29 September 2009
Daily RecordAfter a horrific attack left him with severe scarring on his face and neck, Thomas struggled to cope – but now the Red Cross’ skin camouflage service has given him a new lease of life.
Two years ago, Thomas Comrie (26) was attacked with a glass bottle in Glasgow and needed 20 staples over his face and neck. In the aftermath of the attack, he struggled to cope. Thomas recalled: “When you have scars, that’s all anybody ever sees.
"People look at you in the street – and even people you have never met before ask how you got them.”
However, the young Glaswegian’s luck soon changed. Through Emmaus, a Glasgow-based homeless charity that offered him a home and job when he was at his lowest ebb, Thomas found out about a new pilot project run by the Red Cross’ skin camouflage service.
The new project, where volunteers teach people how to apply camouflage creams to disguise scarring, enables clients to refer themselves directly for treatment. This is important because many vulnerable groups – including those with scars caused by intravenous drug use, self-harm, violent attacks or domestic abuse – are much less likely to seek professional advice.
Helen Irvine, who leads the pilot, explained: “For some people, the first step to getting help might be coming to us for help covering their scars – and we’ll often seem an easier, safer option than going to their GP. Plus, we can point people towards other organisations that could offer help.”
For Thomas, using the service was a revelation. He said: “I really didn’t know what to expect from Helen and the skin camouflage service, but I think what they have done is amazing. I know I’ll need to practice doing it myself, but with the redness taken right out of the scars you can hardly see them.”
He added: “It will give me so much more confidence – and I will definitely be using it next time I go dancing!”
Another beneficiary of the project is mother-of-two Margaret, who has been self-harming for eight years and now has deep scars on her arms. She said: “My experience has been nothing but positive. To my mind, going to a skin camouflage volunteer means speaking to a safe person as – by the very nature of what they do – they won’t judge.
“It’s just great to know that if I have to go out to a special event or wear a dress, I can disguise my scars.”
The Red Cross has mobile clinics in various sites across Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and Lanarkshire. For more information on the service, phone 0141 891 4000, contact Helen Irvine at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the near you section.
More about the skin camouflage service