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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 February 2008, 01:30 GMT
A more than cosmetic difference
By Giancarlo Rinaldi
BBC Scotland news website, South of Scotland reporter

A woman with a skin condition
The skin "camouflage" techniques can be easily taught
The loss of confidence due to a skin condition can be devastating.

As a teenager, I had serious acne and it felt like Mother Nature's cruellest joke.

Just at the age when I started to care about how I looked to the opposite sex - my face became riddled with spots.

I tried every conceivable "cure".

Creams, pills, soaps and lotions would all work in the short term, but their effect seemed to fade with time.

I drank carrot juice, sat in front of sunlamps and eliminated chocolate from my diet - all to little or no avail.

I now have the rewarding experience of helping others make a real difference to the quality of their lives
Leslie McCulloch
Red Cross volunteer

All the time I found it more and more difficult to look in the mirror - and still do to this day.

However, over time I have realised how lucky I was.

Although my self-confidence was affected at the time, it recovered as I emerged into adulthood and my acne began to fade.

Many thousands of people have to cope with much more serious skin conditions than I ever had - and with the knowledge they will not pass with time.

It is those people who can benefit from a British Red Cross facility in Dumfries and Galloway which has recently expanded its operations.

The "skin camouflage" service has recruited and trained three new volunteers towards its work.

Acne
Acne can seriously affect people's self confidence

It helps to teach people with skin conditions and scars simple techniques enabling them to "live their lives with confidence".

The service is provided free of charge, but people must be referred by their GP, local hospital or dermatology nurse specialist.

They can then attend regular clinics held in Dumfries.

All camouflage creams used by the Red Cross are available on prescription and last between six months and two years.

The creams can be used to cover a range of different conditions, including scarring from burns, surgery and acne to skin complaints like rosacea, vitiligo and discolouration from birthmarks and varicose veins.

New volunteer Leslie McCulloch said part of what attracted her to the role was the possibility of helping other people.

'Massive difference'

"I now have the rewarding experience of helping others make a real difference to the quality of their lives," she said.

"The cover creams can make a massive difference, offering people a practical way of coping with disfiguring skin conditions and helping them regain their confidence and independence."

She said that gave people "the confidence to wear a bikini on holiday or to walk down the street without feeling self-conscious".

That might seem like the most straightforward thing if you have never had any kind of skin condition.

However, for anyone who has, it can be a major transformation.

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