Fast Facts – Facial Differences

This month’s spotlight is fairly broad, as facial differences can refer to a multitude of things. Facial differences are often present at birth. More than 100,000 babies in North America are born with a facial birth difference each year, while 500,00 people a year acquire facial differences due to injuries or disease [i]. Facial differences may be caused by anything that affects the way the bones, muscles, and tissues in a child’s face and skull develop, and can take many forms such as [ii]:

  • – Atypical shape, size, or position of features
  • – Underdevelopment of some bones of the head and face, resulting in asymmetry
  • – Premature closing of skull structures

While cleft lip is more common and therefore better recognized, many other syndromes affecting facial appearance are rare and not as well understood. This lack of understanding is what amplifies the stigma around facial differences.

Common Conditions that May Result in a Facial Difference

  • – Car accidents
  • – Burns
  • – Cleft lip/palette
  • – Hemangioma
  • – Down’s Syndrome
  • – Bell’s Palsy
  • – Treacher-Collins Syndrome
  • – Tumors

The Possible Effects from Facial Differences are [i]:

  • – Problems with vision, hearing, or speech
  • – Skeleton, heart, central nervous system, genito-urinary tract, or skin may be affected


  • – Stares and comments are frequent
  • – Teasing and bullying is often experienced by those with facial differences
  • – People frequently falsely assume a person with a facial difference is also mentally disabled, especially if she needs a hearing aid or other help [i]
  • – Society’s obsession with physical appearance can result in low self-esteem and poor body image in people, especially teens, that have facial differences
  • – In some cultures, a facial difference such as a cleft lip literally marks a child as cursed or evil, resulting in banishment from families or towns [ii]
  • – Research of 185 adolescents with facial differences showed that 35% of them and 47% of their mothers noticed people staring at their face in the previous week [iii]
  • – In the same study, 20% said they were teased in the previous month for how their face looks [iii]






Spotlight Calendar

Each month B Stigma-Free will spotlight a different area for attention. Blog articles, fact sheets and social media emphasis will call attention to the issue of stigma and the identified topic. Do you have suggestions for us to include? Tell us your ideas here.

Future Spotlight Topics:

July 2016 – Facial Differences

August 2016 – Cancer

September 2016 – Caregivers

October 2016 – Learning Disabilities

November 2016 – PTSD

December 2016 – HIV