A mother has spoken of her fury after her son was rejected from a beauty contest run by fashion retailer Next - because judges mistook her son's birth mark for make-up.
Sinead Soan, 28, entered 15-month-old Christopher in the Next Baby Boutique Model Competition and submitted a photo that showed the purple mark on his face.
But she was stunned to receive a reply from the high street chain saying her entry would not be considered. It read: 'Unfortunately, there's a problem with the picture you uploaded as we can't include babies wearing make-up or face-paint.'
The mother-of-four complained to the company, explaining that Christopher has a purple birth mark stretching across the left side of his face, down to his chest.
She said: 'When I read their message, I was quite upset by it. I couldn't believe they would actually think it was make up.
Obviously Christopher is my baby and I think he's adorable, but it's fair to say the birth mark has been a sensitive issue.
'People do comment on it and stare at him. Just after he was born, the cleaner at the hospital looked at him and exclaimed, "Oh, that's unsightly".
'I do worry about how he will feel about it as he gets older and I hoped winning a competition like this would show him just how gorgeous he is.
'I sent an email back straight away, telling them I found their message extremely offensive and that my son was not wearing make up or face paint in his photograph. It's just so ridiculous. It's obvious to anyone that this is a birthmark - I don't know any parents that would put purple make-up on their baby's face like this.'
In her angry reply to the company, Miss Soan, whose three older children are aged from two to eight years old, wrote: '[Christopher] actually has a facial birthmark which he was born with. I think it's pretty clear as to what it is.
After receiving her complaint, Next reinstated the picture - one of 27,000 entered in the competition.
A spokeswoman for Next said: 'This was an absolute, genuine human error. We have had an unprecedented response to the competition, with a very small team of moderators checking more than 27,000 pictures since it opened last Friday.
'As soon as we received the message pointing out the mistake, we apologised and reinstated the picture immediately.'
The company also sent a written apology to Miss Soan, stating: 'There's absolutely no doubt that an individual working for us on the competition's moderation process made a dreadful mistake, causing your initial entry to be rejected. To emphasise how seriously we're taking the matter, we will be addressing this with the member of staff who allowed this lapse in the high standards of care upheld by Next. Our apologies have been sincere - we are genuinely horrified at the mistake, not least because it caused you great distress.'
The winning babies will be featured in photoshoots with Next and Prima Baby magazine, and will receive a year's contract with Urban Angels modelling agency and 500 pounds in Next vouchers.
Related articles: Birthmarks: what to do if your baby has them.