Birthmarks are colored spots on the skin that babies are born with or develop shortly after birth. More than 10 in 100 babies have birthmarks.
These marks can be bright red, pink, brown, tan, or bluish. Birthmarks can be flat on the surface of the skin or raised. Birthmarks are labeled by their colors and consistencies.
The most common types of birthmarks include:
These are light tan colored spots. Having up to three of these spots on your body is usually fine. Having more than three café-au-lait spots may indicate a condition called neurofibromatosis. It is a genetic disorder that causes skin tumors.
Hemangiomas are usually flat or slightly raised and bright red or bluish in color. They may appear anywhere on the body. They are often found on the face, head, and neck. Hemangiomas are usually present at birth or develop during the first few weeks of life. These birthmarks tend to grow quickly during the first 12 months of your child’s life. They tend to stop growing after the first year and then slowly disappear. They may also be found inside the body. Two types of hemangiomas include:
- Strawberry hemangioma—This type of hemangioma is usually raised and bright red like a strawberry. This bright red coloring is due to numerous, dilated blood vessels that are close to the surface of the skin. These hemangiomas usually go away on their own by age ten. Most of these hemangiomas do not require any treatment unless they ulcerate or are located in places where they could prevent normal body functions, such as around the mouth, nose, eyes, anus, or throat.
- Cavernous hemangioma—This type of hemangioma is beneath the skin. It is puffier than a strawberry hemangioma and more bluish in color. These types of hemangiomas are less likely to go away on their own. Facial hemangiomas may be associated with vascular deformities of the brain. Your doctor may recommend an MRI scan to determine whether this is present.
These are often called angel’s kisses or stork bites. These harmless birthmarks are pinkish or light red. They can be found anywhere on your child's body. They are most common back of the head and neck. Usually, they are barely visible. No treatment is necessary for this type of birthmark.
Moles appear as dark brown or black spots. They are small groupings of colored skin cells. Nearly everyone has small moles. They usually begin to appear after birth.
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These flat birthmarks on the surface of the skin have a blue-gray color. They are often located on the buttocks or base of the spine. These types of birthmarks are generally harmless. They are sometimes mistaken for bruises. They tend to disappear by puberty.
Port-wine stains are pink, red, or purple colored blotches on the skin. Their size varies. They can be found on the face, neck, arms, or legs. Although there are treatments to minimize the appearance of port-wine stains, they are permanent. Large port-wine stains on the face may suggest a condition called Sturge-Weber syndrome. This syndrome can result in seizures and affect intellectual disability.
Congenital nevus is a dark, textured mole that is present from birth. Many of these may be covered in part with hair. They may be very large, covering the abdomen and thighs, or smaller. They may appear at multiple sites. This particular birthmark can develop into melanoma at some point in life. It is generally removed as soon as possible, depending on size, location, and need for reconstructive surgery to achieve a good cosmetic result.
Last reviewedJune 2014by Fabienne Daguilh, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.