A teen who was branded “tomato face” by cruel bullies has revealed her extraordinary routine to hide a red rash on her face.
Chloe Boweren, 18, from Stanwell, Surrey, undergoes a gruelling 90-minute makeover every day to cover her malar rash – a bright red or purplish rash which first appeared across her eyes, nose and cheeks three years ago.
Believed to be due to autoimmune disease lupus, the rash saw Chloe branded ‘butterfly girl’ and ‘cherry tomato face’ by school bullies and left her reluctant to leave the house unless she had to.
The checkout assistant has learned to embrace her condition and bravely films herself without makeup on for other teens going through
Three years since her first flare-up, Chloe now refuses to let the bullies get her down and bravely shows her rash to give support to other lupus sufferers.
She has even filmed the laborious 90-minute process of applying makeup so others can learn how they might be able to cope with the condition.
Chloe, from Stanwell, Surrey, said: “When I was 15, I woke up one morning with this face rash. People called me butterfly girl or cherry tomato face – it was awful.
“I fell into depression. I was going through my GCSEs and it was hard.
“I made the video because I just want to show people that they can love themselves and not to worry about other people.
“Sometimes I even like to go out without makeup now and embrace my face rash. It’s interesting to be different.
“Three years on, my message to my bullies is this – just look at me now.
“I don’t care what people say about me. There’s more to life than worrying about other people’s opinions.”
After various tests revealed Chloe didn’t have an allergic reaction or hormone imbalance, doctors and specialists started to investigate the possibility of her having lupus – a diagnosis they are confident of, despite Chloe waiting for formal confirmation since 2016.
Day-to-day, Chloe suffers symptoms including extreme fatigue and arthritis.
Chloe said: “I woke up one morning in 2015 and had this malar rash across my face.
“I felt disgusting. I didn’t know what it was.
“It thought I’d used a face cream that had brought me up in the rash.
“My mum thought it was sunburn and I was baffled – it was September and freezing. It made me feel really concerned.
“I went to the GP and as soon as I walked in she was like ‘oh my god, what has happened to you?’
“Lupus is really bad. It can even attack your organs. Selena Gomez, the singer, has lupus and she recently had to have a kidney transplant.
“My rash is very hot and itchy on the first day it comes up. It feels like a football has hit me in the face on a cold day, but after a few days it doesn’t feel like anything – it’s just there.
“Doctors thought I was allergic to progesterone to start with, but lupus has many different triggers.
“It comes and goes but the only thing that is worrying for me is that it doesn’t just affect my face, it’s my whole body.
“I get arthritis, and lupus and fibromyalgia come together. When I get my face rash I sleep for 15 hours a day.
“The fibromyalgia affects my mobility, makes me tired and forgetful, then the lupus affects my organs and my face.”
Drawing on her own experience of bullying at school and her new-found self confidence, Chloe, encouraged by her mum, decided to use her make-up skills to help other sufferers.
Shortly after Chloe met her boyfriend, she developed the rash and claims he supports her 100 per cent and now she’s enjoying more support from her followers.
Chloe said: “The rash made me feel really low about myself so I thought I’d do something to make myself feel good.
“My mum thought of the idea of the makeup tutorials to show others how I cover it up.
“Being a 15-year-old girl you are obsessed with makeup.
“I was watching all these videos on YouTube, but there weren’t any for people with lupus, so I decided to start posting my own videos online.
“I know makeup boosts my confidence.
“There’s no makeup videos to show people to cover their rash, yet there’s videos to show people how to cover spots or wrinkles.
“There’s probably a girl out there aged 15 like I was, looking for someone like her.
“I wanted to be that person to give other people a voice and a chance to boost their confidence and self-esteem.
“Each look takes around 20 minutes if I don’t do my eyebrows. My whole face will take 45 minutes.
“I just use makeup from high street stores like Boots or Superdrug, but I do also order some products online such as NARS.
“It really is all about finding confidence in yourself. Everyone’s rash is different.
“I have a boyfriend and we’ve been together since [before] I got the rash. He’s really understanding and knows all about it.
“I know that around him I don’t have to cover it up.
“But I don’t really go out. I only go out if there’s a reason to.
“Most of my friends go out almost every weekend.”
A spokesperson from Lupus Trust said: “Most symptoms of lupus are invisible – two symptoms which are visible are rashes and hair loss.
“Patients have often said that they find both of these symptoms very distressing.
“Patients have apologised to me saying they shouldn’t be complaining about something they often refer to as trivial, but the way we look affects our confidence and sense of well being.
“It’s totally understandable that people would find rashes and hair loss upsetting, especially in this day and age where we’re constantly bombarded by photographs of perfect hair and skin.
“It’s really great to hear that Chloe is tackling the subject.
“There are plenty of online tutorials about make-up that feature ladies with perfect skin, so to have one that specifically shows how to deal with lupus rashes will, I’m sure, be of interest to lupus patients and many others that suffer from rashes.”