1. ITV Report

'I've learnt to love myself': What is it like living with a visible facial difference?

  • By ITV News Multimedia Producer Nitya Rajan

Chloe was sitting with her friends in a London pub when a man came over to point and stare at her. He told her she looked ugly and ridiculous.

"That wasn't fun at all," she told ITV News.

Chloe has a visible facial difference, a facial birthmark she was born with.

As a teenager, she struggled with looking different from her friends.

"When I was 15, 16 onwards, I really started to feel uncomfortable in how I looked and it got to a point where I felt really miserable about myself inside, and I just felt like I wasn't pretty or like everyone else at all. Like I was never going to be accepted fully," she said.

But she can look past that now, she says with a sly smile. "Hopefully, I'm beautiful in my own way."

Chloe struggled as a teenager but says she has grown in confidence Credit: ITV News

And Chloe is not alone. At least 1.3 million people in Britain are estimated to have a visible facial difference, according to charity Changing Faces.

That includes 86,000 children of school age.

Most young people are familiar with the pressure to look a certain way.

Even so, research by Changing Faces shows that less than a third of young people would be friends with someone with a visible facial difference.

Half of the young people the charity surveyed said they has witnessed negative behaviour towards a person with a visible difference, and more than a third admitted to having acted in a negative way themselves.

That behaviour is most likely to include staring, pointing or saying something unkind to the person, or taking a photo of them, the charity said.

Agnes says she has learned to love her scars Credit: ITV News

Agnes says that sounds familiar.

She was caught in a gas explosion aged seven and the surgery for her burns has left scars on her face.

"You're always looked at. Everyone is staring, even though they don't want to," she told ITV News.

"They say mean things that they don't realise are mean."

If she sounds generous to those people, it's because she is. And like Chloe, Agnes has found her confidence.

"I've learnt to love myself, and I've learnt to love my scars," she says.

"What I would say to young people growing up now with visible differences, is that it gets better, I guess. You will learn to love yourself."

Chloe agrees. "You're worth a lot," she says. "It doesn't matter how you look."