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Woman Who Thought She Had Dandruff Diagnosed With Severe Psoriasis That Turned Her Tattoo Into A' Blurry Mess'

Kelly claims Epaderm has given her her confidence back (PA Real Life/Collect)

A mom who assumed her dry scalp was dandruff has told of how she ended up with psoriasis so severe it coated her entire body and turned the rose tattoo on her arm into an “unrecognizable, blurry mess."


When Kelly O'Hanlon, 35, first noticed her scalp was itchy and flaky, she thought she was suffering with dandruff and started using a specialist shampoo.

But when that made little difference, she consulted her GP and was diagnosed in September 2011 with psoriasis – an incurable condition which sees the skin become covered in crusty patches.

Kelly's psoriasis is so severe it covers her tattoo (PA Real Life/Collect)

Over the next few years, Kelly – who has two children, Ethan, six, and Sullivan, 11-months-old, with her communications officer husband Stephen, 37 – tried all sorts of treatments, including topical creams and UVB light therapy.

Sadly, nothing seemed to keep her condition at bay for long, leaving her confidence at rock bottom.

Then, in 2018, whilst pregnant with Sullivan, she was recommended a £3.49 ($4.50) over-the-counter emollient – a type of moisturizing treatment – by a doctor, which she said has finally helped her to embrace her skin.

Kelly with her sons, Sullivan and Ethan (PA Real Life/Collect)

The university lecturer, of Birmingham, said: “I went from having a patch of psoriasis the size of a 50p (50 pence coin) to my legs, arms, stomach and even face being covered in red, sore patches.

“The tattoo on my arm, which I got in 2017 and have always loved, was particularly affected. One day it was there, and the next it had disappeared into a blurred, distorted mess.

“But now, for the first time in years – and I hate to say this, because I feel like the psoriasis is listening and will come back with a vengeance – I feel comfortable in my own skin."

Kelly's psoriasis is on her scalp, face, arms and legs (PA Real Life/Collect)

Kelly's nightmare began back in June 2011, when she noticed she was shedding white flakes from her scalp whilst brushing her hair.

Assuming she had dandruff, she bought a specialist shampoo.

But when the dry skin began to spread, she realized something more sinister was at play.

“After a couple of weeks, the patch on my scalp became really itchy and got bigger and bigger," she explained.

“I know other people with psoriasis, so I was convinced that's what I had. I'll admit I didn't go to the doctors straight away though, as I never expected it to spread as quickly as it did. I thought I'd try and treat it myself first."

Over the next three months, Kelly's symptoms worsened until her hairline and the skin behind her ears also became covered in crusty patches.

Kelly's legs are particularly impacted by her psoriasis (PA Real Life/Collect)

In September 2011, she went to the doctor, where she was officially diagnosed with plaque psoriasis – the most common form of the condition – and given some prescription-strength coal tar shampoo.

For the next 18 months, she did her best to manage to condition, which only a few people knew she had at that point. “No one could see it at that point, because it was only on my scalp and the surrounding areas," she explained.

“But because I knew it was there, I was constantly checking on it – itchy and scratching to see how flaky I was. I became fixated, which added to my stress and anxiety."

Kelly's documented the improvement of her legs since using Epaderm (PA Real Life/Collect)

After giving birth to Ethan in May 2013, Kelly's psoriasis “exploded" across her body.

She continued: “I noticed a minute patch of dry skin on my baby bump towards the end of the pregnancy but I wasn't too bothered.

“Fast forward to three months later though, and both my legs were covered in sheets of psoriasis."

Kelly's psoriasis is on her scalp, face, arms and legs (PA Real Life/Collect)

According to the Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance, between and 10 and 20 percent of women find that their psoriasis gets worse during pregnancy.

Visiting her doctor again in August 2013, Kelly was told her outbreak was likely linked to hormonal changes.

She was then prescribed steroid cream and referred for a 10-week course of light therapy.

“I had to go religiously three times a week for short bursts of light therapy, but because my skin is so fair it started off with a very low dosage," she said.

“By the time I'd finished, it had cleared up most of the psoriasis on my upper half, and my legs had improved a lot."

Finally able to enjoy motherhood without feeling self-conscious, for five months Kelly was without a flare-up – but when her psoriasis returned in January 2014, she “gave up hope."

Kelly's legs after using Epaderm (PA Real Life/Collect)

“The psoriasis came back with a vengeance and after initially trying light therapy again, I just thought the benefits weren't worth it," she continued.

“I'd already undergone 30 sessions of light therapy and you're only allowed so many in your life due to the risk of skin damage.

“The whole process was a juggling act and it wasn't giving me the results I wanted the second time around."

Kelly claims Epaderm has given her her confidence back (PA Real Life/Collect)

Sadly, Kelly's confidence was soon at rock bottom – not least because of the stares and comments she had to deal with from strangers.

Recalling one particularly upsetting incident, she said: “I took the children out swimming and I was in my costume – something which takes a lot of courage, even on a good day – and the child behind asked his mum what was wrong with my legs.

“I realize children don't understand the impact their words have, but I couldn't help feeling torn up by it all."

Kelly's psoriasis is the best it has been in four years (PA Real Life/Collect)

For the next five years, Kelly self-managed her psoriasis using steroid cream and treatment shampoo.

Then, in 2018, when she fell pregnant for the second time, a dermatologist recommend she try Epaderm emollient ointment as an alternative to steroid cream, which she was worried about using as an expectant mother.

According to the NHS, whilst most topical cortisteroids are considered safe to use during pregnancy, particularly potent ones are not usually prescribed.

Kelly's tattoo is visible again after using Epaderm (PA Real Life/Collect)

“During the pregnancy, the hormones this time around seemed to have a positive effect on the psoriasis – my skin cleared up for a good few months," she said.

“Then after I gave birth to Sullivan on December 19, it all came back thicker than ever – my skin felt like it was on fire.

“I just thought, 'I can't live like this.' It really was the worst it's ever been."

Already stocked up with Epaderm, which she used “every now and then," Kelly decided to start applying the product religiously, day and night – and within a matter of weeks, she said her skin was showing signs of improvement.

“Now I use it morning and night, I even carry a little tube in my handbag," she said. “I don't want to come across like this it cured my psoriasis because it's not something you can ever really cure. But it's about finding what works for you.

“Now, for the first time in a long time, I feel back in control, and I want to show others out there living with psoriasis that there is a light at the end of the tunnel."