What is a Birthmark?
Birthmarks are pigments of colour which appear on an area of skin at birth. Not everyone is born with birthmarks but for those who are, they are harmless.
Birthmarks come in different types. They can vary in colour, size and where they are on the body.
There are two main types of birthmark. These are vascular birthmarks and pigmented birthmarks.
Vascular birthmarks are caused by an increase in blood vessels which group together to form the mark. They are benign with slightly different appearances.
Hemangiomas are a common type of vascular birthmark. They tend to be reddish purple in colour and are raised on the surface of the skin. Some hemangiomas are under the skin (cavernous). These are a bluer colour and slightly puffier.
Hemangiomas are harmless tumours which are present at birth. They can get larger in the first 6 months then will eventually shrink down.
They are often called Strawberry marks as they look like a strawberry on the skin.
How do I get rid of a Strawberry Hemangioma?
The mark tends to get smaller as you get older, but some people may not like where they are situated on the body. In babies, if the hemangioma causes problems with feeding, breathing or sight they will be treated to shrink down in size. This can be done either by laser treatment, steroid injection (for serious complaints) or Propranolol medication.
Salmon patches are very common. Around 50% of babies born will have a salmon patch.
Otherwise known as ‘Stork Bites’, Salmon Patches are small capillaries (blood vessels) which can be seen on the skin.
The most common areas of the body in which they appear are the nape of the neck, upper lip, forehead, eyebrows. Those on the eyebrow and forehead are often known as Angel Kisses and tend to fade away as the baby gets older.
Port Wine Stains
Whereas Salmon Patches can disappear (not in all cases), Port Wine stains are permanent.
They are usually smooth on the skin when the baby is born but can become raised and darker in appearance in adulthood.
Port Wine stains vary in size and can occur anywhere on the body. If they are in an obvious area they can be treated by laser treatments (although they may not disappear completely disappear) or covered with special camouflage makeup.
Port Wine stains can worsen with hormones caused by puberty, pregnancy and the menopause.
Pigmented birthmarks are formed from a greater development of pigmented cells. They are brown, black, bluish or grey.
- Birthmark Groups and Organizations | Port Wine Stains
Organizations dedicated to providing information and support to individuals with vascular birthmarks and port wine stains.
- Birthmark Support Group - Home
Birthmark Support Group
Moles (or melanocytic nevus) are dark spots on the skin which vary in size and tone. They can be flat or slightly raised and are caused by a collection of cells called melanocytes.
Moles are often present at birth but acquired melanocytic nevus can develop as we get older. Unlike vascular birthmarks, moles can be inherited with fairer skinned people having more than darker skinned people. They are sometimes referred to as ‘beauty spots’.
Those who spend a lot of time in the sun can have more moles, but a lot of sun exposure may lead to malignant melanoma, which can be a form of skin cancer.
Cafe au lait Spots
These are tanned marks or spots which are seen on a newborn. They are lighter in colour, often representing the colour of milky coffee (hence the name).
They can fade as the child gets older but spending a lot of time in the sun may cause them to darken.
If a child develops a lot of café au lait spots (one or two is normal) then a doctor must be consulted. The genetic disorder neurofibromatosis can show these symptoms.
Mongolian Spots look more like a bruise and are tend to be common on darker skin tones. They can appear anywhere on the body, but usually on the lower part.
Mongolian Spots are harmless and disappear in children by the age of four, although they can last for years in some people.
jproldan on August 02, 2013:
@ the sailor pls. read my comments to you thanks :(
Emma Kisby (author) from Berkshire, UK on August 01, 2013:
Hi thesailor - yep, try not to scratch it! You must have had it since birth then, but at least you now know what it is.
thesailor from Seven Seas on August 01, 2013:
I have a birthmark, too. It's a white islet on my left hip. Sometimes, it's itchy that I had to scratch it. My mom told me it's a birthmark so, I don't have to bother it anymore.
Emma Kisby (author) from Berkshire, UK on July 31, 2013:
Hi FlourishAnyway - I haven't noticed that on mine -probably because it's hidden under my hair! I can imagine it would go redder if your skin goes red, but that is an interesting thought. Thanks so much :)
FlourishAnyway from USA on July 31, 2013:
Interesting hub. Do you find that your stork mark gets darker/redder when you are hot/out in the sun, or when you are mad? My daughter and her paternal grandmother have the same birthmark (storkbites on the neck like yours, as well as on the brows between the eyes). Most of the time, the face birthmark does not show -- except under those two conditions.
Emma Kisby (author) from Berkshire, UK on September 09, 2012:
Hi travel_man1971 - it's strange when we have the same marks as our parents or children.
Some people do not like their birthmarks on show. I have a friend who had a port wine stain on her neck, but with childhood teasing she had laser treatment. It actually made it look worse so she uses camouflage makeup now.
Ireno Alcala from Bicol, Philippines on September 09, 2012:
I also have a birthmark below the left part of my waistline. It's similar patch of brown reddish mark with that of my father's.
Emma Kisby (author) from Berkshire, UK on August 29, 2012:
Hi Leah, thanks for your comment - yes it's quite a fascinating subject! It's strange when the marks disappear - I had one when I was small which went.
Hi Watergeek - I almost talked about freckles in this hub, but they are different to birthmarks.
I also have freckles and they come out in the sun. It's to do with the skin pigment and the increase in melanin levels in the sunlight. They are genetic, and my son has them too!
Susette Horspool from Pasadena CA on August 26, 2012:
How would you define freckles, Emma? I don't know how long I've had them, but it seems like since I was a kid.
Leah Lefler from Western New York on August 21, 2012:
My younger son had a salmon patch "stork bite" as a baby, and it totally disappeared by the time he was a few months old. It is so interesting that some birth marks are temporary and others are permanent. Interesting hub, Emma!
Emma Kisby (author) from Berkshire, UK on August 13, 2012:
Thanks Om. I like 'Angel Kisses' for a name. My partner calls sun spots, 'sun kisses'! Thanks for your comment :))
Om Paramapoonya on August 13, 2012:
I'd never heard of "cafe au lait" spots before. That's a pretty cute name for a birthmark! lol Thanks for this informative and well-written hub, Emma.
Emma Kisby (author) from Berkshire, UK on August 12, 2012:
It's great that it's no big deal to him, mlzingarella. Some kids can be cruel, but as long as he doesn't have a complex then that's really good.
mlzingarella from Massachusetts on August 12, 2012:
Very interesting. My son was born with a nickel sized birthmark on his forearm. I never wanted him to feel different because of it; kids have asked him about it, some have even tried to rub the "chocolate" off his arm. He always tells them "my mom says that's my special mark". :)
Emma Kisby (author) from Berkshire, UK on August 12, 2012:
Hi zsobig, these are all photo's of me. In fact my son has the same stork bite as me on his neck.
Thank you so much for voting - glad this has helped :)
Sophie from United Kingdom on August 12, 2012:
An interesting hub!
I have a birthmark on the same spot like the lady on the first pic, so I am very happy I was able to read this article.
Voted up + interesting!