Over one million people in the UK live with some form of altered image. Skin problems represent 20% of the NHS workload, making this the most common reason people visit their GPs in the UK.
‘Altered image’ can be defined as an aesthetic difference acquired either at birth, or after an accident, an attack, a disease, a failed cosmetic procedure, or an operation.
The emotional impact of having an altered image can be huge. In a society where we look up to celebrities who rarely make it to their late twenties without having some kind of ‘corrective procedure’ to get rid of bumpy noses, smile lines and slightly wonky teeth, living with an altered image caused by severe scarring, burns, skin conditions and disease can be incredibly difficult at times.
Skin camouflage is a temporary but practical technique used by both men and women to disguise non-infectious skin conditions such as acne, vitiligo and rosacea, as well as burns, scars and stretch-marks.
Most clients who choose to have skin camouflage just want to enjoy an ordinary life without the extra attention, prejudice and feelings of self-consciousness that often come with looking noticeably different.
Camouflage can be used for one-off occasions like weddings, public events and nights out, or it can be applied daily and worn at work, at the gym and even in the swimming pool.
What is skin camouflage?
Skin camouflage is the name given to a form of highly pigmented substance used to conceal non-infectious skin conditions and scars. The camouflage comes in three parts:
- Complementary colour – an undercoat designed for particularly hard-to-cover patches (including coloured tattoos).
- An oil-wax based cream.
- A loose powder that sets the cream in place.
The first step in the skin camouflage process is to book a consultation with a professional specialising in skin camouflage. During the consultation, the professional will match your skin as accurately as possible to a shade of camouflage, before teaching you how to apply the specialist products yourself.
Unlike regular make-up, skin camouflage products are designed to be water resistant, which gives the wearer the confidence to go swimming without it washing away. However, no brand should be considered 100% rub proof – it is easily removed with detergents should the camouflage transfer to clothing or bed linen. Always pat the area dry when wet – otherwise you could disturb the camouflage.
What to expect during your appointment
Your skin camouflage appointment will take around an hour to complete. After an initial consultation, during which you will be asked to identify the area or areas you want camouflaged, your beauty professional will set about developing a colour match that blends perfectly with the rest of your skin.
Step one: apply
Once an acceptable skin match is agreed, your skin camouflage will be applied in one of three different ways:
1. Finger tips are used to carefully wipe, dab or rub the cream over the affected area – this is quickly achieved, even over the largest of areas.
2. A sponge is used when the skin is fragile or may quickly redden.
3. A brush is usually used over fine scars (when a sponge or fingers would apply too much product).
After the cream has been applied, there are four or five more steps for your beauty professional to complete:
Step two : powder
Powder is required to fix the cream, which helps to prevent smudging. This is applied in a rolling-pressing motion. A powder mop or the reverse of the powder puff is then used to remove any excess powder, or the area can be blotted with a dampened flannel.
Step three: fix
The fixing stage ensures that the camouflage becomes water and smudge-resistant. Fixing is achieved with a fair quantity of powder, dabbed on with a puff in a pressing, rolling motion.
Step four: brush
A brush is then used (in the direction of hair growth) to remove any excess powder.
Step five: final cover and blot
Your beauty professional may find that another application of camouflage is necessary. After this is applied, he or she will dampen a flannel or sponge and press it gently over the area in a blotting motion. This will remove any excess chalkiness from the powder and also help the camouflage cream to set.
Of course, you won’t be expected to go to your professional every morning for reapplication – part of your initial appointment involves a tutorial in how to apply and remove the camouflage yourself – and you will be given a chance to run through the process under the supervision of your professional.
Be aware that any contact with oily substances such as sun-tan oil, aromatherapy massage oils, soaps and soap substitutes will remove the camouflage. Care must therefore be taken with any camouflage applied to backs of hands and fingers when using hygiene products.
Soap and water, or cosmetic wipes, or using a soap substitute will remove your camouflage (if necessary remove the soap substitute with soft tissue). Camouflage should be removed daily, especially from the face.
What can be camouflaged?
Skin camouflage is designed to conceal discoloration to the skin; however, it cannot alter its function or texture. The following non infectious conditions are commonly requested for camouflage application,
- thread veins
- stretch marks
- cleft lip
- portwine stains
- café au lait marks
- plaque psoriasis
If you notice changes in your skin, you are advised to consult a medical professional before continuing with your camouflage applications.
- burn injury
- skin condition
- skin graft
- surgical procedure
- car accident
- other accident
- Radiographer’s markings.
What can’t be camouflaged?
Skin camouflage can only be used to cover healthy, diagnosed skin conditions. A beauty professional will never camouflage any of the following:
- bacterial and fungal infections including ringworm
- blistering or ulcerated skin
- open wounds
- moles (moles need to be monitored in case of changes indicating cancer)
- infestations like scabies
- varicose veins
- warts/herpes/shingles and other viral infections
- pustular forms of psoriasis
- skin cancer
- measles and chicken pox.
Benefits of skin camouflage
It is important to realise that many people live quite happily with their skin conditions and scarring without feeling the need to camouflage them – they view them as unique and natural parts of their own bodies. Unfortunately, we do live in a society that frequently stigmatises anything deemed ‘different’. This means that people who live with noticeable differences also commonly live with prejudice, intrusive stares, inappropriate questioning, name-calling and even sometimes physical abuse. It is for this reason that many choose to hide their conditions with skin camouflage.
People choose to have skin camouflage because it enables them to:
- avoid extra attention
- no longer feel defined by their altered image
- blend into the crowd when they want to
- feel more confident.
Skin camouflage offers a simple solution to complex problems – its role immediately after diagnosis or at a later date can help clients regain their confidence and self-esteem and allow them to return to normal life.
Skin camouflage FAQ
What does skin camouflage feel like?
Some people imagine skin camouflage feels thick and heavy. This is not so – if the formula is applied properly it should be smooth to the touch with a non-greasy matte finish.
Does camouflage cream smell?
No. Camouflage creams are fragrance-free so, unlike products like fake tan, the smell won’t give anything away.
I am female – can I wear normal make-up over my camouflage?
Yes, certainly – you can layer your usual products on over the camouflage – bronzer, blusher, highlighter, eye-shadow etc., to create the look you want.
What training and qualifications do practitioners need?
To ensure your skin camouflage practitioner works to the highest possible standard, you are advised to check whether they are a member of a professional body.
Professional bodies are designed to uphold high standards of practice in any unregulated industry. To find out more please follow the link below.
The British Association of Skin Camouflage (BASC) has been internationally acknowledged as the leading training provider for pharmacists, therapists, beauticians and medical professionals who wish to administer skin camouflage.
Formed in 1985, BASC aims to improve the availability of skin camouflage and uphold a high standard of practice within the profession.
All members of BASC are trained to the highest possible standard and kept informed of the latest technological and research developments.
1Changing Faces, ‘Facts and Figures’