For as long as I can remember, I’ve suffered from eczema. It’s a condition that has affected me my entire life. As a professional model, I either had to learn to deal with it or find a different line of work.
It’s not exactly acceptable in the modeling industry to show up to a shoot looking as if I had a death match with a stray cat on steroids. I actually had a photographer ask me that question once in the early days of my career.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, isn’t glamorous. It looks like dry rashes, and if I am not careful, I can get it on my face, elbows, ears, knees, hands, and feet.
Although eczema has no known cure, I’ve tried just about every pharmaceutical drug treatment available for it. Some provided temporary relief, but the side effects (fatigue, wear on the liver, decreased resistance to infection, thinning of the skin, and high blood pressure) made them not worth it for me.
I decided to look for a different approach, one that focused on nutrition and healthy habits. I found effective ways to manage it. By watching my diet, eating healthy, and avoiding exposure to certain chemicals, environmental conditions, and allergens, I’ve learned how to control my eczema.
To curb my eczema episodes, I avoid citrus (especially pineapple and orange juice), dairy (especially cheese, milk, and yogurt), food preservatives, food coloring, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats.
I also avoid alcohol, cigarettes, perfumes, fragranced shampoos, soaps, deodorants, scented candles, non-sensitive skin detergents, and direct skin exposure to household cleaning products. I always try to use products that are unscented, delicate, or marked as “for sensitive skin” whereve
As a child growing up in Denmark, I had a weight problem, crooked teeth, and took my haircuts over my parent’s kitchen table. I didn’t exactly look like a supermodel. Bullies at my school teased me from the time I was 10 to 14. They called me “heks” (the Danish word for “witch”) among other “lovely” terms. At the time, I didn’t know anything about diet, nutrition, or eating healthy.
Ironically, the pain I experienced from the bullying had a silver lining. I eventually grew tired of it. My family helped me make some changes. They educated me about health, nutrition, and exercise. They fed me a wide variety of raw vegetables and roots, such as fennel, celery, carrot, and beets. Sometimes they prepared fresh green juices as well.
I started participating in dance, karate, and sports at school. I began exercising twice per week in my parent’s living room with a workout video tape. Thanks to a government program, I was fortunate enough to get braces. Two years later, I entered the Elite Model Look contest and won Denmark’s national competition, and weeks later I won the international final. My modeling career began, and I moved to New York.
For a professional model, improving one’s health and condition is paramount. I sought out more information and read my friend Carol Alt’s book, Eating in the Raw. The book resonated with me because of the positive results I had with raw foods as a young teenager. Her book inspired me and helped me refocus my diet. I have lived by it ever since, and the good nutrition she teaches helps me keep my figure camera-ready and my eczema in check. I’m grateful that I have been able to learn from her experiences and admire her greatly.
Heidi Albertsen is an international supermodel and
By Heidi Albertsen