Norfolk woman embraces her birthmark by refusing to cover with makeup any longer
- Credit: Jenny Foulds
For years she tried to hide it - now Jenny Foulds is embracing her port wine stain birthmark
Jenny Foulds has a superpower. It’s been part of her since birth but she has only recently decided to celebrate it.
Jenny, a 33-year-old mother-of-two from Wymondham, has a birthmark across her right cheek and upper lip.
For most of her life she has tried to cover it up but this year she stopped hiding it with make-up and decided to embrace it as part of herself. “I’ve finally learnt to accept and love this special part of me, I have been given a superpower as a mutant which I’m very proud of. I am perfectly imperfect,” said Jenny.
She has become a birthmark ambassador for international charity Vascular Birthmark Foundation and runs an Instagram blog to document her experiences and help anyone else in a similar position. “I was absolutely overwhelmed by the community that instantly greeted and accepted me, and very much wished I’d known of it far sooner,” said Jenny.
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Her followers include people with birthmarks and other visible differences, and parents seeking advice and reassurance, and she is sad that she still regularly hears of people bullied for their appearance. “If I can help just one person accept themselves for who they are, or even better to feel great about the skin they’re in, then I will consider my blog a worthwhile success,” she said. As a professional photographer Jenny is used to looking closely at people’s faces. Three years ago she swapped a career in accountancy for photography, specialising in taking family and wedding pictures. “I focus on harnessing individuality, nurturing relationships and celebrating quirks - something which I’m sure comes from personal experiences of living with a facial birthmark,” she said. “I’ll never forget hearing about the upset caused to a family when they received some professional photographs of their baby, with the child’s birthmark having been removed without their consent. I believe we are all beautifully unique and this should be celebrated in every way, not covered up.”
Jenny was born with what is known as a port wine stain birthmark across her forehead and right cheek, upper lip and nose. “There are various types of birthmark with differing characteristics, but a port wine stain is present at birth and will not disappear with time,” she said.
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Caused by abnormal development of blood vessels in the skin they affect three in 1,000 people – and twice as many girls as boys.
“As a child I did struggle with looking differently to others, and there were definitely times when I would have wanted it gone,” said Jenny. She had several session of laser surgery as a child, which removed sections of the birthmark from her forehead and lightened and broke up other patches. The treatment is also used to keep the skin healthy and stop birthmarks becoming thicker. “My parents made the decision for me to undergo treatment at around seven years of age, on the condition that I could choose to stop at any time,” said Jenny. “I am thankful that they did so, and hold no regrets over the decisions they made on my behalf.” However, the treatment was painful and left her with a series of dots on her face which gradually faded. “I remember a nurse explaining about it to me beforehand, suggesting it was very similar to having an elastic band pinged onto my face over and over again. It was a pretty accurate description.
“Kids generally were curious, asked questions and then got on with it - just as it should be. Adults on the other hand, should have known better than to stare and pass hurtful comments. My mum was my absolute rock throughout my treatments, and never missed a thing. She would take me out somewhere public for a treat afterwards, and I knew this was her way of telling me to carry on and not hide myself away from the world. Although sadly I recall one lunch visit being interrupted by a grown lady who refused to eat whilst I was in the restaurant, because my face was putting her off her meal. I was seven years old and that moment will stay with me forever.”
Now Jenny is an ambassador for the international charity Vascular Birthmark Foundation which supports people affected by birthmarks. The network of ambassadors around the world direct people to the information and help they need. The charity also helps medical professionals find out more about birthmarks. As well as supporting people with birthmarks Jenny is also a volunteer photographer for the charity Remember My Baby (remembermybaby.org.uk) which offers free remembrance photography to families who lose a baby just before, during or after birth.
“It’s taken me a long time to accept my port wine stain and I’m only now realising how much I love this part of me,” said Jenny. Follow her on Instagram @beautifully_birthmarked or visit her photography website jfouldsphotography.co.uk
A port wine stain birthmark is caused by a gene mutation early in pregnancy, however, Jenny is intrigued by birthmarks myths from around the world. “Some are more absurd than others, but they include port wine birthmarks being caused by drinking too much wine during pregnancy, looking directly into a fire while pregnant, an injury or cause of death from a previous life, or the umbilical cord wrapping round the site,” she said. “Other myths include it being lucky to touch someone with a birthmark, it being a mark of evil, the mark of a spiritual leader, or the shape of determines the person’s spirit animal. I’m sure there’s many more, but take your pick!”