A Laser Expert Shares Solutions for Facial Birthmarks

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Getty Images

This column first ran in Valerie Monroe’s newsletter, How Not to F*ck Up Your Face, which you can subscribe to on Substack.

A reader asked about dealing with a red facial birthmark. I didn’t know that, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than 10 percent of babies are born with a birthmark of some kind, often caused by formations of blood vessels close to the skin. Many birthmarks fade, but some don’t — and because there are treatments that can greatly diminish them, I contacted Washington D.C.’s “Laser Queen” dermatologist for her thoughts.

Q: I’ll bet you haven’t had this question before: What’s the best foundation to cover a red facial birthmark? I’ve had years of laser surgery but still have plenty of pink color to hide. There are several thick, not-kind-to-aging-skin formulas like Covermark, but something less dense would hopefully look more natural. I suspect there are great long-lasting concealers out there, but where to start?

A: You’re correct, Dear Reader, that no one has asked me this question before, not even when I worked at O, The Oprah Magazine (please let me know if I’m wrong). And what a good question!

Dermatologist Tina Alster — who seems to know everyone I’ve ever met from D.C. — said, “With regard to laser treatment of port-wine stains (and other vascular birthmarks), please remind readers the practitioner operating the laser is just as important as the laser itself. Physicians who have the most experience with birthmarks have been at the forefront of technology for more than three decades.” Alster points out that the use of different vascular-specific wavelengths are being used (alone and in combination) to better address resistant birthmarks. Which is why it’s so important, if you have a vascular or pigmented birthmark, that you consult an expert laser physician with the knowledge and experience to “cherry-pick” the appropriate laser (or lasers) to optimize your outcome. Here’s one place to look for a dermatologic surgeon.

As for your question about camouflage, Alster suggested something I was unaware of. Simulated Skin is a customized second skin formulated to color-correct conditions like port-wine stains. It’s a light liquid that claims to be durable, flexible, and smudge-resistant, and it doesn’t feel (or appear) heavy on the skin like typical camouflage makeup. Alster says it looks natural and can last two to three days on the face. It’s waterproof, so it doesn’t rub off or transfer. But it seems you have to visit its clinic in New York City to get color-matched.

HNTFUYF resident makeup artist Barbara Stone offered advice about more widely available camouflage: “If I had a client with a birthmark she wanted to cover, I’d go straight to Dermablend, do not pass go. They have more shades (20) than Covermark and a few different formulas for mixing and matching. Your reader could use the Flawless Creator Lightweight Foundation all over and then dab a matching shade in the original Cover Creme formula on areas that need more coverage.”

Barb said she would not use a Beautyblender or sponge for application, since they can absorb the creamier aspects of foundation. “I’d go with fingertips and a nylon brush like the Artis Fluenta Circle 1 brush, which was designed to tap/press product onto specific areas,” she said. “The Dermablend powder is transfer-resistant, so I’d set the foundation with that and maybe add a setting spray like Urban Decay All Nighter.”

I hope, Dear Reader, this offers a way to start solving your problem — and with the right foundation, maybe also a satisfying “finish.” Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la! A loyal reader asked if I was going to offer a gift guide. My response was emphatic: nope. I’ve been overwhelmed with gift guides, which strike me as just another way marketers help us empty our wallets.

But I’m not a Grinch. I love the holiday season and have sweet memories of my dad taking me to the Philharmonic’s Messiah sing-along, where he bellowed with abandon while I wept at the beauty of the spectacle (not the least of which was Dad’s guilelessness). Thinking of that, and of the Mary Oliver poem linked at the top of this post, I decided suggesting a store that gives back might satisfy an urge to do good while we spend.

Have a look at this terrific place, recommended by eagle-eyed HNTFUYF-er Patricia. Generous readers, if you know of a great company — beauty-related or otherwise — working to support underserved people, please bring it to our attention in the comments, so we can support it, too.

And because I also love giving presents (and receiving them), I suggest you treat yourself to this gorgeously scented candle trio, which will surely escalate the celebratory atmosphere wherever you are. Cheers!

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A Laser Expert Shares Solutions for Facial Birthmarks