Sometimes, a birthmark looks like no more than a large freckle. Depending on its location, shape, and coloration, it may even be viewed as a beauty mark that adds aesthetic appeal. However, sometimes the area of unusual pigmentation is large, red, or otherwise discolored and is viewed as a blemish. Birthmark removal is commonly requested for highly visible areas of the body. When the use of camouflaging makeup has proven inadequate or too inconvenient, laser treatment may be recommended.
Note: Parents should be aware that the birthmarks on infants often fade over the years and do not necessarily require treatment. A consultation with a pediatric dermatologist can help determine the type of birthmark and if it is a cause for concern.
Port Wine Stain
This type of birthmark is usually a deep pink, red, or purple. It is usually unsightly and may cause the skin to look diseased or deformed. A port wine stain develops as a result of malformation of blood vessels under the skin. In rare situations when the birthmark is located near the eye, it may indicate an underlying health issue. However, usually these marks are simply a cosmetic problem. They do not resolve over time and the coloring generally deepens as the patient ages. The birthmark usually continues to grow at about the same rate as the surrounding skin, so it maintains the same proportion to the rest of the body. The texture of the birthmark may change over time, becoming rough or bumpy.
YAG and pulsed dye lasers may be used for treatment. These work by shrinking the blood vessels which, in turn, reduces the appearance of redness in the skin. Multiple treatments are typically required (sometimes as many as a dozen sessions) to achieve maximum fading. The birthmark may not fully disappear even with laser therapy.
These coffee/cream birthmarks range in color from light to dark brown. The cause is simply an excess of melanin in the upper layers of the skin. Birthmark removal is often attempted on large, irregularly shaped café-au-lait marks on the face and neck. Pulsed green light or other laser therapies may be recommended to disrupt the pigmentation in these areas. The birthmark may recur requiring future treatment. However, these marks generally do respond well to treatment and can sometimes be completely removed leaving the skin looking natural. Blue, gray, or black spots called Nevus of Ota are similar to café-au-lait birthmarks but involve a higher concentration of melanin located deeper in the skin. These may require more aggressive laser treatment to resolve.