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Amazing make-up he;lps me face up to the world; Cosmetics are fun for most girls - but a life changer for Shannon.

Byline: By Samantha Booth

LIKE most 13-year-old girls, Shannon McDonald likes to use make-up. In fact, when the pretty teenager is made-up, she looks like every other girl her age done up for a night out.

But for the last year Shannon, of Brora, in Sutherland, has been learning to use specialist cosmetics in order to disguise a port wine birthmark on the left-hand side of her face - and the results are remarkable.

The second year pupil is amazingly philosophical about the condition which she's grown up with.

She said: "I've never been bothered about my birthmark although when I first started secondary school people did comment on it because they didn't know what it was.

"It is great to have the make-up for when I want to go out with my friends. "It is so good it covers the birthmark up totally although it can be tricky getting used to putting it on properly." Shannon's mum, Marie, says she is so used to seeing her daughter with her birthmark she doesn't really notice it. Even when she was born Marie was just so delighted with her new baby she didn't really give it much thought. Other people, however, did.

She said: "When Shannon was born I never noticed the birthmark at all and then after I did realise it was there, within a few weeks I had got so used to it I wouldn't even see it.

"But it became obvious it was an issue for other people because everywhere I went, comments were made.

"When I took her out in her pram some people even stopped me in the street and accused me of having left her out in the sun too long, but I think it was just because nobody up here had ever seen anything like it before. "I first found out about cosmetic cover up when she was only about nine months old. I was so fed up with people saying things, but Shannon has never been bothered by it at all until she went to high school.

"The children from Brora had grown up with it so it wasn't a big deal for them, but children from other villages did make a few comments. Although Shannon handled it very well, she has become a bit more self-conscious. She is now at an age where she wants to experiment with make-up and things." Then one day Shannon's gran happened to bump into local beauty therapist Kendra Ballantyne.

Through the course of conversation Kendra happened to mentioned that she was a British Red Cross Skin Camouflage volunteer, specially trained to show people with birthmarks and other skin conditions - such as vitiligo, scars and even tattoos - how to use the specifically designed cosmetics available on the NHS to cover up. Kendra said: "I actually trained in skin camouflage before I got involved with the Red Cross, but that was in a private capacity.

"Now I am a volunteer and it is brilliant that everyone who needs it has access to the service. I find it incredibly worthwhile because I can see what a difference it makes to people's lives.

"For many, having a disfiguration or scar covered up gives them back their self-confidence. To others it can mean a drastic improvement to their quality of life.

"I have trained a 40-year-old lady who had been off work for a year from depression caused by her skin condition, but with the camouflage make-up she felt strong enough to go back to her job.

"Another young boy had brown knuckles. He was only 17 and every time he went out people asked him who he had been fighting.

"He was not that kind of guy and it upset him to be thought of in that way, so the make-up helped him. Another young girl had a birthmark covering most of her body. When her mum saw her for the first time with the make-up on she was incredibly moved.

"But the service is also there to help anyone who is conscious of their appearance, whether they have problems with varicose veins or scarring left by operations or even acne. I often do make-up for young girls with scars just so they can wear the same kind of tops as their friends." On Shannon's first visit to Kendra the initial step taken by the 40-year-old Red Cross volunteer was to match the make-up to her skin tone.

Kendra said: "Shannon has beautiful olive skin so we have matched her skin tone twice, once in the summer and once in the winter because she goes quite dark in the sun."

Then a layer of cream is applied with a natural sponge.

Kendra said: "We use a natural sponge because this gives a far more natural finish compared to a brush, but this is still the hardest part for people to get the hang of themselves. "The cream is incredibly thick so it takes a lot of time and practise to be able to get a smooth and even finish over the area of the birthmark."

A powder is then pressed over the cream using cotton wool to give it a flawless, natural finish. In Shannon's case, Kendra applies a little blusher, lip gloss and mascara as normal.

Kendra said: "For Shannon it is all about having more confidence when she meets new people.

"She is not bothered by her birthmark, but it is nice for her to have strangers see Shannon the person rather than the girl with the birthmark."

Shannon's mum, Marie, said: "The first time I saw her with the make-up on I had to do a second take - I couldn't believe it was Shannon or how well the mark had been covered.

"It makes a big difference to her to have that option. "We are considering laser treatment in the next few years, but girls her age want to go out and wear make-up so I am pleased she is able to cover the birthmark and have the freedom to do that."

Shannon added: "I had a bit of trouble with the make-up to start with, but I just went back to Kendra and she helped me.

"It's great. When my friends saw me with the make-up on they were amazed."

The camouflage cream is waterproof and lasts for up to 12 hours, although if it is used on areas of the body other than the face it can last up to two or three days if it is not rubbed off with a towel after a shower.

It can take a bit of time to apply but there is no doubt that to anyone with skin conditions, disfigurations or scarring it is more than worth it.

Kendra said: "Having a birthmark, scar or even something like brown skin patches can cause people to suffer a real lack of confidence because they are often stared at in public. Being able to help them like this does give mea great sense of satisfaction. "Skin camouflage training is intensive and can be hard work but it is worthwhile and anyone can do it


THE British Red Cross has been helping people to deal with disfiguring skin conditions for 30 years.

The award-winning service, which teaches people how to use specialist camouflage cover creams to hide disfiguring blemishes, was launched in 1975 at the request of the Department of Health following a nationwide survey of dermatologists, which highlighted the psychological and social damage it caused.

While few problems are life threatening, visible conditions such as vitiligo, rosacea and scarring could cause distress and adversely affect a person's life.

Today more than 280 trained Red Cross volunteers offer help to thousands of people. There are 250 skin camouflage clinics across the UK, primarily in NHS dermatology departments but also Red Cross premises, and even prisons.

Sheila Hannay, service development officer, said: "This is an ideal time to commemorate all our volunteers and the people we have helped over the last 30 years." Most people in need of help are referred by their doctor or specialist although it is also possible to contact the Red Cross directly.

The anniversary will be marked with a week of events from October 3-10#For information visit their website at, call 0870 170 7000 or contact your GP


A PORT wine stain affects around three in every 1000 babies born in the UK.

It is caused by tiny blood vessels (capillaries) being permanently dilated because of a faulty nerve supply to the affected area. Around one in 10 babies with this kind of birthmark on their face can also have eye or brain problems, including glaucoma, epilepsy or even learning difficulties. Stains vary from pale pink to deep claret and can deepen in shade as a child grows. The texture can also thicken.

Birthmarks of this type can be treated with lasers, but it is not guaranteed to remove the stain completely.

This is best done when sufferers are young and works best on port wine stains on the face rather than other areas of the body.

It can take around 10sessions to achieve the best results and the treatment can cause a stinging sensation - which is why a general anaesthetic is usually used to treat children, while a local anaesthetic is normally sufficient for adults.

There may be pain, bruising and swelling over the treated area for a while after each session, although permanent scarring is an uncommon side-effect.

# For more help and advice contact The Birthmark Support Group, tel: 0845 045 4700 or click on www.birthmarksupport

For more information



0870 170 7000


contact your GP


HELPING HAND: Kendra shares her expertise with Shannon; BEFORE; TOUGH TIME: Shannon's; birthmark often caused people to stare at her; AFTER; NEW LOOK: The; specialist cosmetics work wonders for Shannon - and give her confidence to meet new people
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 30, 2005
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