Model Cara Delevingne: The runway makes my skin 'erupt' with psoriasis

If you've ever suffered from a chronic skin issue — psoriasis, eczema, even unrelenting acne — you know how debilitating it can be. And it seems even models can't escape it: psoriasis is impacting the career of one of the fashion industry's fastest rising faces, Cara Delevingne. The British runway star says the stress of her job triggers the condition, and she's even hinted dropping modeling to keep it in check.

The five-foot-nine Delevingne, whose relatively diminutive stature and striking features have lent comparisons to mentor and catwalk titan Kate Moss, has been hard at work over the past few years; she won Model of the Year at the 2012 British Fashion Awards, was dubbed British Vogue's "star face", and represented Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, among others. 

But all that work seems to take a toll on her skin: In an interview with W Magazine, the 20-year-old Delevingne — who shot to fame in 2011 and has strut for the likes of Jason Wu, Oscar de la Renta, and Stella McCartney — said her skin started erupting with scabs and scaly patches while walking during Fashion Week. 

"[Fashion Week] is, of course, the worst time of the year for me to be covered in scabs," Delevingne told the publication. "Kate [Moss] saw me before the (fall 2013) Louis Vuitton show at 3:00 a.m., when I was being painted by people to cover the scabs. “She said, ‘This is horrible! Why is this happening? I need to help you.'"

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the skin as well as the joints and the rest of the body. It generally causes pink, scaly patches on the hands, scalp, elbows and lower back, though it can show up anywhere on the body, and it currently affects about 2.2 percent of the American population, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Though a variety of treatment levels are available — ranging anywhere from topical creams to immunosuppressive drugs — there is no known cure. 

"Children all the way up the the elderly can develop it, and once you have it, you have it for life," Dr. Colby Evans, an Austin, Tex.-based dermatologist and a board member of the National Psoriasis Foundation, told TODAY.com. And Delevingne's hectic career could very well be worsening her condition. "Stress can sometimes bring on the very first attack, but more commonly, stress triggers flares," Evans said. "If they're in a very stressful environment at home or at work, they'll have a flare up where their skin gets worse."

Iman, fashion activists demand diversity on the designer runway

Getty Images file
Cara Delevingne, an in-demand model, walks the runway at the Versace fashion show during Milan Fashion Week.

Delevingne isn't the only celebrity to suffer from psoriasis. Kim Kardashian has documented her own struggle, country star LeAnn Rimes was the face of 2008's "Stop Hiding, Start Living" psoriasis campaign and "What Not to Wear" host Stacy London is a spokesperson for the National Psoriasis Foundation and has spoken openly about her struggle balancing the condition with fashion. 

But Delevingne, who also had a bit part in last year's theatrical release of "Anna Karenina", has hinted that her psoriasis might steer her away from modeling soon, telling W Magazine, "I want to make music, I want to act, I want to sing, I want to do something that doesn't make my skin erupt." 

Public reaction has been mostly supportive, with many applauding Delevingne's "brave" decision to openly discuss her struggle, while others encourage her to continue modeling.

"Should a model quit because of psoriasis? No! Beauty comes in all forms!" wrote one fan on Twitter.

While psoriasis is difficult to deal with, it's not a death sentence, even for people in stressful careers — as long as you have the proper professional help. 

Acne-faced YouTube star struts the Fashion Week runway

"The most important thing is to have a good relationship with a board certified dermatologist who can help you find the right treatment," Dr. Evans recommended. "If you're in a job or situation of routine high stress, you may need a more aggressive treatment or to adjust your treatment to compensate for that. I've certainly talked to patients about ways to control stress, [such as with] exercise, yoga or meditation." 

And if your condition makes you feel isolated, Dr. Evans suggests reaching out to others or getting help from psoriasis support groups. "It helps to know that there are other people out there suffering with the same problem," he said. Even runway models. 

  • Slideshow Photos

    Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    They were once "just" supermodels, now they're designers, business owners, TV judges and moms. Take a look at these gorgeous ladies as they were at the height of their celebrity — and now.

  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Twiggy -

    Born Lesley Hornby, Twiggy entered the fashion world as a teenager in the swinging '60s, becoming well-known for her androgynous physique, large eyes and cropped hair. Since being dubbed “the face of 1966” by the Daily Express, she’s gone on to act on screen, stage and television. She also had a stint as a judge on the reality show "America’s Next Top Model."

  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Christy Turlington -

    Christy Turlington has graced over 500 magazine covers since she started modeling as a teenager. Now 44, she has earned a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University and is married to Ed Burns, with whom she has two children.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Claudia Schiffer -

    German-born Claudia Schiffer was first spotted in a nightclub at the age of 17, and went on to become one of the world's most highly-photographed models, appearing on over 700 magazine covers throughout her career. Since her modeling heyday Schiffer has performed in films, designed her own fashion collection and acted as a U.K. Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.

    WireImage, Getty Images / WireImage, Getty Images
  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Elle Macpherson -

    Dubbed “The Body” in the 1980s, Elle Macpherson has made a record five appearances on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue during her career. Post-modeling she started successful lingerie and skin care lines. The 48-year-old is now the host and producer of NBC’s "Fashion Star."

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Linda Evangelista -

    A longtime muse of photographer Steven Meisel, Linda Evangelista has appeared on over 600 magazine covers. Now 47, she has one child with billionaire Frenchman Francois-Henri Pinault. Proving that beauty knows no age, she became the new face of Talbots in June 2010.

    WireImage / WireImage
  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Heidi Klum -

    Heidi Klum became the first German Victoria’s Secret Angel in 1997, at the age of 24. Now 39, she’s still strutting down the runway, appearing most recently as a host and model at the 2012 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. This busy lady is also a host and executive producer of Project Runway, and a mother to four children.

    “The ultimate beauty secret for a woman getting older is, Don’t be too thin! It is always better to have a little meat on your bones,” she told Self in 2010.

    WireImage / WireImage
  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Marisa Berenson -

    Yves Saint Laurent called Marisa Berenson, granddaughter of fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, “the girl of the Seventies.” Since her supermodeling days, the 65 year old has broken into the movie industry — most recently appearing in the 2010 film “I Am Love.”

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Naomi Campbell -

    Discovered by a scout at the age of 15, Naomi Campbell was one of the biggest models of the early '90s. Despite stints in rehab for cocaine addiction, she’s continued to grace the catwalk, walking the runway in 2007 for Dior’s 60th anniversary fashion show.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Christie Brinkley -

    Christie Brinkley, 59, became famous for her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue covers in the late '70s and spent 25 years as the face of CoverGirl. More recently she’s had guest roles on television shows like Parks and Recreation. “I don’t ever apply makeup without scrubbing my face first,” the mother of three told People in 2011. “And I’m very careful with my makeup. Too much emphasizes your wrinkles.”

    WireImage, Getty Images / WireImage, Getty Images
  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Cindy Crawford -

    Cindy Crawford and her signature mole shot to worldwide fame as the supermodel became a household name in the '80s. Now 46, she has two children and several business ventures, including a line of furniture. “As I’ve gotten older I wear less makeup,” she tweeted in 2012. “It can make you look older, and hopefully we get more comfortable in our skin.”

    WireImage, AP / WireImage, AP
  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Helena Christensen -

    Helena Christensen has had several titles throughout her career: Beauty queen, Victoria’s Secret Angel, photographer and creative director for Nylon magazine. The mom of one, now 44, even launched her own clothing line in 2006 and has continued modeling in fashion campaigns.

    AP / AP
  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Iman -

    Iman spent 14 years as one of the top fashion models in the world. These days she’s married to David Bowie and keeps busy with her successful cosmetics company, Iman Cosmetics, which she started in 1994.

    WireImage, Getty Images / WireImage, Getty Images
  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Jerry Hall -

    Fashion model and actress Jerry Hall still isn't camera shy, recently posing nude with her 28-year-old daughter Lizzy Jagger in a campaign to raise awareness of overfishing. Hall, 56, also became the face of Invisible Zinc Skincare in 2010.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Kate Moss -

    Famous for her waifish figure, Kate Moss was discovered at the age of 14 and went on to become the face of Calvin Klein, Burberry, Dior and many other labels. She continues to model today and has designed a collection for Topshop. Moss, 39, married British musician Jamie Hince in 2007.

    AP / AP
  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Lauren Hutton -

    Lauren Hutton, 69, has graced the cover of Vogue 26 times throughout her glamorous career. Fired by Revlon at 40, she made a comeback as a model in the '90s before posing nude in Big magazine at the age of 61.

    WireImage, Getty Images / WireImage, Getty Images
  • Famous faces: Supermodels then and now

    of

    Tyra Banks -

    Tyra Banks started modeling at 15, eventually becoming a Victoria’s Secret Angel and the first-ever African American model chosen for the cover of the lingerie company’s catalogue. Now 39, Banks hasn’t shied away from being honest about the aging process. “My butt’s kind of sagging. It doesn’t look as good. My boobs are kind of sagging, too!” she told In Touch in 2012.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
0:00
 
0:00
Your video begins in
0:00
TOP