I first wrote about this topic back in early 2009 in the Association of Women Solicitors’ magazine, Link. Since then I’ve had a steady stream of requests for expert reports landing on my desk. For claimants, skin camouflage cosmetics may be the final option to improve their appearance following an accident or medical procedure once surgical interventions and other treatments are exhausted.
What is skin camouflage?
Skin camouflage (sometimes called cosmetic camouflage) is the term used to describe the application to the skin of specially formulated cosmetic products designed to help conceal scars, birthmarks and skin conditions whilst blending with the surrounding skin tone. The products are also used following cosmetic surgery procedures to help conceal redness and bruising and for covering unwanted tattoos.
Camouflage products are extremely highly pigmented providing far better coverage than ordinary cosmetics and once correctly applied they are waterproof and smudge resistant. Swimming and sports activities are possible whilst wearing camouflage and it can last all day without needing to be retouched. Camouflage products do not treat the underlying skin condition but help to conceal it at normal conversational distance.
When I started expert witness work I expected to be dealing with cases involving road traffic accidents, trips and slips and possibly some workplace accidents. What I had not foreseen was that I would also be asked to consider the potential for skin camouflage in medical and dental negligence, cosmetic treatments (e.g. laser hair removal) and self-harm. My cases have involved men and children as well as women.
When considering the appropriateness of camouflage cosmetics in any particular case its important to assess when and how often the claimant will want to use the products and what is the best application technique given their abilities and the severity of the scarring that needs to be concealed. Cleansers, brushes, sponges and other products or equipment needed in the camouflage routine are all added into the product schedule. Further skin camouflage consultations may also be advisable if the case involves a young person, further surgery is planned or, most commonly and simply, by wearing camouflage cosmetics the person becomes more confident about going out and gets a tan so that a further skin tone match is needed.
It is possible to prepare a report on professional photographs alone but, in terms of the value of the report to the court, I always prefer to carry out a consultation so that the whole cosmetic routine can be properly assessed.
Finding a Skin Camouflage Expert
The main professional body for skin camouflage practitioners in the UK is the British Association of Skin Camouflage (BASC) (www.skin-camouflage.net). BASC provides a full training and professional development programme which includes expert reports and is recognised by many medical bodies such as the British Association of Dermatologists and the Royal College of Nursing. BASC trained practitioners are also aware of the psychological impacts associated with visible differences from the “normal” in facial or body appearance. For many claimants revealing the full extent of their injury or scarring will be very distressing and for some who have self-harmed they may never have shown all of their scars to anyone before.
Earlier this year, the charity Changing Faces took over the nationwide volunteer-based skin camouflage service from the British Red Cross. Changing Faces are doing much to train new volunteers and increase awareness of skin camouflage. Where a report is not necessary solicitors may wish to direct clients to a Changing Faces clinic. www.changingfaces.org.uk/Skin-Camouflage
For more information about expert reports and other skin camouflage services contact Rowena Wilson – 07910 168577