It’s a screen grab from an article on the OK Magazine website which claims that you can “Banish eczema for good” with their healthy living tips.
OK? Stopped laughing yet? It gets better. The massive leading picture for the online piece is of Tess Daly who, says OK Magazine, has a daughter with eczema. She, on the other hand, is slim, attractive and has perfect skin.
Compare the OK Magazine image of this woman relaxing in bed in full make-up and a sexy nightie with me ‘relaxing’ in bed when my eczema has been at it’s worst: lying on an old beach towel to make sure I don’t get blood from my broken skin on the sheets, hands in cotton gloves to stop me scratching, face shimmering with several layers of grease.
Admittedly this is an article from three years ago, but after a bit more digging I discovered that pretty much across the board eczema is represented by images of slim, white, attractive females with no traces of eczema or even dry skin. Take a look at these examples in the Daily Mail and even the BBC.
The OK article goes on to give an example of some celebrity who described her red patches as ‘ugly’. So, we have an ‘ugly’ condition illustrated by pictures of beautiful women. Of course, OF COURSE, illustrating the words with a picture of the Strictly Come Dancing presenter and a beautiful woman in bed is going to get more people looking at the article online, I’m not an idiot. But really, they had their target audience, presumably sufferers of eczema (?), at “Banish eczema for good.” People with eczema desperately lap up articles which claim to ‘cure eczema’ or reveal the latest miracle potion. And there are six million of us in the UK – that’s a big audience. You don’t need to show us pictures of beautiful women – we’re sold already.
The use of images of beautiful women to illustrate just about any topic is nothing new but, apparently, they are causing more damage to people’s self esteem than ever before. “Body image dissatisfaction in Britain has never been higher, particularly among young people,” says Jo Swinson MP, the chair of an all party group on body image. “The pressure to conform to the impossible body ‘‘ideals’’ we are bombarded with in advertising, magazines and on the catwalk is overwhelming and damaging.”
The average woman is subjected to around 600 photo-shopped images per day. Take a look at the before and after shots on Beauty Redefined. It’s a real eye-opener – but most of all, it proves that many women are endevouring to aspire to a beauty ideal that simply doesn’t exist.
If you’ve got eczema, you’ll probably already know a lot about low self esteem and body image dissatisfaction anyway. To be honest you will often find yourself comparing your skin unfavourably to the average woman in a supermarket queue let alone an airbrushed-to-within-an-inch-of-her-life model in a magazine. So, to land on a web page claiming to help you banish your eczema for good which then bombards you with images of beautiful women – well, that’s just cruel isn’t it? Except, what it does do is present a real opportunity to highlight just how ridiculously prevalent and laughable this lazy littering of the unnatural ‘body ideal’ is on websites and in magazines.
I’ve written a couple of blogposts on here about the viscous cycle of feeling bad about your eczema and the resultant worsening of eczema symptoms – most of that being down to the unnecessary shame involved with how we look to others. Now, if an article on eczema can’t even represent the subject with truthful images of the condition then there’s little hope of picture editors deciding to represent real women on the pages of magazines any time soon. So, do yourself a favour – don’t let it get you down, remind yourself of the reality, rise above it, laugh about it, get angry and complain to the publishers if you like - but above all take it for what it is: lazy and thoughtless.
P.S. Just today this article appeared in the Daily Mail . Spot the pictures of real eczema. Now spot the pictures of thin, white, attractive women with great skin.