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These Powerful Photos Capture What It's Really Like to Have Psoriasis

@cienaraenelson / Instagram

Psoriasisis one of those conditions that's easy to shrug off if you've never experienced it firsthand.We admit that even as people who write aboutskin issuesall the time,we've had fleeting thoughts along the lines of "Kim Kardashian has itand we'd never have been able to tell." Of course,the truth is that having psoriasis means more than getting occasional itchy red patches—it's an autoimmune disease withsymptomsthat can be quite serious.And a Los Angeles-based actress namedCiena Rae Nelsonjust found a new way to remind the world of this,via Instagram.First,here's a headshot of her.Based on this,you'd never guess she faced even the slightest skin challenge,right?Hers looks borderline-annoyingly flawless.

Of course,we've all learned by now that a too-perfect photo usually doesn't tell the whole story (right?).To shine light on her "invisible illness," Nelson posted two close-up selfies side-by-side.In the first,her fully made-up skin just appears to be slightly textured/dry.In the second,she ups the image's color saturation and structure to play up the underlying redness created by the psoriasis,as a way to show how the condition feels.And the visual works—there's no way anyone can look at these photos without better understanding the discomfort she feels.

Nelson has been making it her mission to raise awareness about psoriasis on social media.In another post two months ago,she detailed the non-cosmetic symptoms of the condition,posting a photo of herself taken two years ago,before she headed to the hospital for severe dehydration and a fever.

"Skin conditions are not cosmetic issues," she writes."They cause physical pain and suffering and oftentimes a feeling of being trapped in your own body,on top of the social anxiety many people face because of them.I personally struggle with sleep deprivation due to constant,widespread itchiness that feels more like I'm being stung or bitten than I am 'itchy.' Sometimes it's completely unbearable and I have to go to a calm place in my mind to meditate and breathe until it lessens,but it never fully goes away.Hydrate.Get enough sleep.Eat healthy foods.Nourish your biggest organ,and all of the rest while you're at it."

This holistic advice is so spot-on for someone battlinganysort of skin challenge,from psoriasis to eczema to acne—which as those who've experienced severe versions can attest,often feels far from merely cosmetic.Actually,it's spot-on for anyone with skin,period.Thanks for sharing this,Ciena—your openness and bravery are an inspiration.