‘I can’t! I can’t leave the house without makeup!’ I was shocked. He looked me in the eye. ‘You can’t, or you won’t?’: Woman embraces port wine stain birthmark after years of ‘feeling ashamed, insecure’

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“‘I can’t! I can’t leave the house without makeup!’

That was the last time I would tell myself this lie.

I was born with a port wine stain birthmark that is on both sides of my face, on my chin and on my bottom lip. I went through my entire childhood and teenage years not fully understanding how or why I was born with this type of birthmark. I’ve now learned a port-wine stain happens when chemical signals in tiny blood vessels don’t ‘turn off,’ and those blood vessels get bigger. The extra blood turns the skin red. Regardless if I knew the underlying reason, it wouldn’t have changed the way I felt. When I was 5 years old, I always felt different. I’d see this red mark across my face and wish I could get rid of it. I would put my small hand over my birthmark and think, ‘This is how I would look without it. I could look like everyone else.’ But as soon as I took my hand off my face, my eyes started to tear up – I knew I was never going to look like my beautiful mother, sister, friends and the women on television.

Courtesy of Marisela Chavez

When I was 9 years old my mom, sister, aunt and I went to a studio to take pictures. It had makeup artists and hair dressers to get you ready for the photos. The makeup artist asked, ‘Would you like me to cover your birthmark?’ I was in shock, and replied, ‘You can do that?’ She said, ‘Yes, I will just have to use more product.’ I tried to contain my excitement while also not getting my hopes up. ‘Yes, please.’

When she was done with my makeup, she gave me a mirror and said, ‘What do you think?’ I wanted to cry, hug her and let her know she finally helped me feel beautiful, but as a shy 9 year old girl, all I said was ‘thank you, it looks nice.’

Courtesy of Marisela Chavez

When we left, I wanted to keep this makeup on for as long as possible because I knew when I washed it off I would be back to feeling ashamed and insecure. The first time I went to school with foundation on was in 8th grade and I instantly became extremely dependent on it. I did not cover my birthmark very well, but I started to notice the confidence I expressed when I had makeup on. Finally, people weren’t looking at my red, bold birthmark – they were looking at me! When I went to high school I learned to cover my birthmark so well that it would be difficult for people to ever know I was hiding such a big part of me. I was getting attention from boys in school and being told I was beautiful, and I felt it. I was on a high, I never wanted to let anyone know about my birthmark, so I would wear makeup at ALL TIMES!

Courtesy of Marisela Chavez

If I spent the night at a friend’s house I would sleep with my makeup on and wake up early in the morning to fix it. I refused to play sports in fear of it smearing, I failed my P.E. class because it was mandatory to do two weeks of swim and that was not an option for me. As much as I felt confident with makeup on, I never genuinely felt secure with myself and knew that, but I faked it each and every day! When I graduated high school, I looked into Pulsed Dye laser treatments and scheduled a consultation. I was motivated to get this birthmark removed because all I ever wanted was just to have clear skin. Dr. DiCerbo said, ‘It could take 8 to 12 treatments for my birthmark to become barely noticeable or completely gone.’ I waited after I had my son to start the treatments at age 21. It was an odd experience. I personally did not think it hurt very much but once I got home, the swelling, bruising and scabbing left me feeling worse about my appearance. My skin took about a week to heal and my birthmark began to fade! I felt great about my decision and did another 3 treatments. I would not leave my house for about 7-10 days in fear that anyone would see the bruising and swelling that required much more makeup to cover than normal. I felt miserable being home for that many days, lying to friends and family about why I couldn’t go out. Until the most recent treatment I had scheduled in June.

Courtesy of Marisela Chavez

I was planning to stay home for at least 7 days until I was in the ‘clear.’ I had recently started to rock climb and fell in love with the sport. I was worried about losing strength during those days that I stayed home, worried that I would miss climbing too much and that friends would start asking questions why I haven’t been coming around. That afternoon after my treatment I asked my husband Steve if he could get me IN-N-OUT and he said, ‘Yeah, let’s all go.’ I was in complete shock, why would he think I would leave the house with my face all bruised and swollen if I can’t even leave the house with my birthmark in its normal state?! That’s when I lost it. Tears came down my face at an uncontrollable rate. I said, ‘I can’t! I can’t leave the house without makeup!’ Steve said, ‘You can’t or you won’t?’ That is when I realized I have been speaking as if someone has been holding me down and not allowing me to leave this unhealthy mental state. Oh wait, I HAVE! I have been doing it to myself since 8th grade, feeding myself lies and excuses about how people would react, how they would judge me, and how unconfident I will feel again. That is when I made the best decision of my entire life, to learn to not care about what people think about my appearance.

Courtesy of Marisela Chavez
Courtesy of Marisela Chavez

I was motivated and inspired by many amazing women on Instagram that were embracing their port wine stain birthmarks. I thought, ‘I have to do this,’ so I went to the grocery store with my birthmark in its bruised state. I felt uncomfortable and did notice people staring at me, but I was so proud of what I had done.

Courtesy of Marisela Chavez

I forced myself to go to family events, the gym, my son’s Jiu jitsu practice without makeup on and it became easier each time! I always wanted to be able to go climbing outdoors without worrying about touching up my makeup and finally I was doing it. I began to focus more on my mental and physical strength, which led me to feel confident in different ways other than basing it off my appearance.

Courtesy of Marisela Chavez

This journey was not easy, I cried and felt ugly a lot of times, I had so much anxiety leaving the house without makeup on but telling myself that I CAN, freed me from the hurt I was causing myself. I will no longer say I can’t do something because this journey showed me I am stronger than I could ever imagine. I am beautiful in my natural state and it was damn time I embraced it!”

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Courtesy of Marisela Chavez

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Marisela Chavez. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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