s in today.

Sometimes it’s painful to shower, and takes everything to force yourself in there. Feeling uncomfortable all day and not feeling yourself takes it toll on being able to work and have relationships. Especially when you don’t even want to leave the house. Making sure your skin is moisturised throughout the day as well as keeping hydrated is something that needs to be worked into your routine. It can sometimes be a lot when all you want to do is just get on with the day. I could go on, I really could. I’ll just say that it’s not something that’s easy to cope with.

Instagram can reveal as little or as much as a person wants. You bravely chose to come out publicly about your eczema. What motivated the decision, what kind of response did you see?

I was tired of seeing perfect skin promoted everywhere I looked. It’s not reality. We aren’t all unfortunately blessed with perfect skin. A good majority of us suffer from chronic skin conditions may it be eczema, acne or psoriasis, and because I wasn’t seeing any representation of us in the media at all, I decided that I’d try to be that representation for myself and others like me.

The response was amazing, I never imagined to be connected with and supported by so many people going through the exact same skin condition, as I don’t really have anyone in my personal life that suffers like I do. Despite the positives there were a few negative comments, but you’ll always get trolls on the Internet and I’ve learnt to just ignore it.

“I wasn’t seeing any representation of us in the media at all, I decided that I’d try to be that representation for myself and others like me”

According to studies, adults with atopic dermatitis, or eczema, are known to have significantly higher rates of anxiety or depression than those without. How do you feel Atopic Eczema has affected your mental health, if at all?

My mental health has suffered a lot. There are some days where I don’t even want to get out of bed and face another day of being sore and in pain, let alone leave the house and have to deal with unwarranted comments, stares or mumbles. It’s made me feel ugly for so many years and even though I’ve learnt to accept it slightly, I’m still not 100% comfortable in my own skin. The journey is a long process but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

How important is self-care - mentally and physically, are there any tips and tricks that you’ve learnt over the years that somebody else suffering with eczema might benefit from?

Self-care is so important, and taking the time out to look after yourself is a must. Not all products that work for one person will work for another, even if you share the same skin type as them. You’ve got to trial and error different products to see what works for you. Products also take a good 3-4 weeks of use, and sometimes longer, before it starts working. The condition of your skin can determine the length of time it takes for a product to show results, so don’t be too disheartened if you don’t see results straight away.

Liquid paraffin has been great for my skin at its worst. Using natural remedies such as aloe vera and various oils have also helped to keep my skin hydrated. One thing I’ve noticed is that looking after yourself from the inside out, does work miracles for a lot of people. A vegan diet has been proven to get rid of eczema but changing diets so quickly can sometimes prove difficult. Slowly weaning yourself into eliminating certain foods works, and you’ll see the difference in your skin.

How would you like the fashion and beauty industries to develop in regards to representing people of differing skin tones and conditions?

My goal is to continue to push for more representation on all platforms. Representation is important! I need the fashion and beauty industries to understand that they can’t keep pushing one standard. There are so many people dealing with different skin conditions and skin tones, and pushing more realistic standards will help people talk more openly and honestly about what they have to deal with. To make them feel less alone, accepted and “normal”. I will continue to scream and shout for more brands that we love to acknowledge us, when a lot of the time we feel like they don’t love us back.

You can follow Karishma’s skin based activism below:


words: patrick taylor / images courtesy of karishma leckraz

uoh 2020 — @uok.hun