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What are Some Types of Birthmarks?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are two types of birthmarks: vascular birthmarks and pigmented birthmarks. Within these broad categories, there are a number of specific types of birthmarks which can be found on the bodies of infants. As a general rule, birthmarks are benign, although they can sometimes look startling, and some parents opt for birthmark removal, in the case of severe birthmarks.

Most birthmarks are present at birth, although they may grow darker or lighter with time. In some cases, infants are born with marks which gradually melt away, which is why treatment for birthmarks should not be undertaken right away, in case the mark vanishes on its own. In a few instances, a birthmark only becomes apparent later in life as the body matures and changes.

Vascular birthmarks are caused by malformations of the veins. A classic example of a vascular birthmark is a hemangioma or strawberry birthmark, a raised reddish area caused by a tangle of veins. Port-wine stains and so-called “stork bites” or “angel kisses” are also examples of vascular birthmarks. These types of birthmarks tend to be reddish in color, and they are very common around the face.

Pigmented birthmarks are characterized by irregularities in the distribution of pigment, and they may be darker or lighter than the surrounding skin. Dark blue patches called Mongolian spots are pigmented birthmarks, as are cafe au lait markings. Often, the pigmentation difference is very subtle and difficult to detect without looking closely. Moles are another example of a pigmented birthmarks.

Of the various types of birthmarks, moles have the most potential to be problematic. If a mole changes size, shape, or color, it can be a sign of skin cancer, and some studies seem to suggest that moles make people more susceptible to skin cancer. Some moles can also be quite large, with people viewing them as unsightly, because they are often significantly darker from the rest of the body, causing them to stand out.

If the decision to remove a birthmark is made, a variety of approaches to treatment can be used. In some cases, surgical removal with a scalpel or laser is possible. Laser therapy can also be used in an attempt to lighten the pigment in pigmented types of birthmarks or to break the birthmark up so that it is less apparent. A dermatologist can provide counseling in specific cases, and determine whether or not birthmark removal will be effective for a patient.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Tomislav — On Sep 30, 2011

I have a port-wine stain birthmark on my forearm, which does not project from the my skin at all, and many people have asked me what it is and if it was a cigarette burn. It is only the size of a nickel, so it isn't very noticeable, but if it is noticed, questions normally arise from people who don't know me. I don't mind it, I think it is actually cool and unique.

I did not know that port-wine stained birth marks type of birthmark was nicknamed "angel kisses", I have always heard of freckles being nicknamed "angel kisses".

I have a few moles, which are not big or raised much, so I hope they aren't cancerous! I did not know moles are birth marks until I read this article! It seems to be pretty common for most people to have at least a couple moles and one birth mark. I guess this is why many birth marks, especially moles, are called beauty marks.

By starrynight — On Sep 29, 2011

@Monika - Interesting. I actually didn't know that moles were a type of birthmark before I read this article. I don't have very many moles, but I do have a birthmark on my stomach.

It's kind of a dark splotch. However, it's much smaller than it was when I was a child, thank goodness. I guess it's true what the article says about moles fading as you get older.

By Monika — On Sep 29, 2011

I read somewhere that people are more likely to develop skin cancer in moles they already have than to develop new, cancerous moles. I have several moles in different places on my body: a few on my face, a few on my back, and a couple on one of my legs.

A couple years ago, after learning that they could be dangerous, I had a bunch of them removed. I was really happy to get the ones on my back taken off, because they were upraised and large. But I was pretty sad to see the ones on my face go. I used to get a lot of compliments on them-I thought they kind of added character.

Still, "character" isn't worth risking skin cancer, so I'm glad I got rid of them.

By Sunny27 — On Sep 29, 2011

I think that the facial birthmarks are the ones that I would consider for birthmark removal because they are so obvious. The port wine birthmark is the most noticeable and I would have it removed if I had one on my face.

I don’t have any facial birthmarks, but I do have a coffee colored birthmark on my neck that looks like a hickey. It really doesn’t bother me because I have long hair and it tends to cover my neck area completely.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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