As a dermatologist, I’ve seen my share of port wine stains on patients’ faces, arms, legs, etc. They can come in all shapes and sizes – some of them very small and others quite large that cover half the face. You may remember former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev who had quite a prominent port wine stain on the top part of his head. They can be a big source of anxiety, embarrassment and low self-esteem to many people. On the other hand, some people have learned to live with it and are no more concerned with them than having freckles. Whichever side of the spectrum you fall on, having a port wine stain can be a challenging distinction. That’s why I’d like to tell you about your options in either treating, covering, or letting these cosmetic mishaps of Nature just be.
Port Wine Stains – Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em?
About 3 out of 1,000 people are born every year with a port wine stain. You may have heard some of the old wives tales about port wine stains and why some people are born with them. One is that they are a result of something the mother ate, or drank, during pregnancy. I think my all-time favorite, though, is that the baby was bitten by the stork on its flight down to Earth. There’s no truth, of course, to the idea that what your mother ate during her pregnancy is what caused your port wine stain. As for the stork story, I’ll let you be the judge.
All joking aside, port wine stains are really vascular birthmarks and are technically called nevus flammeus. They form from abnormalities with nerves and blood vessels in the site they occur. Port wine stains grow with you from the time you’re born into adulthood. They never go away on their own and can also develop a sort of cobblestone, bumpy appearance that can give them a more prominent appearance.
Mostly, port wine stains are harmless. Yet, there are some types that occur near eyes or the forehead which may need to be monitored. These types of PWS may also be associated with something called Sturge-Weber syndrome that can result in seizures, developmental delays and learning disabilities.
Treatments for Port Wine Stains
If you have a port wine stain, there are a few ways you can deal with them. Here are your options.
1. Laser removal. In the 21st century, lasers are used commonly to treat many dermatologic conditions and it is something that is very successful in removing port wine stains. These include the Cynergy laser, which is a combination of pulsed dye laser and YAG laser. Also, the V-beam and the V-sure lasers are also used. Published data shows 40% to 100% improvement in the appearance/reduction of a port wine stain. Improved technology now allows for better, lightening results, greatly reducing pigment intensity of the port wine stain or clearing it.
2. Pulsed dye laser. As early as infancy, a port wine stain can be removed now with a laser therapy called pulsed dye laser. It may take several treatments to complete the removal but it will eventually remove the entire birthmark. You can look into these laser treatments through your dermatologist who may do the treatment himself or refer you to a dermatology specialist.
2. Make-up based covers. Other ways of dealing with port wine stains are simply to cover them. For years, the only available make-up that could completely cover a port wine stain was a very thick, pancake type make-up. However, today, there are lighter air-brush type make-ups and mineral make-ups that can provide complete cover of a PWS. Some higher quality mineral make-ups include Bare Minerals and ColorScience products. Luminess Air Brush makeup system also provides excellent coverage for PWS. It acts as a concealer and top make-up in one and leaves a light, air-brushed-photo finish.
3. Natural. As I mentioned earlier, many people are very accepting of their port wine stains, having been born with them, and having them their entire life, they’ve grown used to them as part of their appearance. How you accept your port wine stain may be more based on how other people have reacted to it. The fact that other people find it aesthetically displeasing is no reason for you to feel poorly about yourself. They can be very dry skin so you’ll need to moisturize them more with a heavier moisturizer. Like moles, if your port wine stain ever changes color, character, size, or starts itching or bleeding, you need to contact your doctor
Port-wine stains can be a challenge to your self-esteem or they can be minor cosmetic differences that you never give a moment’s thought to. If your port wine stain makes you feel self-conscious, though, try some of the make-up suggestions noted here and see how they help you feel. If they don’t go far enough for you, perhaps it’s time to talk to your dermatologist about the removal process.
Jay Brachfeld, M.D.
Natural Health News
Recommendations for Port Wine Stain Treatment http://www.birthmarks.com/HTMLArticle.cfm?Article=272
Mineral Makeup is a Dermatologist’s Fire Extinguisher, http://www.skinandallergynews.com/index.php?id=159&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=100313&cHash=bb70cba51d
Port-Wine Stains http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/heart/port_wine_stains.html
photo credit: birthmark.org