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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Birthmarks - Topic Overview

What are birthmarks?

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 thicker.

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. 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 body.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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