What is birthmarks?


Birthmarks in children: Overview

Birthmarks are colored marks on the skin that are there at birth or shortly after birth. They can be different sizes, shapes, and colors. Some form a raised area on the skin. They can grow quickly, stay the same size, shrink, or go away over time.

  • Salmon patches are pink patches, mainly on the back of the neck, upper eyelids, or upper lip, or between the eyebrows.
  • Moles are brown raised bumps that can occur anywhere on the body.
  • Café-au-lait spots are brown, flat, oval birthmarks.
  • Melanocytosis are gray-blue patches that occur mainly on the lower back and buttocks.
  • Hemangiomas are raised blue, red, or purple birthmarks.
  • Port-wine stains are pink-red at birth and then become a darker red-purple color.

Most birthmarks are harmless and painless. Talk to your child's doctor about whether any birthmarks need treatment.


Birthmarks are colored marks on the skin that are present at birth or that develop shortly after birth. They may be brown, tan, black, blue or blue-gray, pink, white, red, or purple. Some birthmarks appear on the surface of the skin, some are raised above the surface of the skin, and some are located under the skin.

Most birthmarks need no treatment. They often fade as a child grows older. But some birthmarks may need treatment because of their location.

Experts do not know why some children have birthmarks and others do not.

What are the symptoms of birthmarks?

Birthmarks usually do not have symptoms. For this reason, some people with birthmarks may not even know they have them.

How are birthmarks treated?

Most birthmarks are harmless and need no treatment. Some will even fade or disappear over time. But in rare cases, birthmarks need treatment because they are growing quickly, growing on an internal organ, or causing a medical problem (such as a problem with sight, breathing, hearing, speech, or movement).

There are several ways to fade, shrink, or remove birthmarks. These include:

  • Medicines, such as beta-blockers or corticosteroids.
  • Laser therapy.
  • Surgery.

Your options will depend on the type of birthmark, where it is, and what problems it's causing. Treating a birthmark can be a big decision. The treatments may not work, and they can be painful and cause side effects.

If you see a birthmark on your baby, make sure that a doctor has seen it. Although most birthmarks are harmless, some aren't. If a birthmark grows, bleeds, hurts, or gets infected, see a doctor to have it checked.

How are birthmarks diagnosed?

Your doctor will diagnose birthmarks during a physical exam. Your doctor may ask questions about the pregnancy, labor, and delivery. You may also be asked about family history. In some cases, your doctor may do tests.

How can you care for your child who has a birthmark?

If the doctor prescribes medicine, have your child take it as directed. Keep your child from scratching a birthmark by covering it and by trimming their fingernails. Help them understand that a birthmark is natural. Join a support group or see a counselor if your child still has problems because of the birthmark.

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 are birthmarks?

A birthmark is a colored mark on or under a newborn baby's skin. Some birthmarks show up soon after birth and some fade as a child ages. Others get bigger, darker, or thicker. They can be many sizes, shapes, and colors. Some birthmarks are smooth, and some are raised or lumpy.

How can you care for your child who has a birthmark?

  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Keep your child from scratching a raised birthmark. It may contain blood vessels that can bleed. If a birthmark bleeds, cover the area with a clean pad and apply gentle pressure.
  • Keep your child's fingernails trimmed to prevent scratching a birthmark.
  • Help your child understand that the birthmark is natural. Your child will accept the birthmark more easily if you are not embarrassed by it.
  • If the birthmark bothers you or your child, try using makeup or hairstyles to hide it.
  • Join a support group to share problems and solutions with other parents of children with birthmarks.
  • If your child still has problems because of a birthmark, think about having your child talk to a counselor.

Birthmarks in children: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the birthmark.
    • Pus draining from the birthmark.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • The birthmark is bleeding.
  • The birthmark is changing in size or looks or starts to hurt.
  • Your child is having any problems.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.