Birthmarks are colored marks on the skin that are present at birth or develop soon after. There are two main types of birthmarks, vascular and pigmented. 

Vascular Birthmarks (often red, purple or pink) are caused by abnormal blood vessels in or under the skin. Vascular birthmarks often occur in the head and neck area, mainly on the face.  

Common types of vascular birthmarks are:

  • Salmon Patch (stork mark): Salmon patches are flat red or pink patches that can appear on a baby’s eyelids, neck or forehead at birth. They’re the most common type of vascular birthmark and occur in around half of all babies. Most salmon patches will fade completely within a few months, but if they occur on the forehead they may take up to four years to disappear. Patches on the back of the neck can last longer. 
  • Infantile Hemangioma: Infantile hemangiomas, also known as strawberry marks, are raised marks on the skin that are usually red. They can appear anywhere on the body. Sometimes infantile hemangiomas occur deeper in the skin, in which case the skin can look blue or purple. Hemangiomas are common, particularly in girls, and affect around 5% of babies soon after birth. They rapidly increase in size for the first six months before eventually shrinking and disappearing by around seven years of age. Hemangiomas that get bigger rapidly, or those that interfere with vision or feeding, may need to be treated.
  • Capillary Malformation: Capillary malformation, also known as port wine stains, are flat red or purple marks that affect a very small number of newborn babies. They can vary in size, from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter. Port wine stains often affect one side of the body and usually occur on the face, chest and back (although they can occur anywhere). 

Pigmented Birthmarks (usually brown) are caused by clusters of pigment cells. Pigmented birthmarks are tan or brown-colored skin marks.

Some of the most common types of pigmented birthmarks are:

  • Café-au-lait Spots: Café-au-lait spots are coffee-colored skin patches. Many children have one or two, but if more than six have developed by the time the child is five, they should be checked by a doctor. 
  • Mongolian Spots: Mongolian spots are blue-grey or bruised-looking birthmarks that are present from birth. They’re more commonly seen in darker-skinned people and usually occur over the lower back or buttocks. However, they can also appear elsewhere on the body or limbs. Mongolian spots may last for months or years, but they usually disappear by the time a child reaches four years of age. 
  • Congenital Melanocytic Naevi: Congenital melanocytic naevi are also known as congenital moles. They’re relatively large brown or black moles that are present from birth. They’re fairly common and are caused by an overgrowth of pigment cells in the skin. Most congenital melanocytic naevi become proportionally smaller and less obvious with time, although they may darken during puberty or become bumpy or hairy. 

Most birthmarks are harmless and don’t require any treatment. In some cases, a birthmark will need to be treated for medical reasons – for example, if a hemangioma blocks the airways, affects vision or becomes ulcerated. Some people may also decide to seek treatment for cosmetic reasons. To learn more about birthmarks or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Holy to have a birthmark evaluated, contact THE CENTER for Advanced Dermatology at 602-867-7546 or website