Dear E45, why don’t your adverts feature any dry or eczema skin?

Dear E45

I have eczema. I might be your perfect customer had I not already tried E45 and found it made my skin worse due to presence of lanolin.

Lanolin, a known skin irritant, yet it’s found in E45 for dry, sensitive skin. Why is that?

So what are the ingredients of E45? Why might it give my skin a worse reaction and irritate my eczema? E45 contains: Contains Anhydrous Lanolin 1.0% w/w, White Soft Paraffin 14.5% w/w, Light Liquid Paraffin 12.6% w/w as actives ingredients and also Glyceryl Monostearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Sodium Cetostearyl Sulphate, Carbomer, Methyl Hydroxybenzoate, Propyl Hydroxybenzoate, Sodium Hydroxide, Citric Acid Monohydrate and Purified Water.

Last week I was chatting about eczema in the media and was reminded of your latest advert. Well all of your adverts actually.

I look at your adverts and I want to laugh. Your adverts show totally unrealistic images of women with no visible sign of blemishes, dry skin or eczema.

I want to shout at the TV, “Those women wouldn’t know eczema or dry skin if it bit them on the bottom” Hey you know what, if I was on gogglebox you would actually hear me screaming this at the TV.

Adverts like this for E45 for dry skin

With a family who all have the most perfect skin – skin people with eczema can only dream about, make me hiss at the screen. Look at her face, she is positively ecstatic.. that is not what my face looks like when I peel off my emollient and blood soaked pajamas to smear on more thick greasy emollient so I can get on with the day.

We don’t get a delicate pea sized dab of cream and gently massage it in, we need great dollops of the stuff to grease ourselves with, often more than just twice a day.

This is what eczema looks like.

Eczema on face

Doesn’t quite capture the tightness, soreness or rawness…

Not going to work on advert though is it?

We have to find a secret place during the day and reapply, sadly this is often a public toilet. Not hygienic, but needs must.

I also find the latest E45 advert with the twins doesn’t really hit the mark for me. Laura and Emma, both dressed in flowing white gowns and both of whom have eczema look radiant, happy and glowing. To prove one has eczema she absent mindedly itches her arm during the advert. The voice over happily tells the story about these two smiling happy twins, one who is using E45 and the other one who doesn’t. It all ends happily ever after when Emma finds the tub of E45 and presumably her eczema is cured too!

It’s just not that honest.

Because dry skin, eczema and dermatitis are usually a condition people live with. There isn’t a happy ending with eczema. Those of us who have eczema do learn which products work best and daily work hard to forget that it hurts and try not worry about how our skin might look.

Seeing advertisements for dry skin and eczema featuring models, employed to take part in the advert because they are slim, blond and have lovely skin is a little galling. I understand why you do this, because images of pretty women in nice dresses with great skin are far more likely to sell products.

Maybe they do have sensitive skin but take it from me, they are not the face of eczema as we know it.

It reminds me of adverts for sanitary products and Tena Lady. They make me howl with laughter. Most of them are so far off the mark it’s ridiculous because lets face it, for starters, our blood is red, just like everyone else, not blue. And we don’t suddenly find the energy to prance about, smiling and happy all of a sudden because we discovered a new tampon. Sorry, we have had years living with periods, we just get on with it. Tampons do not give us a spring in our step. A new sanitary pad with wings does not fill is with delight – but it just might mean that blood doesn’t soak through our knickers in the night and all over the bed clothes. It might mean our favourite trousers don’t get blood stains on them either or worst of all, we might get up from a seat to discover blood has leaked out in public onto the fabric. That is what we really worry about.

I LOVE this response from the CEO of BodyForm after a man complained his girlfriend was not all happy and smiley during her period, but instead crazy, angry and premenstrual.

Tena Lady adverts SHOULD say, “For ladies who piss themselves a bit when they laugh.”
Watch this brilliant spoof TenaLady advert – if only all adverts could be so honest and funny.
Apologies for this advert but it made me laugh out loud.

Back to the eczema coverage on TV…

When did you ever see anyone on TV with anything but normal skin? And if they have bad skin they are usually drug addicts, pimply teenagers or tramps. Because in real life, normal people presumably don’t have eczema? Right? WRONG!

“In the UK, one in five children and one in twelve adults have eczema while eczema and contact dermatitis account for 84-90% of occupational skin disease.” The National Eczema Society.

Why not ask the eczema community what they think? I would love to join a focus group like that because quite frankly, it is not helpful to those with visible eczema to see products aimed at us portrayed with such idealistic perfect skinned beauties. Eczema and dry skin is not nice to look at. Try that in your advert and see how it works.

Because what we worry about is the pain, how we look, how our clothes might get stained with blood, how dry our skin might get, how often we will need to apply our chosen emollient. We worry whether people will judge us because of the scabs on our legs, or comment or ignore us. We worry that we can’t wear make-up to mask our facial eczema. We just want to get on with our lives like everyone else.

This picture shows how much my skin was improved after using Protopic for my facial eczema. I couldn’t explain this better than the picture.

How Protopic healed my facial eczema

How Protopic healed my facial eczema


My skin is by no means perfect, it still has the odd flare up, at the moment the only bit without eczema is my face, but I find no matter how bad the eczema elsewhere is, if I can cover it up, I can live with it and forget it a whole lot more easily than a face full of red angry burnt skin.

So you see, the thing is E45, your adverts don’t really look like they are aimed at real people with real ugly dry flaky skin and real red blotchy patches.

We don’t really want to be bombarded with more images of people who look like they don’t even know what eczema is.

The inspiration for this blog post came from fellow eczema survivor Rebecca who writes a blog about how she kicks her eczema into touch at Beczema.wordpress.com. If you have eczema it’s worth a read, she is so positive and upbeat and has a great attitude. She wrote about this subject and chatted with me on a blog post of mine about discrimination recently and it got my eczema senses alive and boiling. Read, This is what the British Press thinks eczema looks like for a brilliant review of how eczema is portrayed in the media. Do you think you’ll see one single picture of someone with eczema?

PS. Dear E45, I hope you do read my letter and would love to hear what you think. Ever thought of running adverts with pictures of your real customers? The ones who actually do have dry skin and eczema?

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. http://www.whatallergy.com was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.

Comments

  1. Dreadful stuff, just emulsified chemicals. A GP once said to me it was rubbish but they were recommended to prescribe it on the NHS so patients believed him.

    • It is a pretty horrible list of ingredients – anyone with eczema, dry, sensitive skin or dermatitis would be wise to avoid it at all cost!

  2. Like with gluten-free food being marketed to ‘lifestylers’, so therapeutic creams being marketed to ordinary beauty consumers? Advertisers have to reach the broadest market possible. I imagine if E45 showed people with problem skin issues more, it would put off ordinary potential customers, who’d bog off to Nivea instead. Beauty and skincare is highly competitive. Or maybe there’s an issue with advertising products for eczema? I imagine there are some restrictions, but unsure of the details. Also, as Jacquie implies, the ingredients aren’t great from a natural perspective.

    • Hi Alex, yep you’re right, but it still annoys me. In fact many adverts annoy me. I think it is more that nothing is really advertised truly to people with eczema. Same as people with allergies and people with coeliac disease. Same old same old isn’t it? Media coverage and portrayals do little to raise awarness of those with the true condition. E45 was awful on my skin, really made it ten times worse.

  3. What a great response Ruth – I hadn’t seen the advert. Not in the least bit surprised at their portrayal of perfect white skin. Have you seen Carly Findlay’s visible difference blog? She writes about life with ichthyosis (sp?) and maintains steadfastly that the situation can be improved by literally exposing our red faces to the world, helping people to understand that these skin conditions do exist and they are nothing to fear. Just like RJ Mitt was able to do with cerebral palsy in Breaking Bad (as you wrote about the other week re. Disability in the media). When I watch make-up tutorials (ha- a girl can dream) I feel really sorry for the girls who cringe when they expose themselves without a full face of make-up. If only they knew. X

    • Hi there Rebecca, well it was your blog about beauty in media that got me thinking. It reminded of me of how I screamed at the TV when that advert came on. Apart from the fact the actual product is pretty pants for anyone with sensitive skin anyway, it’s a symptom of the beauty and cosmetic industry in this country. I am quite glad that I don’t own much makeup, rarely wear any and don’t feel the loss of that at all. Why do women need to put on their ‘face’ before going out? Most would look much better without. I still feel like that little girl I was at school when noone would hold my hand in case they ‘caught it’. Other kids used to call me leper, now I just see it in people’s eyes. They often may not say it but they’re thinking it. How can she go out looking like that? Well I have to! I don’t have a choice and since using Protopic it has made my life so much easier because the hidden eczema is a doddle. I just hide and noone needs to know. And lets face it, even doctors barely understand this condition so what hope has the rest of the nation of having some empathy for what we go through? Oh just stop scratching. Yeah right!

      • Ah Leper, yes I used to get that too and ‘porridge face’ and ET! I also see it in people’s eye and I force myself not to apologise for the state of my skin although it’s on the tip of my tongue all the time. x

        • I know. Often they don’t mean it. My legs are always awful but I refuse to hide them in the summer. Even my family cannot help asking if it’s insect bites… It’s just my legs! They’ve a shocking mess but I can live with it so get over it. Heh Heh. Determined to fix my legs for this summer. Have been reading about topical steroid withdrawl which makes me shudder but might be something I need to look at. Urgh!

  4. Great blog Ruth, so refreshing to read something from someone who understands the reality of eczema. I was nodding and agreeing all the way through. As you say I can’t see the “perfect” skinned people in the adverts having to find a public toilet to apply emoillients just to stay “comfortable” enough to get through the day.
    BTW I’ve found E45 to be useless too.
    Keep up the good work please, I always enjoy your blogs.

    • Hi Yvonne, thanks so much for your kind words and comments on the blog. I’m blushing 😉 And yes, imagine if having red skin, eczema or dry flaky skin was just normal, because it is for so many of us. Why are we so fascinated and uncaring for anything that is not beautiful? Society and media have a lot to answer for but we can all do our bit to make a difference. E45 is no great loss, the ingredients are awful and shouldn’t be put on anyone’s skin in my opinion. So far they haven’t relied to me, I sent them a link to my blog. Cheeky I know but it might make them think about their next advert and possible rework their ingredients. We can hope!

  5. Maria moller says:

    Thanks for posting this up 🙂 as a sufferer and still suffering, it makes me angery to see these supposed sufferers who are smiling and happy. Where is the other ugly side to eczema that no one ever sees! Maybe we should pass this on to the eczema foundation

    • I have emailed E45 but so far no response. It would be interesting to hear what the Eczema Foundation and The Eczema Society have to say. I think it just makes it harder for us to live with it when others are so shocked and horrified to see our skin. Often when we’re on a good day. They have no idea. My skin is terrible at the moment. A massive flare up. Considering looking into topical steroid addiction but terrified of what that might mean. And like a smoker with a pack of fags in their handbag, tonight I’m reaching for the Elocon because I cannot take much more. Hope you are not suffering to much. Sleep well and moisturise!

  6. Great blog again Ruth, couldn’t agree more! It is part of a huge problem within advertising I think, the detrimental effect this kind of thing has on self esteem is really scary. Found this lovely video the other day which seems relevent to share
    ps LOVE the “p*ss take” tena lady ad, had me lolling 🙂

    • Thanks Weze, glad you enjoyed it. It is a HUGE problem. I am quite glad that I have no interest in makeup but instead a real passion for finding healthy things to use on my poor skin. PS. I love that video… I saw a link and didn’t watch it the other day because I was too busy so thanks for sharing. Everyone should watch this.

  7. Seems rather silly and unproductive that a company would have a product that is advertised to deal with eczema to have ingredients that are known skin irritants. The fact that they are advertising a product that in reality exacerbates the issue is downright wrong!

    • I agree, it’s not a great product for eczema but it is very very cheap to produce so many doctors prescribe it in the hope that we’ll go away and leave them alone and that perhaps it might work. I wouldn’t recommend E45 to anyone with eczema.

  8. I totally agree with this post Ruth! E45 caused a nasty reaction for Callum, also due to the lanolin!

    It is so true that any of the adverts selling creams for eczema have people with beautiful looking skin. Where’s the angry, sore, red, flaking, often bleeding and weeping skin? If you’re trying to get eczema sufferers to buy your product, then show them that it actually works! Otherwise, they’ll be fearful of a reaction/flare up and they won’t touch it!

    • It annoys me that E45 is the first thing doctors prescribe for eczema. I perservered for years with it but it was making my skin so much worse. When I swapped to Diprobase and Epaderm it was amazing how much more soothing they were. I hate E45. Awful stuff. I just saw one of their adverts for those gorgeous twins with eczema and it wound me up so much. They have no idea.

  9. I am currently recovering from a reaction to E45. Put some on as a moisturizer on Saturday… four days off work and a trip to the GP later I still have eczema over my eyelids. My eyes swelled up so badly I couldn’t open one and could barely see out of the other. Turns out I am allergic to lanolin.

    Because E45 is marketed (and I’m quoting from their website here) as for those with ‘sensitive skin’, ‘dry skin conditions’ and a treatment for eczema and dermatitis, I thought it would be fine. Now I know it’s main ingredient is aq. Lanolin, one of the main causes of contact dermatitis. They are letting people try and treat a condition using a cream made of the thing that could be causing it… surely they could use something else?

    As a child I remember my eczema being bad and only getting worse whilst using E45 ( as recommended by GP). My Mum would take me to the doctors when it got bad, they would prescribe hydro-cortisone cream and it would get better very quickly. The family always assumed that it was because the hydro-cortisone cream was ‘good stuff’. However it now occurs to me that the rash might have been getting better simply because they’d stopped putting E45/ lanolin on me.

    I do think E45 should change their marketing, or at least highlight that Lanolin is the main ingredient in their cream and that it can, in of itself, cause reactions. To add insult to injury, my name is Emma and, like the advert, I have a twin sister ( named Lucy rather than Laura, but still it’s close). Believe me, it did ‘make all the difference’ … but only in the sense that I haven’t been able to move or really see for three days.

    • I agree, it’s horrible stuff. I loathe the company. There isn’t much nice in this product to help skin heal. They even do TV adverts trying to get people with eczema to use it. Awful stuff. I use Epaderm and Diprobase. DoubleBase has worked in the past too but not E45. Bad stuff. If it’s for sensitive skin, I agree it shouldn’t have a known skin irritant in it!

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