Birthmarks are very common. Around one baby in three is either born with or develops one soon afterwards. They affect twice as many girls as boys, vary widely, and may gradually disappear over a few years or stay with you for life, sometimes getting bigger.
Most of the time they’re harmless but occasionally they can signal a specific underlying health problem. They can also cause complications because of where they are, in which case they need to be removed.
You may also want yours removed for cosmetic reasons.
They can appear anywhere, including inside your body. Although there are many different types of birthmarks that look very different from each other, there are two broad categories.
These are abnormal blood vessels under your skin. If they’re pink, red or purple, they’re near the surface. If they’re blue, they’re deeper. Vascular birthmarks can appear anywhere on your body but tend to be more common around your head, face and neck. Common examples include:
These are clusters of cells that contain melanin, the skin pigment that makes you tan. They tend to be brown or black but can also be bluish or blue-grey, and may be smooth, flat, raised or wrinkled. These include:
Usually your doctor can categorise a birthmark by its appearance. But you or your child may be referred to a dermatologist, a doctor who specialises in skin conditions, if:
The exact cause of birthmarks isn’t well understood. Many of them are thought to be due to a change in a gene during the early part of pregnancy when a baby’s skin and blood vessels are forming.
Fortunately, most birthmarks don’t need treatment. This is only necessary if:
You may also want a birthmark treated because you don’t like the look of it. Birthmark removal options include: