Mongolian spot birthmarks are blue-grey, flat marks on a baby’s lower back or buttocks. They’re usually a few centimetres in size.
Mongolian spots are present at birth or appear soon after. They usually disappear by 4 years of age.
Mongolian spots are harmless and don’t need treatment.
These birthmarks are caused by a build-up of pigment cells in the deeper part of the skin. They’re more common in darker-skinned people, but they can happen in lighter-skinned people too.
Mongolian spots are also called dermal melanocytosis.
These common birthmarks are light-brown, flat spots, which can appear anywhere on the skin.
Children can be born with these birthmarks, or the marks might appear in early childhood. Some children can have up to 5 of them over their bodies by puberty. These marks usually don’t go away.
Café-au-lait macules are harmless. But if your child has a lot of café-au-lait macules as a baby, it’s a good idea to see your GP for further investigation.
Laser treatment can sometimes remove these birthmarks.
You might hear café-au-lait macules called CALMs.
Port wine stains and vascular malformations
These birthmarks are large red or blue birthmarks caused by tiny blood vessels that have expanded. They’re present from birth.
Port wine stains can appear anywhere on the body, most commonly on one side of the face, on the back, or on the legs and arms.
Port wine stains range in size. They tend to grow and get darker in colour as children grow. They might also get thick and lumpy. They don’t fade with time.
If a child has a port wine stain on their arms or legs, the whole limb can grow larger. Port wine stains on a child’s forehead, eyelid or cheek can be associated with seizures. But this is rare.
Some port wine stains fade after vascular laser treatment. Laser treatment can’t completely remove these birthmarks, but it can usually lighten them a lot. Treatment usually works better if it starts early in life.
If your child is born with a port wine stain, ask your doctor to refer you to a dermatologist who treats these conditions. This is important if the birthmark is on your child’s face or at the base of their spine or if it’s growing quickly.
Salmon patches or stork marks
Salmon patches are pale pink, flat marks that are present at birth. You might see them:
- over a baby’s forehead – usually called angel’s kiss
- on the bridge of the nose
- on the eyelids
- on the back of the neck – usually called a stork mark.
They can get redder when a baby is crying, straining or being physically active.
Most salmon patches fade completely in the first 2 years, leaving no marks by 3 years. Salmon patches on the back of the neck can stay into adult life and can be treated with laser.
Salmon patches are very common. They occur more often in babies with lighter skin. They’re also called naevus simplex birthmarks.
Infantile haemangiomas are small red, flat marks or blue, swollen lumps that appear in the first weeks of life anywhere on the body. They’re caused by a non-cancerous overgrowth of blood vessel cells.
As babies grow, the marks might start to get bigger and look raised and lumpy. They grow quickly in the first 3 months, then slow down. After a year the marks usually start to shrink. They usually disappear by the time children are 10 years old, but they can leave loose skin in their place.
If the haemangioma is large, or over a child’s eye, nose, lips or genitals, the mark should be treated to prevent complications like an ulcer, infection or scarring.
Depending on where the haemangioma is and how big it is, a child might need to use a beta blocker medication to stop growth and prevent complications. Some early or thin marks can be treated with a beta blocker gel applied directly to the skin. A dermatologist will prescribe and supervise these treatments.
Laser treatment is sometimes used to treat a haemangioma, particularly if the treatment can start before the haemangioma grows bigger. But this treatment can be painful, and your child will probably need several sessions.
Infantile haemangiomas are very common. They appear in up to 10% of newborn babies. They’re more common in premature babies. They’re also 3 times more common in girls than boys.
Infantile haemangiomas are also called strawberry naevus birthmarks or capillary haemangiomas.