There are two main types of birthmarks: pigmented birthmarks and vascular birthmarks.
Pigment is a fancy word for color. These types of birthmarks happen when you have more pigment in one part of your skin. It's like a spot on your skin. The types of pigmented birthmarks are:
A mole on a person's face1.
If you are born with a mole, it is considered a birthmark. People often call these birthmarks "beauty marks." But not all moles are birthmarks. Moles usually are small, round brown spots (no bigger than about the size of a pencil eraser), but they sometimes can be larger and can be different colors. They can be pink, skin-colored or black. Some are flat and smooth; others are raised above the skin like a slight bump. Some moles go away, but you also might get more moles on your body as you get older. If you notice a mole that itches or bleeds, or if it looks a lot different than your other moles, ask your parents to take you to the doctor. It is important to have it checked out and make sure it's OK.
| A child with a café-au-lait spot.2
|Cafe-au-lait (pronounced cafay oh lay) is French for "coffee with milk," which is the color of these spots, kind of light brown, when they're on light skin. On dark skin they can be the color of black coffee. They can be small or big and often are oval-shaped. The spots might fade as you get older, but they probably won't go away totally.
| A child with a Mongolian spot on his back.3
|These types of spots are kind of gray-blue. They mostly turn up on the backs or bottoms of babies with darker skin. They can look like bruises. Sometimes they fade away, but sometimes they don't.
Your heart and blood vessels — the little highways that move blood through your body — are your vascular system. Sometimes a bunch of extra blood vessels will clump together, and you can see this clump in your skin. This is called a vascular birthmark. More than one in 10 babies has this type of birthmark. The different kinds are:
| A salmon patch on a person’s forehead4.
|These marks are flat and kind of pink or red (like salmon). If you get them on your face, people call them "angel's kisses." If you get them on the back of your neck, they're called "stork bites" (red spots that look like bite marks — they're not, of course). Sometimes they fade away, but sometimes they don't.
A strawberry hemangioma5.
It's a big word (pronounced he-man-gee-oh-ma), and sounds scary, but these birthmarks are usually harmless. There are two types: the kind that shows up on top of your skin and the kind that is deep in your skin. The ones on top are called strawberry hemangiomas because they're bright red and look like the fruit. Deep hemangiomas are bluish-purple and make the skin swell and bulge. This kind shows up after a baby is born. For the first year, both types can get bigger and bigger, which can look a little scary to parents. The good news is they usually start shrinking. Most hemangiomas become flat by age 10, and many become flat even earlier. They can leave a light mark behind.
Port wine stains
| A port-wine stain on a child’s face and ear6.
|These marks often show up on the face, and they're the color of wine or grape juice: pink, red or purple. They don't go away on their own and can get bigger as kids grow.
Next: What to do about birthmarks
1 Photo used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.
2 Photo used with permission of Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, J Am Acad Dermatol 1999 June; 40(6):877-90. Copyright Elsevier (1999).
3 Photos used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.
4 Photo used with permission of Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2007 Mar;56(3):353-70. Copyright Elsevier (2007).
5 Photo used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2008 Feb;58(2): S16-S22. Copyright Elsevier (2008).
6 Photo used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2009 April;60(4):669-75. Copyright Elsevier (2009).