Cosmetic Camouflage

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British Red Cross cosmetic camouflage service
“Cover up and feel better”

For two decades the British Red Cross Society’s cosmetic camouflage service has helped people cope with disfiguring marks and skin blemishes. It was set up in response to a Department of Health Survey of dermatologists which identified the need for advice on the concealment of marks. Often these are the cause of embarrassment and distress.

British Red Cross members were already involved in the delivery of a unique hand and beauty care service to patients in hospitals. It seemed natural progression to extend their knowledge and practice into the area of cosmetic camouflage. The Department of Health gave grant aid to the cost of training the first 50 members in the new skills. There are now over 160 members practising cosmetic camouflage throughout the UK in over 120 “clinics” held fortnightly or monthly – usually in the out-patient departments of District General Hospitals.

The advice is available to men, Women and children. There is only one qualifying criterion and that is a medical referral from a consultant or GP.

The majority of the 5,000 or more referrals each year present with dermatological conditions. Initially those with birthmarks (port white stains) were most numerous and those with vitiligo, but increasingly in recent years practitioners have received referrals from those with other conditions – rosaccea, acne and psoriasis. Referrals also come for those with scarring, caused surgically and accidentally, and occasionally from those with tattoos.

When a referral is received an appointment will be arranged at a convenient “clinic”. In the course of a consultation, which may last between 45 and 60 minutes, the cosmetic camouflage practitioner will colour match the special creams to the client’s skin colour. The aim is a satisfactory match, either to the client’s single colour or a simple mix of two or three colours. The client will be involved throughout and shown how to match the crams him/herself, before being instructed in how to apply and set the creams. Properly applied the creams can be made waterproof. Before concluding the consultation, the client will be given a “recipe” or a note will be passed to the doctor as the creams used by British Red Cross practitioners are available on prescription.

Clients may find the matching, and application of creams difficult at first but in time and with practice will become very competent, if not expert in camouflaging their own mark. If difficulties are experienced a second appointment is always possible.

Many people have found that cosmetic camouflage has helped them to cope with a disfiguring mark, but it is not a miracle cure all. It is a disguise which enables a client to go out and move among other people without feeling that everyone is looking at the mark on their skin. It allows the user to choose whether or when to reveal their secret to new friends or colleagues. It is more successful on some conditions than others. Creams adhere more easily if the skin is smooth but the appearance of many blemishes may be improved.

All the creams used by British Red Cross cosmetic camouflage practitioners may be prescribed and all contain sun screens but the SPF is not quoted as often additional protection is required.

Anyone wishing to know more about the service and where it is available in their area should contact the Therapeutic Beauty Care Officer at their county HQ. The address and phone number will be listed in the phone book under British Red Cross Society.

Author:Sian Scott

First publsihed: December 1995, Skin n Bones connection. Issue 5 p29-30.