It must not be easy being in the public eye – even when you have chosen to be. Imagine not being able to go and buy your newspaper without cameras flashing or journalists hounding you. I recently read about a remarkable young woman, Chantelle Young, who is set to become the USA’s newest top model. (1) Chantelle is no ordinary 19-year old, for not only has she opted for a profession where she will be constantly under the glare of the cameras, she also suffers from vitiligo. This skin condition, which affects around 1% of the world’s population, causes white patches to appear mainly on the face and hands, as the skin gradually loses its pigment. Vitiligo affects people of all ethnic origins, but is much more noticeable on darker skin. For this reason, it is a particularly difficult skin condition to live with emotionally. Therefore Chantelle is doing more than just showing us that she has accepted her condition, she is making a statement on behalf of all vitiligo sufferers. She is saying that people with vitiligo can be beautiful too.
Obviously not all of us wish to be in the limelight, but most of us would like to feel comfortable with the way we look and with the way others look at us. I particularly like the way the French language expresses the idea of feeling good about oneself: se sentir bien dans sa peau literally means ‘feeling good in one’s skin’ – and that is exactly what people suffering from a visible skin disorder need to feel.
Helping people to accept their skin disease is the main objective of Dermacamp, a project led by the dermatologist, Professor Samuel Mandelbaum from Brazil. More than 200 patients between the ages of 8 and 17, suffering from chronic skin disease, have been able to attend these free annual camps since their inception. Trained staff accompany the children, and as well as allowing them to take part in social and recreational activities, they also provide them with support and guidance to help them accept their illness and facilitate their social integration. (2) This is just one of several Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives of this kind in the field of dermatology, and it is reassuring to know that all over the world, people are committed to raising awareness of the social stigma attached to certain skin conditions and to helping patients overcome them, while we in industry strive daily to find solutions for the conditions themselves.
Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives therefore play an important, complementary role in our activity. These valued partnerships allow us to reach out to patients worldwide so that they too can feel ‘bien dans leur peau’.
*Feeling good about oneself