'I go to bed with makeup on': What it's like living with a permanent birthmark

Credit: NHS

Around one in three newborn babies will have a birthmark - they can be anything from a small skin discolouration somewhere discreet to a big, raised patch of darkness that you can't cover up.

The majority are harmless and fade into childhood.

But others can be permanent.

Everyone lives with their birthmarks differently and sadly, they can be an easy target for bullying at a young age and can seriously affect the mental health of those who have them.

ITV News has spoken to Emily Hallett who covers up the birthmark on her face with make-up and even goes to bed still wearing it.

She's currently paying for laser treatment to try to make it less visible - she says it's had an effect on her, her whole life - and the impact continues today.

We spoke to dermatologist Dr Anand Patel from the Spire Hospital in Nottingham.

He told us having a visible, permanent birthmark through school years and adulthood can have a huge impact on self esteem.

I'm a reporter and producer at ITV News Central and I had 'breakthrough' cosmetic surgery on my permanent birthmark as a child

I was born with a large, dark, raised birthmark in the middle of my forehead - known as a congenital melanocytic naevi, which has the potential to develop into skin cancer at an older age.

ITV News Central reporter and producer Sarah Kilburn-Wilson with a permanent birthmark as a child Credit: Sarah Kilburn-Wilson

It was never something I was conscious of as a young child but it seemed to grow as I grew, so I sported a very thick full fringe to hide it from being a toddler to a teenager.

I don't think my mum wanted to see me grow up always trying to hide my face or at risk of the birthmark developing into something worse, so when I was 10 we went to see a doctor.

The birthmark was pretty severe and too deep and large for laser surgery, so it took three long operations, spaced a year apart to fully remove it.

I'm thankful it was in the days before smart phones and social media, but the time off school for operations, dressings, stitches and scars made me a target for bullying once I reached secondary school - as did the full fringe that tried its best to hide what lay beneath.

I was one of the first children in the UK to receive a new 'breakthrough' facial cosmetic surgery for large birthmarks that couldn't be treated with laser surgery, and I'm pretty sure my picture is plastered all over a medical journal!

I was left with a large scar right across the middle of my forehead, which caused more distress in my teenage years than the birthmark itself as a child.

The forehead scar where the birthmark was has now faded but is still visible Credit: Sarah Kilburn-Wilson

The scar has faded a lot more now into the crease lines in my forehead (now I'm getting older!) and it's something I don't really think about until someone asks about it.

Had the decision not been made for me as a child, I'm sure I would've looked at my options as an adult to remove the birthmark as it couldn't be covered by make up.

And I'm sure the full fringe would eventually have fallen out of fashion...

What support is available?

The NHS advises to see your GP if you're worried about a birthmark, a birthmark is close to the eye, nose, or mouth, a birthmark has got bigger, darker or lumpier, a birthmark is sore or painful, your child has 6 or more cafe-au-lait spots, you or your child has a large congenital mole.

If you need someone to talk to or want more information on how to improve your mental health, you can visit:

More information on birthmarks can be found here on the NHS website.