Recently, my Mother bought me a copy of the November issue of Women’s Weekly, as there was a headline on the front of the magazine she thought would be of interest to me. The article was titled ‘Battling Chronic Skin Conditions’, but the front strapline said ‘Breakthrough: Eczema and Psoriasis Cures’. I have chronic eczema, and have done my entire life. In the last two years my condition has gotten more severe, and I have become more desperate for a way to control or even eradicate it completely. So, naturally I was pretty keen to read an article that boasted of a cure.
I opened the magazine to page 142 and found myself presented with an image of a woman with beautiful skin scratching the base of her neck. From this photo I was already able to assess the quality of the material I was about to read. As a sufferer of a chronic skin condition, I can tell you one thing; my skin is not beautiful. It is ugly, temperamental, aggressive, and indescribably painful. The fact that this article set out to deal with the topic of chronic skin conditions, but opened with this image of perfect skin was a huge slap in the face. I, and I’m sure many other sufferers, opened this magazine optimistic about the article inside, hoping that it might offer some insight into a condition I have been struggling with my whole life. To be presented with someone with such wonderful skin before I had even had a chance to read the article mad me profoundly sad. It reminded me of how different I am from everyone else, and how ugly eczema truly is.
After my first impression, I don’t know why I expected the article to be of any real help, but I read it anyway. The article told the story of Megan Cattanach and her son, Kobi, who had suffered from severe atopic dermatitis (eczema) his entire life. Kobi’s story was one I know well. ‘Bath time was a struggle’, ‘He would scream. It was like I was punishing him. The water stung him.’ Bathing is a chronic eczema sufferer’s worst nightmare. The water burns, all soaps, shampoos and conditioners cause an instant flare up. Then, once you’re out of the water you have to cover every inch of skin in moisturiser and attempt to stay calm while your body explodes with itchiness, words cannot even describe the intensity of this itch- but don’t scratch, because you’ll spread the rash further, make it angrier than it was before, and probably rip your skin open in the process. I can honestly say that the itching after a shower is so bad, that scratching it is basically a drug. So, I began to let my guard down, Kobi’s story being one that I understood so intimately, I set my initial impressions aside and continued to read.
This positivity as to the story’s direction was short lived. By the second page, the article had begun to talk about the treatment methods used by Kobi and his family, a $20,000 trip to the Avène Hydrotherapy Centre in France. Now, before I tear into this article any further, I will say this: This treatment worked for Kobi. Not as a cure, but as a form of relief. That is absolutely wonderful for Kobi, and I’m glad that someone so young can now live their life without the struggle of a chronic skin condition. My problem with this article was not about Kobi and the measures his family took to find him some respite from his constant pain, my issue is with the presentation and idea behind the article as a whole.
The front cover of this particular issue of Women’s Weekly had a strapline stating ‘Breakthrough: Eczema and Psoriasis Cures.’ Now, excuse me if I’m mistaken, but I would generally assume a caption like this to lead me to an article filled with available treatment options and cures for these conditions, not a three page article about a 20k trip to France which may or may not give you some relief. In fact, after the initial introduction of Kobi’s story, the rest of the article divulged into a praise of the Avène Hydrotherapy Centre and the great work it does for those able to afford it.
Besides their reference to a treatment which is not covered by Medicare and has only worked to lessen, not eradicate Kobi’s condition, the only mention of treatments for Eczema or Psoriasis came in the form of two small boxes which suggest ‘moisturising’ and ‘pursuing all treatments under medical supervision’. Thanks, Women’s Weekly, hadn’t thought of that one…
Perhaps I’m so sensitive about this issue because it is something that I’ve been struggling with on a daily basis for so long, but I don’t think that’s it… I think the reason that I was so upset about this article is that it was a blatant advertisement, marketed as a cure. Women’s Weekly used misleading statements to draw in people who suffer from these conditions, probably in an attempt to extend their market. They spent two pages talking about a treatment which, for the average person, is far too expensive to be a realistic option. With barely any mention to alternate treatments, you might be drawn to the conclusion that this ridiculous article was purely to advertise the Avène Hydrotherapy Centre. I can’t express my disappointment. Finding a way to reduce the pain and horrific appearance of my eczema is something which is constantly on my mind, and having a publication like Women’s Weekly act as if they have insight to the condition, only to advertise something unreasonable, is pretty devastating.