Laser treatment for vascular birthmarks

Intense light energy laser treatment to destroy the red pigmentation.

Vascular birthmarks - also called strawberry marks and port wine stains - are usually brown, red or pink and often in prominent places, like the face. Although they are harmless, they can have a negative effect on self-confidence if they are located on the face, neck or arms. Laser treatment works by targeting intense light energy onto the skin so that it destroys the red pigmentation.

Why you might need it

Many people are born with strawberry marks and port wine stains. These birthmarks are made up of clusters of blood vessels near the surface of the skin and may be pink, red or purple in colour. Many shrink and disappear on their own with time but some, including port wine stains, persist and may even thicken and darken.

These types of birthmarks are often found on the face and can have a negative impact on a person's self-esteem and confidence.

Laser treatment is a relatively straightforward procedure that works by targeting intense light energy on to the birthmark, so that it destroys the pigmentation. It is often carried out on young children, as it tends to be more effective on thinner skin, but you can have it at any age. Effectiveness of the treatment is determined by the size of the birthmark and how dark it Is.

Find a Spire hospital offering this treatment

Who will do it?

Our patients are at the heart of what we do and we want you to be in control of your care. To us, that means you can choose the consultant you want to see, and when you want. They'll be with you every step of the way.

All of our consultants are of the highest calibre and benefit from working in our modern, well-equipped hospitals.

Our consultants have high standards to meet, often holding specialist NHS posts and delivering expertise in complex sub-specialty surgeries. Many of our consultants have international reputations for their research in their specialised field.

Before your treatment

Our patients are at the heart of what we do and we want you to be in control of your care. To us, that means you can choose the consultant you want to see and when you want. They’ll be with you every step of the way: from giving advice at your first consultation, through to offering on-going support after your surgery.

All of our cosmetic surgeons are of the highest calibre and benefit from working in our modern, well equipped hospitals.  A cosmetic surgeon’s reputation, qualifications and experience are vitally important, so we only work with consultant grade specialists. These are highly experienced consultants who have completed years of medical training. All our consultants are on the specialist register of the General Medical Council (GMC), and many are also members of the UK’s leading cosmetic and plastic surgery associations.

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Preparing for your treatment

We've tried to make your experience with us as easy and relaxed as possible.

For more information on visiting hours, our food, what to pack if you're staying with us, parking and all those other important practicalities, please visit our patient information pages.

Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.

The procedure

We understand that medical treatment can be a cause of anxiety – even if it’s a relatively straightforward procedure like this one. That’s why our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you or your child every step of the way.

Depending on the hospital, this procedure is usually carried out as an out-patient or day case under a local anaesthetic unless the patient is a young child or an adult needing a large area treated. In this case they will be given a general anaesthetic and will stay in hospital overnight.

A cooling gel will be applied to the treatment area first. The laser will be applied through a fibre optic cable with a small, pen-like device at the end. This is held against the birthmark so the laser beam can be targeted accurately. It is absorbed by the blood vessels and causes the area to heat up, creating a bruise which will fade after a week or two.

There is usually a slight stinging sensation during the treatment, though some people find it painless.

You may need anything from 3 to 30 sessions, at intervals of 6 to 8 weeks, to get rid of the birthmarks altogether.


Laser surgery is generally performed as a day case procedure, and you can usually go home on the same day once you or your child are discharged.

Pain relief

Following laser treatment, your skin will feel hot, like you have a mild sunburn, and you may experience some bruising in the area. This is normal and the symptoms will start to improve over the next few days. We will give you medication while you’re with us and to take home to help ease any pain. 

We will provide you with a supply of all the medicines your consultant feels you need to take home with you after you have left hospital. This may be at an additional cost to some patients.

Recovery time

The treated area will be prone to sunburn and you'll need to use sunblock for six months after your treatment to protect your skin.

You should be able to get back to normal physical activity straight away and you won’t need to take any time off work or school. If you or your child receive a general anaesthetic, it may take a couple of days to feel back to normal.

End results

The younger the patient the better the results tend to be. You should see an effect immediately but it may take several treatments to remove the birthmark entirely. Usually you'll need a course of laser treatments for the best effect.

Laser therapy may not completely get rid of the birthmark, but it will usually make it significantly paler and less noticeable.

Looking after you

Even after you’ve left hospital, we’re still looking after you every step of the way. On rare occasions, complications can occur following treatment.

The chance of complications depends on the exact type of procedure you are having and factors such as your general health. We will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.

If you have any questions or concerns we’re ready to help.

Why choose Spire?

We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.

Important to note

The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.

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