Skin camouflage is the skilled application of highly pigmented creams and liquids to areas of skin discolouration or scaring to even out skin tones and improve the aesthetic appearance of a person’s skin. Skin camouflage can be of help to men and women of all ethnicity and to children when they are old enough to understand and want to participate.
The art of skin camouflage as we know it today had its beginnings during World War II. Many of the returning airmen who had suffered horrific burns were treated by the pioneering plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe. McIndoe knew that for these servicemen to merely survive their injuries was not enough and that his patients also needed to regain their self-esteem to enjoy a happy and fulfilled life back in ‘civvy street’. Whilst there was no place in medicine for the colour ‘jungle green’ used by the commandos as a form of camouflage McIndoe realised the potential in the medical profession - pigmented creams to be developed into durable preparations that would help even out skin tone and disguise scaring … skin camouflage! By 1957, recognising the importance of this service to those effected, the British Red Cross offered a skin camouflage service which was to remain in place until it transferred to the charity Changing Faces in 2011. Skin camouflage also became available on the NHS in 1975.
Individuals will be referred to or seek the expertise of a professional skin camouflage practitioner for a variety of reasons. Whatever the origin or severity of their skin condition, be it from birth or acquired through illness or injury they all have one thing in common; to a greater or lesser degree, their skin ‘difference’ effects the quality of their personal life. It may be that skin camouflage is sought as a ‘one off’ on a special day or to help that person every single day. What might appear to be a minor issue to one may have a major impact on the health and wellbeing of another, each person’s reasons for seeking help with skin camouflage are equally valid.
A qualified skin camouflage practitioner will expertly assess the needs and aspirations of those seeking skin camouflage to ensure that both the techniques and products that can be applied are suitable for the skin condition and that the person’s aspirations regarding the benefits to be achieved by skin camouflage are realistic.
Today’s products and techniques are a far cry from the heavy creams of WW II. When properly applied the products are lightweight, waterproof (enough to go swimming), do not rub off easily and are very effective at covering discolouration, scars and skin conditions.The creams cannot flatten raised scars or fill in sunken scars, but they can even out the skin tone and shadow to lessen the impact visually.They are, however only temporary but can be left on for 2-3 days depending on the product and area to be covered (removal from the face at night is recommended).
Once the best camouflage effect is achieved, an important part of the process is for the practitioner to teach the individual how to apply their camouflage themselves, even children. Skin camouflage enables individuals to take control and manage their own appearance. For many this is often a major step forward, both physically and psychologically and in turn, provides the confidence for them to carry on life as normally as possible. To be able to go swimming, play sport, wear short sleeve tops and shorts and go on holiday with confidence are just a few examples of how skin camouflage can be of benefit. Rule of thumb: As long as there is a colour difference skin camouflage can help, irrespective of size and whether the area is visible or normally covered with clothing.
Skin camouflage is no substitute for education and the enlightenment that would see society readily accept those with differences, skin or otherwise but what it can do is help those effected by such differences, great or small, present their best self to the world each day.
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Next review: 26 November 2021