It’s the part you can’t look away from on The Night Of: As attorney John Stone, John Turturro’s feet are red, swollen, magnificently disgusting sausage packets. Just look at him scratch those things. Stone’s battle with eczema acts as a larger metaphor for the frustration with big, inefficient systems. Only way grosser! Peter Moffat, who wrote Criminal Justice, the British series that The Night Of is based on, had personal struggles with eczema, which is why what might have started as a minor character quirk has morphed into an absorbing plotline. Stone goes from doctor to doctor to try to find a cure for his eczema, so that one day he too might get to wear a pair of Oxfords like a close-toed Cinderella.
Well, your friends at Vulture are going to do some of the footwork for you, John. We’ve consulted with Upper East Side dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman, who’s also a contributor to WebMD, the website you use to diagnose the weird bumps on your stomach. (Fingers crossed they aren’t bed bug bites!) “I treat a lot of eczema,” Jaliman said to me on the phone. “Nothing is strange for me.” So let’s get to the burning, stinging questions you might have about John Stone’s eczema.
So he has eczema, right?
No question. “For a dermatologist, it’s something that’s very easy to diagnose,” said Jaliman. “I’ve seen people that can barely walk, their feet are so bad. Their feet are cracked, bleeding, red, peeling, itching, they can’t sleep at night. We’ve had to hospitalize people sometimes for eczema it’s so bad.”
As for John Stone, “it seems like he has chronic eczema where nobody really treated it well or properly,” says Jaliman. Moreover, she thinks that he likely has a secondary staph infection from all the scratching. “They have bacteria under their nails or these objects that he’s using, whether it’s the chopsticks or whatever, and they get skin infections,” she said. “So you have to treat the eczema, but you have to treat the secondary infection otherwise it makes it even itchier. It makes the skin worse.”
What about the Paco Rabanne he’s been spritzing?
“Ugh, bad, bad, bad,” said Jaliman. “Two things about the cologne: One is the fragrance, but the other: What is cologne? It’s an alcohol, so alcohol is so drying. So sometimes patients can be their worst enemies.” But at least the Paco Rabanne is a pretty good clue that he’s suffering from a staph infection. “When you have a smell, it’s usually an infection.” Noted!
Why is he putting Crisco on his feet? Does that work?
One of the zanier treatments Stone’s dermatologist prescribes is to butter his feet with Crisco before wrapping them up with plastic wrap. “I know in olden times — and I’ve been a dermatologist for a long time — people could do that,” said Jaliman. “One of the reasons is that Crisco is very moisturizing.” Its great advantage is that it’s “very bland” so there aren’t additives that would harm the skin. But, she says, “I wouldn’t use that treatment. We use higher-tech treatment than Crisco on the Upper East Side of New York, anyway.”
What about bathing in bleach?
“That’s a good suggestion. The bleach kills the staph,” said Jaliman. “That’s very good research on their part.” She notes that you should “dilute” the bleach according to the prescribed amount, otherwise you could further damage your skin. As for the UV-lamp prescribed by the same doctor, that can also be risky, because while it might help with the itching, it can cause skin cancer. “You can use it, but you have to use it sparingly,” said Jaliman. The same goes for the cortisol steroid.
So what should he do?
“The goal is twofold,” said Jaliman. “One is to stop the scratching, the other is to repair the barrier.” She recommends putting him on antibiotics to clear up the staph infection. “You could use an antibiotic that’s not a brand, clear up the infection from inside,” she said. “Maybe he has a deep infection and nobody’s really cleared it up.” She recommends a fragrance-free moisturizer that he could put on multiple times a day. There are also specifically engineered socks that he could wear instead of wrapping his feet in Saran wrap.
Her favorite go-to cream is called pimecrolimus, an “immune-stimulator cream” that prompts the body to heal itself, rather than a steroidal cream. “People come to me from all over, they go, I’ve been to 17 dermatologists, no one can get rid of my eczema,” said Jaliman. “Then we say, ‘Have you ever used this?’ They say, no, never heard of it. We put them on this and then they totally heal and clear up and they’re just amazed that nobody ever gave it to them.” Jaliman said that she even uses it herself, as she suffers from low-grade eczema. “It has no side effects, so you could use it for the rest of your life, ten times a day if you had to.”
So is that it?
No, silly! It’s about instituting good daily habits. “I would also spend a lot of time explaining to him how to bathe, because a lot of these people don’t understand how to bathe,” she said. She would recommend that he shower in the “coolest shower he could tolerate” and to use “super-fatted soaps” as a way to keep moisture in his skin. Oh, and get a humidifier in your room!