Scott Steele
Courtesy of Scott Steele

Scott Steele, the 32-year-old managing director of the Classical Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon, still remembers a trip to a hair salon as a teenager. The hairdresser took one look at the psoriasis outbreak on his scalp and forehead and actually backed away. Even after Steele explained that it wasn't contagious, the woman refused to cut his hair. Interactions like that surely contributed to Steele's self-described image: a homebody and introvert.

Steele's psoriasis first showed up as a spot on his knee when he was 10 years old. By 13, it had spread to his elbows and hands. His scalp was completely inflamed and the scaly patches had crept down his forehead. It turned his teenage life into a nightmare. "It was emotionally horrific," he says. "I'm 100 percent certain that it shaped the future of my life, and...

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