A student suffering from an incurable skin condition is raising awareness of the illness she will have to live with for the rest of her life.
A third-year public relations student from the University of Westminster in Harrow, Olamide Kupoluyi, developed psoriasis on her head two years ago.
She blames the condition, which causes red, scaly skin, on using chemical hair relaxants for more than 15 years and is now encouraging people to take better care of their skin.
She said: “I was using chemical relaxants in my hair from the age of five. I used them because my hair was really curly and my hairdresser told my mother that she wouldn’t do my hair unless I used relaxants.”
Olamide stopped using the products two years ago because chunks of her hair started falling out, her scalp became flaky and the skin on her head turned scaly.
Despite cutting off all her hair and not using any chemicals the symptoms persisted.
“At first I thought I was going bald," Olamide added.
"It really freaked me out and I was too afraid to go to the doctor so I just left it and tried not to put any chemicals in my hair.
“But the scales and flaking wouldn’t go away and my cousin told me that it might be psoriasis and that I should get it checked out.”
The doctor confirmed the disease and told her that using chemical relaxants may have had something to do with its development.
Now she wants to encourage people to use fewer chemicals on their skin and hair.
She said: “It is probably just easier for some people to put chemical relaxants in their hair because it makes their hair easier to manage and easier to deal with.
“To them I say - it’s just not worth it.”
Olamide says anything which damages your skin is dangerous and people need to research what products they use.
She said: “When using chemical relaxants a lot of people have the experience that their skin is burning.
“They say the burning is part of the ‘experience’. But your head is not supposed to be on fire.
“If your skin is cracked and scabby then it will leave you open to infection and disease and this can turn into something much worse.”
Psoriasis affects around two per cent of people in the UK and can start at any age, but most often develops between the ages of 11 and 45.
The disease is caused by the body’s own immune system attacking skin cells.
Its severity varies greatly from person to person but it is a lifelong condition that can return at any time. Olamide said: “Right now you can’t really see it because it comes and goes.
"Psoriasis is overlooked a lot and people don’t realise what all these chemicals can do to your skin.
“It’s sore when I put water on my head and sometimes I don’t even have to touch my scalp, it hurts when I just touch my hair.”
While she is single now, she is worried about having explain the situation to any future boyfriends.
She added: “It’s a bit embarrassing when I meet new people because they look at my head and think something is wrong and I have to tell people not to worry - its fine.”
Olamide has spent the last two year coming to terms with the condition and living with it.
She has made her whole family stop using relaxants and now advises them on what products are safe and which aren’t.
She added: “I would tell everyone out there, especially little girls, do your research and if you can avoid using chemicals on your skin then please do.
“It is not about saying you can’t have your hair a certain way but I want people to know there are other ways of achieving it without causing this disease or going bald.”