A woman born with a facial birthmark revealed she chose not to have it removed because she’s happy to stand out from the crowd.
Chelsea Campbell, 25, of Kent, Washington, was born with a port wine stain birthmark – caused by the abnormal development of the blood vessels in the skin – on the left side of her face.
As a child her parents took her for annual laser surgery to lessen the appearance of the distinctive purple mark, using a technique similar to tattoo removal.
However Chelsea chose to stop the procedures at the age of eight after growing to love the birthmark and the way it set her apart.
Chelsea Campbell, above, of Washington, was born with a port wine stain birthmark – caused by the abnormal development of the blood vessels in the skin – on the left side of her face
But the waitress (pictured left, recently, and right, as a baby), has learned to celebrate her appearance. At the age of eight she chose to stop having laser surgery to remove the mark
The waitress, who is applying to study TV production at college, told how her birth mark helped her now best friend recognize her in a sea of unfamiliar faces on their first day of school.
‘I met my childhood best friend at school, and I remember her saying to me, “I remember you from preschool. I know who you are”,’ recalled Chelsea.
‘We’d been to the same preschool two years before and while I had no memory of her, she remembered me because of my birthmark. I really liked the feeling of standing out from the crowd and everyone knowing who I was.’
Until Chelsea was eight years old, her parents, police officer Ronald and medical payment processor Barbara, both 50, took her for annual laser surgery to reduce the size of her blemish.
Chelsea, seen above, was happy to stand out from the crowd after a little girl, who later became her best friend, recognized her in a sea of unfamiliar faces on their first day of school
‘I met my childhood best friend at school, and I remember her saying to me, “I remember you from preschool. I know who you are”,’ recalled Chelsea (pictured)
Chelsea (pictured) is now devoted to promoting self-acceptance online, but until she was eight she had annual laser surgery to reduce the size of her blemish
‘I had surgery every year until I was about eight,’ she said. ‘I was put to sleep under anaesthetic and I had a procedure which is similar to a tattoo removal.’
What is a port wine stain birthmark?
A port wine stain is a birthmark caused by the overdevelopment of blood vessels underneath the skin.
The change in the blood vessels is caused by a genetic mutation which occurs before a child is born, and will remain for the rest of a person’s life – though the severity of them differs between people.
Port wine stains begin as a flat red or purple mark and, over time, can become more raised, bulkier and darker in colour.
They can occur anywhere on the body but 65 per cent of them appear on a person’s head or neck.
Around three in every 1,000 babies has a port wine stain and they are more common in girls than in boys, though the reason for this is not known.
Treatment usually involves laser treatment to remove some of the dark colour from the mark, or camouflaging the discolouring using a special type of make-up.
Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital
Then, after the eighth procedure Chelsea, told her parents she did not want further surgery, as she was happy to stand out from the crowd.
‘I suppose my parents thought that if the surgery made my birthmark less obvious then my life would be a lot easier,’ she said.
‘But it just wasn’t something I wanted to continue to do. For one, I was a really active kid, and I hated having to stay still and rest after the surgery.’
But Chelsea’s decision to embrace her difference meant that, growing up, she and her parents suffered insensitive comments from people mistaking her birthmark for a bruise.
‘I’d get the odd comment here and there,’ she said. ‘But the worst reaction was when adults would get the wrong end of the stick and think I was in danger. They thought I’d been beaten up and my birthmark was a bruise.
‘Sometimes, adults would ask me if I was okay or they would just glare at my father as if he’d done something wrong. It was hard to deal with – but it’s something you learn to ignore.’
Chelsea – who has one brother, three step-brothers, and two step-sisters – believes it made life tougher for her parents than it was for her.
‘My mother was particularly affected, she couldn’t cope when people would stare at me and think there was something wrong with me,’ she said. ‘She’s always worried about me. I think she still worries about me now.’
Then, after the eighth procedure Chelsea (pictured as a teenager), told her parents that she did not want further surgery, as she was happy to stand out from the crowd
Chelsea, pictured during her toddler years, now tries to encourage others to embrace their imperfections after focusing her Instagram on her birthmark
Chelsea also fended off some cruel jibes from other children, adding: ‘I’d get comments from kids all the time. They’d say stuff like, “You look like you’ve been hit with a frying pan,” or “Who have you been in a fight with?”
‘Those kinds of comments didn’t bother me too much. I’d just laugh it off and say something like, “You should’ve seen the other guy.”‘
Now Chelsea feels ‘uncomfortable’ when she covers her birthmark with make-up.
‘I’ve had my birthmark all my life, there’s no point in covering it up, it’s part of me,’ she said. ‘I’ve covered it up on the odd occasion – say for a job interview or something – but it just makes me feel uncomfortable.’
Chelsea, seen above during her childhood, said she soon learned not just to live with her birthmark, but to love it
Chelsea’s decision to embrace her difference meant that, growing up, she and her parents suffered insensitive comments from people mistaking her birthmark for a bruise. Pictured: Chelsea with her mother
Singleton Chelsea also mentions her birthmark when she is looking for love online.
‘I’m on Tinder at the moment, and I’ve explained in my bio what my birthmark is,’ she said. ‘I think it just helps if you’re upfront about it. To be honest, I’ve not had one bad experience.
‘I think in recent years people have become a lot less ignorant and more accepting. The only comments I get from people I match with about my birthmark are positive ones.
‘They’ll say things like, “I love how unique you are”, and, “You’re perfect the way you are.” As much as it’s nice, it’s a bit cringe. I’ve always struggled to take compliments.’
Chelsea (pictured as a baby) – who has one brother, three step-brothers, and two step-sisters – believes it made life tougher for her parents than it was for her
Chelsea, who says her parents’ encouragement throughout her life has helped her to embrace her birthmark, is now determined to pass on the same positive message to other people
Chelsea now tries to encourage others to embrace their imperfections after focusing her Instagram on her birthmark.
She explained: ‘Two years ago, I changed my Instagram account name to the “birthmark queen”, as I wanted to start posting about my birthmark, because I love it – it’s part of me and who I am today.
‘There are so many Instagram influencers out there who edit their pictures to the point where they’re not recognizable any more.
‘But I want to show other people that if they want to be happy, they need to love their flaws and accept themselves. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts.’