A woman who suffers from a skin condition leaving her with "leopard spots" all over her said she has love to thank for giving her confidence.
Emma Jarvis, 25, has said her extreme psoriasis had left her with patches of red, flaky, crusty patches of skin all over her legs, back and arms.
“I regularly get double-takes from strangers,” she said. “I was really self-conscious but now I feel great about myself.
“I wear bikinis on the beach and don’t care what other people think.”
Miss Jarvis, of Winchester, Hampshire, said she had love to thank for her newfound self-confidence.
She met boyfriend Matthew Rose, 24, a former colleague, in DIY store Homebase and he saw past her appearance.
“He’s so supportive and he loves me so much. He’s really helped.”
She said: “I’ve got my own leopard spots – people have said they look just like animal print, so at least I’m on trend.
“I know some people stare but it’s their problem, not my problem.
“I’m different and beauty is not just skin deep.”
Jarvis does not let her condition get in her way of her life.
She goes swimming in a bikini and wears short-sleeved tops where you can see her spots.
Jarvis, from Winchester, Hampshire, said: “People say that some celebs have it like Kim Kardashian, but she has a tiny amount."
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While it is estimated that just 2% of people suffer from psoriasis in the UK, Jarvis says that people don't realise how serious the condition is.
The condition causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin that are sometimes covered in silvery scales. As well as being physically irritating, the condition can have an emotional effect on many sufferers.
Jarvis first suffered a flare up aged seven.
The emergency call handler said: “I can’t remember not having it. I started getting patches and my grandpa has it so my mum took me to the dermatologist.”
As a child, she initially suffered from a small amount of psoriasis over her body.
She said: “I had it really badly on my scalp, so it would come down on my shoulders like a snowstorm.
“The kids would make cruel comments and point it out.
“They just thought I had dandruff.”
It was not until aged 16, the psoriasis first spread.
She said: “I was stressed at college with exams and it started flaring up on my stomach and back.
“It’s such a hard time anyway, I felt like I was weird.”
As it became worse, she started light therapy treatment aged 18, with UVA light used in a sunbed at hospital.
The first course over four months cleared up most of her psoriasis and she continued to have the treatment, having light therapy for four months every two years.
But following her last course of treatment in 2013, the psoriasis has spread.
She said: “Last year I started getting patches on my legs and arms, where I’d never had it before.
“I couldn’t believe it, I felt horrified.
“I tried to cover up wearing long-sleeved tops and jeans. But it’s so difficult in summer.
“It’s on my face too so now I can’t wear makeup.
“Even on a night out I have to have a bare face, it got me so down. If I went on a night out, I stood out because I was the only girl not wearing any.
“I just wanted to hide behind makeup.”
Miss Jarvis had been single for two years because she had not ‘put herself out there.’
She said: “I felt awkward meeting guys, I feel like I have to tell them upfront about my spots.
“Some people can be so shallow and I can’t wear makeup and I don’t have good skin, so I felt unattractive.”
But after staying in touch with a former colleague for seven years, Miss Jarvis and Mr Rose started dating in November 2014.
She said: “I had such low-esteem. But Matt already knew me and knew about the condition, so I didn’t have to go through explaining it.
“It can be embarrassing when we’re in the same bed because I scratch and then flake everywhere. Sometimes I bleed because I’ve scratched too much.
“I end up hoovering the sheets to get rid of all the bits.
“Matt has really helped me to love myself.”
Jarvis has embraced her ‘spots’ and wears a bikini to take her nephews swimming – despite stares.
She said: “I get little kids asking what’s on my skin but I know they’re just curious.
“I do get people staring at me because I look different. But I feel more comfortable in my body.”
In summer months, Jarvis used to try to cover up.
But now she is embracing her skin and wears short-sleeved top and shorts in warm weather.
She said: “Normal people can get up and wear what they want.
“Before summer would be a nightmare but now I just wear what I want and deal with the looks.”Suggest a correction