Let’s explore what exactly a birthmark is!
Marilyn Monroe and Cindy Crawford. Football great Drew Brees, rock guitarist Billy Corgan, and former Soviet official Mikhail Gorbachev. What do they all have in common? Birthmarks that are almost as well-known as they are. These famous folks didn’t let facial moles or port-wine stains stand in the way of success — and they’re just a handful of celebrities with birthmarks. Chances are good that you have one, too, so let’s explore what exactly a birthmark is.
By definition, a birthmark is a skin abnormality present at birth, or which appears shortly after birth. There are many kinds of birthmarks: some grow or darken over time while some shrink or fade; some are raised or textured, others feel the same as the rest of your skin but have a different pigmentation; some even affect hair color. For now, let’s look at the two main categories of birthmark — vascular and pigmented.
Vascular: Caused by improperly formed blood vessels below the skin’s surface, vascular birthmarks can be pink, red, or purple in color. Generally, these types of birthmarks are further classified as one of the following:
- Macular stains — The most common type of vascular birthmark, these benign and painless marks are usually pink or red and include what are commonly referred to as “angel kisses” and “stork bites.”
- Port-wine stain — These flat, dark red or purple birthmarks usually appear on the face/scalp, arms or legs. While non-cancerous, these do grow and can thicken with age, which can require treatment when located on the face.
- Hemangiomas — Typically occurring on the head, face or neck, these growths are sometimes referred to as “cherry” or “strawberry patch” marks. They can grow rapidly in the first months after birth and are raised and spongy. Treatment, if required, depends on location and rate of growth, but most hemangiomas shrink and fade by nine years of age.
Pigmented: Not involving blood vessels, pigmented birthmarks are typically tan, brown or black. The following common skin markings fall under this category:
- Nevi (moles) — Moles are raised, pigmented areas of the skin that are the result of clustered cell growth. While moles can develop later in life, some are present at birth and can occur anywhere on the body.
- Café au lait marks — These are so named for their coloring, which typically resembles that of coffee with milk. Flat and painless, café au lait birthmarks only raise concern if there are several of considerable size, wherein they may be an indicator of neurofibromatosis or other conditions.
- Mongolian spots — Blue or blue-gray in color and usually occurring on the lower back or buttocks, these birthmarks could easily be mistaken for a bruise. These occur more commonly in babies of African or Asian descent and tend to fade with age.
These are just a few of the most common types of birthmarks out there. If you have questions or concerns about a birthmark on you or a loved one, please schedule a consultation with one of our caring Derick Dermatology professionals. We have offices to serve you in Arlington Heights, Barrington, Bartlett, Buffalo Grove, Crystal Lake, Elgin, Libertyville, Lindenhurst, McHenry, Park Ridge, Naperville, and soon in Oak Brook.