A birthmark is a colored mark
on or under a newborn baby’s skin. Some birthmarks show up soon after a baby is
born. Most birthmarks are obvious at birth. Some kinds of birthmarks fade or go
away as a child gets older. Others stay the same or get bigger, darker, or
There are many kinds of birthmarks. They can be any size
or shape and can be different colors, such as blue or blue-gray, brown, tan,
black, pink, white, red, or purple. Some birthmarks are smooth, and some are
raised or lumpy.
Nearly all birthmarks are harmless and painless. But it’s
important to have a doctor check all birthmarks, just to be sure they are okay.
What causes birthmarks?
Some birthmarks are from
extra color (pigment) in the skin. Other birthmarks are blood vessels that are
bunched together or don't grow normally.
It's not clear why some
children have birthmarks and others don't.
What kinds of birthmarks are there?
Salmon patches (also called stork bites, angel kisses, and macular stains). Salmon patches are thin,
flat, light pink or red birthmarks. They tend to be on the back of the neck,
the upper eyelids, upper lip, or between the eyebrows.
Congenital moles (nevi). Congenital moles can grow anywhere on the body. They vary
in size and shape. Most are brown.
Café-au-lait spots. Most café-au-lait spots are smooth, oval birthmarks. They range
in color from light brown to chocolate brown and usually are found on the
torso, buttocks, and legs.
Mongolian spots are smooth, blue or blue-gray birthmarks. They are often uneven
in shape and are on the lower back and buttocks.
Hemangiomas. Hemangiomas are raised
birthmarks. They are blue, red, or purple. They are clumps of blood vessels
that didn't grow normally. Hemangiomas grow in many shapes and sizes. They may
grow only on the skin, or they may extend deeper into the body.
Port-wine stains. Port-wine stains are birthmarks that are pink-red at birth and
then become a darker red-purple. Port-wine stains are blood vessels that didn't grow normally. They can be small, or they can cover a large area of the
Do birthmarks need to be treated?
are harmless and need no treatment. Some will even fade or disappear over time.
But in rare cases, birthmarks need treatment because they are growing quickly, growing on an internal organ, or causing a medical problem (such as a problem with sight, breathing, hearing, speech, or
There are several ways to fade, shrink, or remove birthmarks. These include:
Medicines, such as propranolol or corticosteroids.
Your options will depend on the type of birthmark, where it is, and what problems it's causing. Treating a birthmark can be a big decision. The treatments may not work, and they can be painful and cause side effects.
If your child’s birthmark
bothers or worries you, try not to let your child know how you feel. Ask others
not to make a big deal out of it. If a birthmark upsets your child, it may help
to have your child talk with a trusted doctor. If your child is still upset,
talking to a counselor or support group may be a good idea to help him or her
Is it important to have birthmarks checked?
If you see a
birthmark on your baby, make sure that a doctor has seen it. Although most birthmarks are harmless, some aren't.
If a birthmark
grows, bleeds, hurts, or gets infected, see a doctor to have it checked.
This American Academy of Pediatrics website has information for parents about childhood issues, from before the child is born to young adulthood. You'll find information on child growth and development, immunizations, safety, health issues, behavior, and much more.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) provides information
about the care of skin. You can locate a dermatologist in your
area by using their "Find a Dermatologist" tool. Or you can read the latest news in dermatology. "SPOT Skin Cancer" is the AAD's program to reduce deaths from melanoma. There is also a link called "Skin Conditions" that has information about many common skin problems.
KidsHealth for Parents, Children, and
Nemours Home Office
10140 Centurion Parkway
Jacksonville, FL 32256
This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It
has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and
diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website
offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing
age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can
sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.
Vascular Birthmarks Foundation
P.O. Box 106
Latham, NY 12110
1-877-VBF-4646 (1-877-823-4646) toll-free
The Vascular Birthmarks Foundation (VBF) offers many
resources to help you learn more about birthmarks. You'll find information
about treatment options, support groups, research, and more. You can read
personal stories from people who have a birthmark, see photos, and connect with
Chang MW, Orlow SJ (2008). Neonates and infants section of Neonatal, pediatric, and adolescent dermatology. In K Wolff et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th ed., vol. 1, pp. 935–941. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Grichnik JM, et al. (2012). Benign neoplasias and hyperplasias of melanocytes. In LA Goldman et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 8th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1377–1410. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Horii KA, Sharma V (2010). Pediatric dermatology. In JC Hall, ed., Sauer's Manual of Skin Diseases, 10th ed., pp. 425–440. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Huikeshoven M, et al. (2007). Redarkening of port-wine stains 10 years after pulsed-dye-laser treatment. New England Journal of Medicine, 356(12): 1235–1240.
Mathes EF, Frieden IJ (2012). Vascular tumors. In LA Goldman et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 8th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1456–1469. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Miller JH (2010). Hemangiomas. In MG Lebwohl et al., eds., Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies, 3rd ed., pp. 289–291. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.
Morelli JG (2011). Diseases of the neonate. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 2218–2222. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Swee TT, et al. (2010). Low-dose propranolol for infantile haemangioma. Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery. Published online July 9, 2010 (doi:10.1016/j.bjps.2010.06.010).
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.