A former City solicitor who quit the law to become a make-up artist specialising in disguising scars and other skin damage, is campaigning to increase personal injury lawyers’ awareness of the skill.
Babs Forman, a non-practicing solicitor who trained with City giant Allen & Overy, is qualified in what is known as skin camouflage and acts as an expert witness in personal injury cases where her knowledge of make-up can be put towards determining quantum for compensation.
Speaking to Legal Futures, Ms Forman, a member of the Expert Witness Institute and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said her mission was to bring the specialism of skin camouflage to the attention of solicitors, who were largely ignorant of its existence.
She said she had first become interested when she was burned in an accident as a teenager. While the accident had few lasting effects on her day-to-day life, she said, skin grafts were discussed at the time and it was “quite a formative experience”.
Now aged 37, she left the law at 30 when she realised it was not the career for her. She had tried out public law and worked for the European Commission Legal Service, before retraining with the British Association of Skin Camouflage.
Ms Forman initially worked in “mainstream make-up for film and TV, then theatre and bridal for a few years”. Then the possibility of combining her legal skills as an expert witness with knowledge of make-up and how it could improve the lives of injury victims “suddenly clicked and made perfect sense”.
About half of her time is currently taken up with expert witness work. Ms Forman has operated her Skin Confident business since 2016 and last month won a Best Business Woman award for customer service.
She explained: “What I found from my time in make-up was I missing some aspects of being a lawyer, legal work, drafting, using my brain for legal questions. Now I can keep a toe in the legal world and draft in legal language, which I enjoy…
“There are only a handful of us offering the service and it is potentially applicable to a lot of personal injury and medical negligence cases.
“There are a lot of solicitors that don’t know about [skin camouflage]… how beneficial it can be to the end client, who benefits from added confidence – such as being able to leave the house, being able to get on with social engagements where beforehand they might have felt inhibited.”
Ms Forman argued an expert witness report could make a “huge difference”, setting out in detail all the costs associated with skin camouflage, “such as the products themselves, scar management and so on”.
She said treatments like massage, as well as careful application of make-up, could not only reduce the appearance of the scar, but actually improve functionality and pain.
The cost of such treatments could be high, and needed to be assessed by an expert in what was available: “It adds up quite significantly and if you think it is a monthly sum going forward for the rest of that claimant’s life, you are looking at potentially tens of thousands of pounds.”
She added: “Someone like me is needed to make that initial recommendation. It’s extremely difficult for someone who is faced with hundreds of different shades and doesn’t know colour correction techniques and so on.
“So you can’t expect them to go out and find the right product to conceal their scars. If it’s done badly it just draws more attention to the area and look terrible.”
Helping people recover from the mental consequences of injury has been fulfilling, Ms Forman reported. “I love working with people. It allows me to be creative and I get to meet a huge number of different people and hear their stories.]
“They are often very inspiring, very humbling, and there’s a lot of reasons why I love my work.”
She noted that the phrase ‘make-up artist’ can carry negative associations, both for people who associate it with beauty products and for those whose injuries can be minimised if they can overcome their prejudices.
It was “very important” to make the distinction between make-up for beauty and for quasi-medical reasons: “For people who are perhaps male and a little bit older, and for whatever reason don’t want to feel they are wearing make-up, there can be a real barrier.
“So the focus needs to be on the paramedical and rehabilitation aspects.”
Some scars could not be easily disguised, since they have scar tissue that raises the texture in relation to the surrounding skin, she said. But the impact could be reduced by fooling the brain of the person looking.
“It’s about removing the instinctive reaction the brain has in saying that things are not quite right or not usually there. You can do really great things like adding artificial faults, such as a few little freckles, to trick the brain that there’s nothing there that looks out of the ordinary.”
Skin camouflage was not a new idea, she observed. “It was in fact developed after the First World War to help soldiers who had been injured and maimed at the time. All of those techniques are applicable now.”