A health campaigner who suffers from a chronic skin condition today told of her anger after being questioned before being allowed to board an easyJet flight.
Holly Dillon, 26, from Peckham, was returning from a short break in Faro last night when the check-in attendant raised “health and safety concerns” before letting her onto the Luton airport-bound flight.
Miss Dillon, who launched the #GetYourSkinOut online campaign to “empower” other sufferers of the non-infectious condition and challenge misconceptions, had gone to Portugal to enable the sun’s rays help to reduce her psoriasis.
The assistant film director told the Standard: “I’ve just been stopped in Portugal checking in to the easyJet flight from Faro back to London before boarding the plane. The boarding desk clerk just stopped and indirectly asked my friend, not me, whether I had a problem with my face or skin.
“Wearing no make-up coming back from holiday – the one thing that helps my skin – I felt great, and my psoriasis has completely gone down, and he actually stopped me.
“I said: ‘Excuse me, you should be asking me directly if you think there is something wrong.’ He said it’s a health and safety procedure. It’s yet another example of the lack of awareness of psoriasis and the overall appalling easyJet service. It was completely unacceptable, rude and unprofessional.”
Ms Dillon, who has worked on films with Brad Pitt and Jon Bernthal (above), gathered almost 1,500 Instagram followers in a matter of months after launching #GetYourSkinOut.
She enlisted professional photographer Lewis Khan to take pictures as she underwent PUVA treatment at Chelsea and Westminster hospital, where she bathes in lotion before undergoing light therapy three times a week during flare-ups.
She said: “I did that for two reasons: I wanted to show the effect the treatment was having on psoriasis, and to show psoriasis in a positive light. We got a series of photographs that show it as an art form, rather than images showing it as red and itchy, even though it is red and itchy.”
Psoriasis affects about 1.8 million people in the UK, and most often develops in adults under 35. It can massively affect quality of life and has been linked to 300 suicides a year. Sufferers are at increased risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease and arthritis.
Psoriasis is caused when skin cells regenerate too quickly, probably due to a problem with the immune system. Celebrity sufferers include Cara Delevingne and Kim Kardashian.
Ms Dillon has worked on Les Miserables and alongside Pitt on Fury and Bernthal on Fast & Furious 6. She had her first flare-up at 14 and was diagnosed with guttate psoriasis, which causes small sores to develop all over her body, four years later.
Her latest flare-up was sparked by a bout of tonsilitis. The condition can make holding down a job difficult due to the debilitating nature of the attacks and the time-off required for treatment. “In the last 18 months I have had treatment for six months of that,” she said.
Her campaign has sparked a flood of responses from others with psoriasis. “The thing with psoriasis is because it doesn’t have a death sentence at the end, it’s disregarded by the public,” she said. “But it is chronic. It has a huge impact on people’s lives, on their wellbeing and happiness.
“There are plenty of clinical articles online but I wanted to speak to someone who wasn’t a healthcare professional, to rant, cry and laugh. It’s about giving a platform and a voice to everyone with psoriasis. Get Your Skin Out isn’t just about psoriasis, it’s about being proud of who you are and about body image as a whole.”
Dr Anthony Bewley, consultant dermatologist at Whipps Cross Hospital and The Royal London Hospital, said: “The Get Your Skin Out campaign is brilliant because it is so positive and affirmative about living with a chronic skin condition like psoriasis.
“All too often people feel ashamed and disempowered when living with skin disease, but Holly’s message is: get in control of your skin, get advice about how to get it better, get your skin out and shine. It’s a great message and long overdue.”
An easyJet spokesman said: “easyJet is sorry to hear of Ms Dillon’s experience whilst boarding flight EZY2020 from Faro to Luton on Sunday 19 June 2016.
“As soon as we were made aware this morning, we started an investigation. All of our staff are carefully selected and undergo training to maintain our high level of customer care which may not have been upheld in this occasion. We will be addressing this with the ground staff member involved as we always have high standards to maintain. Our customer team are contacting Ms Dillon to discuss this with her directly.”