The $12,324 Cost of Treating Eczema

Getty and Photo Illustration by Becky Jiras

Image Source: Getty and Photo Illustration by Becky Jiras

Welcome to Show the Receipts, a new series where we ask interesting people to share exactly how much it costs to get shit done. No matter the task, we’re tracking every last dollar from start to finish. Up next: treating eczema.

Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions in the world. In fact, more than 31 million people in the United States alone experience the genetic skin disease, according to the National Eczema Association. For Nelita Villezon, it all started with a spider bite.

“I call it my Spider-Man story,” she tells PS. Villezon was traveling overseas when the bite happened, which was followed by a small itching sensation that turned into something more. “My skin started to dry out to the point where I would get lacerations and blisters on my hands,” she says. After a few visits to an internal medicine doctor, she was diagnosed with Pompholyx eczema, a form of atopic dermatitis that typically affects the hands and feet and presents in the form of blisters.

After being prescribed a steroid cream she says only “masked” her symptoms, Villezon started on a journey to explore Eastern medicinal approaches to healing her eczema and her body. “I wasn’t able to use the cream on a consistent basis because of potential side effects like steroid withdrawal,” Villezon says. She still paid monthly visits to a dermatologist and internal medicine doctor for prescription treatments, which were at least partially covered by insurance, but switched her diet to whole foods only and began taking supplements, which was the bigger expense.

Here’s the full cost breakdown.

Task: treating eczema
Occupation: martial artist, herbalist, and content creator
Location: Los Angeles, California
Timeline: 1 year

The Receipts:

Dermatologist appointments: $60 copay with insurance per month, or $720 per year
Supplements: $400 per month, or $4800 a year
Prescription treatments: $80 per month, or $960 a year
Over-the-counter skin-care products: $67 per month, or $804 a year
Special diet: $400 per month, or $4800 a year
Gloves: $20 per month, or $240 a year
Total Cost: $12,324

How I Did It

Villezon’s approach to treating her eczema starts from the inside. “When I got formally diagnosed I started wondering what I could do internally to take care of myself,” she says. “For me, it really came down to addressing a lot of the things that I was putting into my body.” Here, she’s sharing some of the big takeaways worth noting.

PS: What was the most surprising expense of this process?
Nelita Villezon: Revamping my diet and supplement routine was the most expensive part of this entire process for me. Yes, going to the doctor is expensive and we always tell people to be healthy but there is a flip side to that. It’s really expensive to start eating solely fruits and vegetables. Then when you factor in the supplements and vitamins, these things can cost hundreds of dollars per month.

PS: What were you surprised that insurance would or wouldn’t cover?
NV: When I was first diagnosed, I was living in Dubai. So when I’d go to the doctor I could access all the products I needed pretty easily without prescriptions. Here, it’s the complete opposite. I’d have lacerations on my hands and have to go through a whole process to see a doctor (and therefore have to pay money) to get a prescription. It was crazy to me that there were so many hoops to jump through for something that so severely impacted my way of life and livelihood.

PS: Where did you cut costs to accommodate your treatments and medications?
NV: The places where I cut costs the most was honestly just my everyday social life. I knew that eating good foods was an important to me and that I need to eat at home more. So I couldn’t necessarily go and hang out with friends if all we were doing was eating out. I had to make a decision of what I valued more: a good time or good health? Even my beauty maintenance was impacted – I got extremely minimal and would often either skip out on products I used for my hair, makeup, and nails or get a generic brand version.

PS: What were some of the more unexpected lifestyle expenses you faced with eczema?
NV: This is going to sound weird, but gloves. My boyfriend makes fun of me because of how many I buy, but I really do need them – I can’t touch everything, my hands will dry up and crack. I also had to get allergy testing because sometimes my eczema would flare up due to me being allergic to something, but unless you get the test you wouldn’t know what those triggers are. I learned that I was allergic to certain metals so I had to swap out a good amount of my pots and pans to higher quality ones, which in turn, was more expensive. I also only use hypoallergenic detergent now.

Final Thoughts

Villezon recognizes that her wholistic approach to eczema is a bit more expensive than most routines. If you’re interested in exploring a similar route, she also advises to not overwhelm yourself. “I swear by Vaseline ($4) and the Eczema Relief Cream ($12) from Goldbond,” Villezon says. “The process of healing your eczema will take a lot of trial and error, but it will be so worth it in the end.”

Related: The Hidden Cost of Skin Conditions Needs to be Addressed

Ariel Baker is the associate editor for PS Beauty. Her areas of expertise include celebrity news, beauty trends, and product reviews. She has additional bylines with Essence and Forbes Vetted.

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