Some 7.5 million Americans suffer from psoriasis, an autoimmune disorder that develops when the immune system kicks into overdrive, causing skin cells to grow too quickly. These cells accumulate on the skin, causing scaly, red patches. Psoriasis can range from relatively mild (affecting up to 2% of the body) to very severe (covering 10% to 80% or more of the body). Fortunately, medication and lifestyle can control even the most serious cases. Here are the stories of 12 celebrities with psoriasis who have survived and even triumphed.
The reality TV star revealed she had psoriasis on a 2011 episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Kardashian was 30 at the time, the same age as her mother, Kris Jenner, when she was diagnosed with the condition. Psoriasis most often appears between the ages of 15 and 35 and does have a strong genetic component. Kardashian deals with the disease much as she does the rest of her life: publicly. "I'm using Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs spray and it is my lifesaver at the moment!" she once posted on her web site. "I love this stuff! It really covers up my psoriasis so well!"
Before becoming America's Next Top Model in 2006, CariDee English fought a long battle with psoriasis. Diagnosed at age five, she found all kinds of ways to hide the condition, which at one point covered 70% of her body. She wore long sleeves in the middle of summer, got doctor's notes to excuse her from gym and, when starting her modeling career, hid her lesions under thick makeup. Thanks to medication, English's skin is now clear, but she once did before-and-after pics of her psoriasis, hoping that people with psoriasis would "gain some motivation from this."
The man who, with Paul Simon, brought us the 60s classics "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "Feelin' Groovy" also has psoriasis. Once while on a concert tour of Israel, Garfunkel soaked in the Dead Sea hoping to find relief from his symptoms. "I've been told that if you float in that salty, buoyant water, it's very good for the skin," he said on his website. "I found it not so much therapeutic as beautiful."
Swimmer Dara Torres has won 12 medals in five different Olympic Games. She also has psoriasis. Torres has found that the chlorine in pools actually helps her condition, though others with psoriasis find pool chemicals to be irritating. Part of her mission is to make sure others with the condition aren't kept out of the pool either because they're self-conscious or because people think it's catching. "Psoriasis isn't contagious and it isn't just cosmetic," she says in a public service announcement. "It's a serious disease."
Comedian and former Saturday Night Live-er Jon Lovitz first thought it was a rash, only to be told he actually had plaque psoriasis. The lesions eventually covered 75% of his body and he went so far as to put makeup on his elbows to hide the condition. Lovitz now has his psoriasis under control after trying—and failing—many different medications. "Don't be embarrassed," he said in an interview with the National Psoriasis Foundation. "See a dermatologist. A lot of people with psoriasis give up, but don't. Find out what works best for you."
The two-time Grammy winner was diagnosed with psoriasis when she was just two years old. By the time she was six, it covered 80% of her body. Stigmatized as "scaly girl" when she was a child and afraid to wear short dresses on the Red Carpet even as an adult, Rimes' psoriasis is now clear, thanks to medication and careful lifestyle choices such as healthy eating. Doing a magazine shoot in a bikini was "one of the highlights of my life," Rimes told Health.
Stacy London's psoriasis was so bad as a child that she had to trim her hair into a crew cut and wear turtlenecks and long pants in the heat of summer. She felt like a "monster," the stylist on What Not to Wear once confided. So she turned to fashion and its pretty adornments to boost her self-esteem. "I do think that there is a lot about what I've been through that has sort of merged certainly with my ambition career-wise to create a new kind of style that is based in self-esteem," she says on her site, Uncover Your Confidence.
A lifelong battle with psoriasis inspired some of novelist John Updike's fiction. In fact, readers can partly credit the condition for making him a writer in the first place. "Because of my skin, I counted myself out of any of those jobs—salesman, teacher, financier, movie star—that demand being presentable," he once wrote. "What did that leave? Becoming a craftsman of some kind, closeted and unseen—perhaps a cartoonist or a writer, a worker in ink who can hide himself and send out as surrogate presence, a signature that multiplies even while it conceals."
Miss California 2013 was diagnosed with psoriasis when she was 16 and already in the awkward teen years. The condition caused her fingernails to break off and her scalp, she said once, "was crazy flaking." Teased and bullied in school, she entered her first beauty contest at age 18 to gain self-confidence. Now she's made it part of her mandate to raise awareness about the disease. Psoriasis has "made me a stronger and better person, independent, focused and hard working. This is who I am," she told the National Psoriasis Foundation.
About 30% of people who have psoriasis go on to develop psoriatic arthritis and pro golfer Phil Michelson is one of them. He developed painful joint inflammation eight years after he was diagnosed with the skin condition. Michelson controls the arthritis largely with biologic drugs (you've probably seen the commercials). He told USA Today that as a result of early treatment, he has regained 20% of the strength he lost the year he was diagnosed.
Director Eli Roth reportedly got the inspiration for his blockbuster horror film Cabin Fever after contracting flesh-eating disease (a bacterial infection unrelated to psoriasis) and because he has suffered for years from psoriasis. One outbreak was so severe he could not walk or wear clothes. When not directing horror films (others include Hostel and Hostel: Part II), he acts, having played opposite Brad Pitt as Sergeant Donny Donowitz in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.
In addition to portraying "Beaver" on the all-American sitcom Leave It to Beaver, Mathers struggled with psoriasis as a child. Although his case is relatively mild, staying for the most part on his heels and buttocks, "it has been a source of embarrassment," he told USA Today in 2012. Of the newer biologic drugs, he commented, "This new class of drugs is pretty exciting...For me, it means I might not ever again feel the urge to scratch that itch. And that means I might be able to finally breathe a long sigh of relief."