Dermatographic urticaria, also known as “skin writing”, is a rare skin condition in which the skin becomes raised or inflamed when it is touched. Occurring in only 4-5% of the world’s population, even some dermatologists will only ever see the problem in medical textbooks. Patients with the disorder, however, usually seek out dermatographic urticaria treatment from local dermatologist specialists, as their condition can uncomfortable and startling. Some, however, will embrace the condition. Take Brooklyn-based artist Ariana Page Russell, for example: her photography project, titled “Dermatographia”, documents a series of beautiful, intricate designs on her skin.
Using knitting needles and other blunt objects, Russell draws geometric patterns, typographic designs and more on her skin, always ensuring that she causes only the welts that result from dermatographic urticaria and not an actual injury. Once she’s finished drawing, she waits five minutes to ensure that the designs form, then begins taking photos. Her marks usually fade within 30 minutes. The result is image after image of her skin, nude or clothed, simultaneously familiar and unsettling due to the red welts.
Russell began taking these pictures in 2003, when she first used a tripod and remote control to capture her skin drawings. Since then, it has evolved into a new project called Skin Tome, which encourages people with sensitive skin problems to see their disorders as beautiful.
“Skin Tome celebrates sensitive skin, and acknowledges that having unique or weird skin is cool, inspiring, and something to be proud of,” she explained to The Huffington Post in 2014. However, she says the project also offers tips for managing different conditions and selecting dermatographic urticaria treatments and other therapies.
Dermatographic urticaria is essentially an allergic reaction, caused by a weak mast cell membranes that break down under physical pressure. This causes the body to release histamines, but no antigens, the structural substance that bind with antibodies to halt immune responses. As a result, dermatographic urticaria treatment usually relies on antihistamines. If you believe you have this or another sensitive skin condition, make an appointment with a dermatologist clinic near you to discuss ways you can stop the itching and other problems.