Tia Mowry has been a household name since the '90s for her role in the iconic sitcom Sister, Sister — and she's been dealing with eczema for just as long. The actress and author says she went decades without knowing that she had the chronic skin condition, which is often characterized by dry, flaky, itchy patches of skin.
"I was suffering with eczema for years and didn't know because of the lack of information, educational tools, resources, and visibility on what it looks like on Black skin," Mowry tells InStyle. "Unfortunately we don't have representation when it comes to that, so I grew up with symptoms not knowing that's what I had until I was in my mid 20s."
Mowry's underdiagnosis has inspired her to open about her experience with eczema, and partner with Aveeno for its #Skinvisibility campaign, which aims to bring awareness to the underdiagnosis of the condition on Black skin.
"I've been using Aveeno for years and my children also have flareups, so I'm constantly having them use it too," she says of the partnership. "I'm an actual user and believer."
In fact, it wasn't a dermatologist, but a gynecologist that helped Mowry finally figure out what was making her skin peel. In addition to eczema, the star deals with migraines and endometriosis, both are also inflammatory conditions.
"I actually sat down with my gynecologist to talk about endometriosis," she says. "I had an eczema flareup at the time and my hands were peeling like my mother's [who also has the skin condition]. She's a Black doctor, and she told me it was eczema and I didn't even know. She was the one who referred me to a dermatologist and from there I was diagnosed."
Now that Mowry knows she has eczema, she's able to pinpoint her triggers, from stress to food, which became helpful when she experienced more flareups during quarantine.
"After being diagnosed I did see an allergist, which I also think is great information for eczema sufferers," Mowry says. "Get an allergy panel and see what you are allergic to in terms of foods because that can cause inflammation or trigger inflammation in the body, which therefore can result in eczema. That's what it is for me and alcohol."
VIDEO: Tia Mowry Is Making the Case for Colorful Fall Makeup
Unfortunately the same goes for cheese, but the good news is that it's made Mowry get creative with the recipes she makes on her Quick Fix YouTube series.
"I love cheese! If you watch my YouTube channel I'm like, 'cheese, glorious cheese!' But I did find out cheese can sometimes be a trigger for me if I have too much of it," she laments. "I've found a lot of alternatives I can use as substitutions. It's definitely made me aware of what I'm putting in my body and the recipes I decide to make, but you know, everyone is different. That's why I always like to give alternatives."
While Mowry hopes her eczema journey creates more relatable stories for Black eczema sufferers, her relationship with her hair is another example of how impactful representation can be.
"I'm really happy I've finally been able to come to a point where I can enjoy my natural hair. For years, I didn't feel like I saw myself represented in the beauty was being glorified," she says. "It was far from what I looked like, and that brought on a lot of insecurities. I'm thankful for social media, because prior to social media, things were filtered in regards to what beauty was. Now, I'm able to see all of these amazing Black women in the curly hair community embrace themselves in their natural state and that started to make me embrace myself and my hair and really have fun."
And it shows in each and every hairstyle Mowry shares with her nine million Instagram followers.
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