Frances Wang is returning to a TV near you this week after going off the air for a month to recover from a painful skin condition she’s been battling for nearly six months.
The anchor and reporter was diagnosed with perioral dermatitis only a few months after moving to South Florida for her new job at WFOR-CBS4.
The California native, who is in her late 20s, said she’s tried more than a dozen medications and recommendations to heal the inflammatory acne-like facial rash. She stopped wearing makeup, ate vegan and gluten-free, even tried celery juice every morning for three weeks.
“I even put butt paste on my face,” she said, explaining how it has zinc oxide.
Her problems started in January, a month after she moved to Brickell. At first, she thought it was a bad case of eczema, a skin condition she occasionally had growing up that makes the skin red and itchy.
She went to a dermatologist and was prescribed a topical steroid cream by a physician assistant.
It was like a “miracle fix,” she said.
But when it ran out, her condition worsened.
Bumps broke out around her chin. Then her cheeks.
“It was spreading and only getting worse and worse,” she said.
Several dermatologists later diagnosed her with perioral dermatitis.
The sometimes painful condition is most commonly seen in young women. The exact cause of the condition is not known, but the rashes “may appear after topical steroid creams are applied to the face to treat other conditions,” according to WebMD. There’s no guaranteed cure.
Eventually, Wang’s forehead also flared up.
The dermatologists she visited told her the steroid cream she used “ultimately led to this condition.”
Wang, who said she never had acne while growing up, now had topical steroid-induced acne.
She tried to cover the bumps with makeup, but they became so severe, not even the best foundation could keep her condition shrouded from the TV cameras.
“I started feeling self-conscious about it,” she said. “I would get nervous about going on air.”
She started avoiding her co-workers, was taking longer to do her makeup and had a few breakdowns.
Wang also felt guilty, not because she had a skin condition, but because she was upset.
“I’m very aware a skin condition is very trivial in the bigger picture,” Wang said. “But, since sharing, I’ve learned that a majority of people have dealt with skin issues in their life and for some people it’s emotionally tolling.”
She found solace in a perioral dermatitis Facebook support group, and after months of battling with her own insecurities, she decided to share her story with her 30,000+ Instagram followers in September.
“Being vulnerable is hard, but it also lets people know they’re not alone, especially in the filter world we live in,” Wang told the Miami Herald. “I think there’s so much beauty in vulnerability and sharing and coming together.”
When she went off the air in October to “heal” and give her face a break from the TV makeup, she began using her Instagram to spread awareness about the condition.
She also shared posts made by others who were diagnosed with the skin condition:
▪ “I want the world to know that it really hurts when people stare.”
▪ “I want people to know about the psychological toll it takes. Your face is your gateway to the world and it’s what people look at the most when you’re interacting with them. You can’t hide it.”
▪ “I would want people to know how much it HURTS and that the itch is nearly unbearable.”
Wang, who went back to Northern California’s dry climate on her doctor’s recommendation, also hasn’t been camera shy. She’s been posting pictures of herself traveling, visiting family, friends and having fun — without any makeup on.
“I don’t feel I look my best, I don’t feel my best, but I can still be my best,” Wang said.
While she’s received a few negative comments, Wang said the support she’s gotten from colleagues, friends and fans have helped keep her spirits up.
“You are so real for this! A lot of young women like myself needed to see and read this. Thank you for being so brave!,” one fan commented on the first post Wang made about her condition on Sept. 16.
“Said it before, I’ll say it again. Still beautiful,” commented Ethan Calloway, an anchor and reporter at WSVN, one of CBS4’s local competitors.
On Monday, Wang shared a side-by-side comparison post showing the progress she’s made in the past month, earning a string of heart emojis from her boss, Liz Roldan, CBS4 news director.
While her skin hasn’t fully cleared yet, Wang is ready to return.
She hopes her story — and the others she’s shared — reminds everyone that they’re never alone and that inner beauty is more important. She also is encouraging people to be their own health advocate.
She’s excited — and a bit nervous — to be back in front of the TV camera this week.
“I’m not fully healed,” Wang said. “It’s going to take time — I’m not sure how long. So, I’m hoping people are more forgiving and more kind now that I’ve been so public with what’s going on.”