What is A Birthmark?

A discolouration or irregularity on the skin that is present at birth or develops shortly after. These marks can vary greatly in size, shape, and colour, and can be found anywhere on the body.

Birthmarks in children are generally harmless and often fade or as the child grows older. However, some birthmarks may cause discomfort, affect appearance, or be associated with certain medical conditions.

Types of Children's Birthmarks

There are two main categories of children’s birthmarks: pigmented and vascular. We’ll explore the different types of birthmarks within each category, as well as their characteristics and potential implications for your child’s health.

  • Mongolian Spots: These are flat, blue-grey patches that typically appear on the lower back or buttocks. They are more common in children with darker skin tones and usually fade by the time the child reaches school age.
  • Café-au-lait Spots: Named for their coffee-with-milk colour, these flat, light brown patches can appear anywhere on the body. While having one or two of these spots is not usually cause for concern, multiple spots may be associated with a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis.
  • Congenital Melanocytic Nevus (CMN): These are pigmented moles that are present at birth. They can vary in size and colour, and larger CMNs may have an increased risk of developing melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
  • Hemangiomas: These are raised, red or bluish vascular birthmarks that are composed of clusters of blood vessels. They are often referred to as “strawberry marks” due to their appearance. While most hemangiomas are harmless and shrink on their own, some may require treatment if they obstruct vision, breathing, or feeding.
  • Port Wine Stains: These are flat, pink or purple discolourations that are caused by abnormal blood vessels. They are typically found on the face and do not fade over time. In some cases, port wine stains may be associated with other medical conditions, such as Sturge-Weber syndrome or Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome.
  • Salmon Patches (Nevus Simplex): Also known as “stork bites” or “angel kisses,” these faint, pink patches are found on the eyelids, nose, or back of the neck. They are the most common type of vascular birthmark and usually fade within the first few years of life.

Things to Know About Children's Birthmarks

Birthmarks in children are generally harmless and do not require any treatment. However, there are some key factors parents should be aware of when it comes to these unique skin markings.

  • Most birthmarks are not hereditary: While some birthmarks may be more common in certain families, the majority of birthmarks are not passed down from parent to child.
  • Birthmarks can change over time: Some birthmarks, such as hemangiomas and salmon patches, may fade or disappear entirely as your child grows older. Others, like port wine stains, may darken or become more pronounced with age.
  • Some birthmarks may indicate an underlying medical condition: While most birthmarks are harmless, certain types may be associated with specific medical conditions. For instance, multiple café-au-lait spots may indicate neurofibromatosis, while a large port wine stain on the face may be linked to Sturge-Weber syndrome. Consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about your child’s birthmark.

When to be Concerned About a Child's Birthmark

In most cases, birthmarks in children are harmless and do not require medical intervention. However, there are certain situations in which you should consult with a healthcare professional, such as:

If your child’s birthmark is growing quickly, changing colour or texture, or becoming raised or bumpy, consult with a paediatrician or dermatologist.

If a birthmark is located near your child’s eyes, mouth, or nose and is causing difficulties with vision, breathing, or feeding, seek medical advice.

If your child’s birthmark is causing pain, itching, or discomfort, it’s important to discuss these symptoms with a healthcare professional.

Birthmark Removal Options for Children

There are several birthmark removal options available for children, depending on the type and location of the birthmark and the child’s age and overall health. Some methods include:

  • Laser therapy: This is a popular option for treating certain types of birthmarks, such as port wine stains and pigmented birthmarks. The procedure involves using a concentrated beam of light to break down the excess pigment or blood vessels causing the birthmark. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if laser therapy is appropriate for your child.
  • Surgical removal: In some cases, surgical removal of the birthmark may be recommended. This option is typically reserved for larger or more complex birthmarks that are causing functional issues or have a high risk of developing into cancer.

Tips for Caring for a Children's Birthmark

Proper care and attention can help ensure your child’s birthmark remains healthy and does not cause any complications. Here are some tips for caring for your child’s birthmark:

Keep an eye on your child’s birthmark, noting any changes in size, colour, or texture. If you notice any concerning changes, consult with a healthcare professional.

Sun exposure can cause birthmarks to darken or become more pronounced. Ensure your child wears sunscreen and protective clothing when outdoors.

Try to avoid activities that may cause irritation or trauma to the birthmark, as this can lead to complications or changes in appearance.

Ensure the area around the birthmark is kept clean to prevent infection. Gently wash the area with mild soap and water, and avoid using harsh or scented products that may irritate the skin.

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Dr. Lee Hwee Chyen

Medical Director & Consultant Dermatologist

MBBS (S'pore) MRCP (UK) FAMS (Dermatology)

Special Interests In:
  • Paediatric Dermatology
  • Women’s Dermatology
  • Procedural Dermatology & Lasers

Dr. Lee Hwee Chyen is an accredited Adult & Paediatric dermatologist managing a wide range of skin, hair and nail conditions. The clinic provides services for medical, surgical, cosmetic, women’s and paediatric dermatology.

  • MBBS (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
  • MRCP (Royal College of Physicians, United Kingdom)
  • Specialist Accreditation Board, Dermatology (Singapore)
  • FAMS (Academy of Medicine of Singapore, Singapore)
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    Frequently Asked Questions

    The risks associated with birthmark treatments vary depending on the type of treatment and the age and health of the child. Some treatments may cause scarring, changes in skin colour or texture, and other side effects.

    Most natural treatments have not been scientifically proven to be effective. Discuss any natural remedies with a healthcare professional before using them on your child.