Blog, Skin Conditions

What Are Birthmarks: When to Get Your Spots Checked

Everyone’s skin is unique to them. From tone to blemishes, no two people look exactly the same. Birthmarks in particular are almost literal stamps of individuality we get when entering the world. 

There are of course certain instances in which birthmarks do not appear until later in life. No matter the time of the appearance of the birthmark, there are always going to be certain ones that should be questioned and certain birthmarks that do not pose any threat.  

So how can you tell the difference?

What Are Birthmarks?

Birthmarks are pigmentations that appear on different parts of the skin and can appear in different colors and forms. They are given their name because most of the time, they are developed when a child is born. 

There are two main categories of birthmarks that one should be aware of.

What are birthmarks? Here's an example.

Vascular birthmarks

Generally red, pink or purple discolorations on the skin that can appear at any point of time. They are usually caused by an overgrowth of the blood vessels in the skin. 

Vascular birthmarks can appear anywhere on the body but are usually more common on the face and neck. They are also common on the lower back. 

Pigmented birthmarks

These marks are usually brown in color and are much more common. They don’t usually pose much of any threat and are mainly caused by a cluster of pigment cells coming together.  

Causes Of Birthmarks

There is a lot of research currently underway about the different types of birthmarks and the genetic mutations that are the underlying cause of many of the most common types.

However, a simple understanding is that birthmarks are usually created as a result of a buildup of cells within the body. In infants, these blood vessel buildups may appear to be strawberry red in color or an increase in the pigment cells will cause a brown lesion.

Identifying what are birthmarks.

How To Distinguish Birthmarks From Other Skin Pigmentations

Birthmarks are incredibly common, so much so that almost everyone has at least one tiny birthmark on their body. It becomes incredibly important for individuals to know about the different kinds of birthmarks and how to distinguish between them. 

This holds especially true for those who have birthmarks that have appeared in more recent years. 

The two main categories of birthmarks, pigmented and vascular, both have other subcategories within them that one should be aware of: 

Pigmented Birthmarks

Pigmented birthmarks usually occur as a result of some form of discoloration or pigment within the body. These appear as a spot on the skin that usually varies in color depending on the type. Types of pigmented birthmarks include:


It is important to note that a mole is only considered to be a birthmark if someone is born with it. This means that not all moles are birthmarks. The ones that appear later on in life may be caused for a number of reasons, which is why they can’t all be classified under this category. Moles are usually brown spots on the skin that can vary in size and shape. 

They can also vary in shade depending on the part of the body that they are on and the pigmentation that is occurring. 

If you start to see a mole later on in life, or if it bleeds, it is essential to see a doctor right away. Especially if you notice any early signs of melanoma. Mole removal is a very common procedure when necessary.

Cafe-au-lait spot 

A Cafe-au-lait spot is a pigmentation that can appear on any part of the skin. They can appear as a very light brown depending on the tone of skin they are on. 

These can vary in size and are on the surface of the skin and are entirely flat. Cafe-au-lait spots usually last through the course of one’s life, but do have a chance of fading out over time. 

Mongolian Spots

Mongolian Spots are usually grey-blue and appear most commonly on the backs of children who have darker skin. 

They can also take on the appearance of bruises because of the color that they exhibit. This is also not something that goes away over time, but it can fade as a person grows older. 

Are you wondering what are birthmarks?

Vascular Birthmarks

Vascular Birthmarks occur as a result of variations in the blood vessels, which causes discoloration to appear on the surface of the skin. 

Salmon Patches

Salmon patches are one of the most common types of vascular birthmarks that can appear. They are more common on the face and neck, though they can appear on other parts of the body. Salmon patches usually appear pink or red and are flat on the skin. 


While a hemangioma might sound like a daunting word, it is used to describe a kind of birthmark that is usually not harmful in any manner. There are two types of hemangiomas that can appear, one of them being ones that appear on the surface of the skin, and those that appear deep within the skin.

Superficial hemangiomas take on the appearance of a bright red bump on the skin which may have a few wrinkles within it. Deep hemangiomas can be skin colored or slightly bluish. Hemangiomas typically regress on their own over time.

Port Wine Stains

Port Wine Stains are most commonly found around the face and usually take on the appearance of wine or grape juice. Which means they can appear pink, purple or red at different stages.

Port wine stains tend to get darker and thicker as a person ages. They can be treated with lasers if desired and are unlikely to fade on their own. 


Melanoma is a cancer that can appear on any part of the body and is a result of exposure to the sun and genetics. When melanoma is found early, survival rates are highest.

Because of the potential serious nature of melanoma, it is always important to conduct periodic checks on yourself while also committing to yearly medical check-ups to make sure that nothing is wrong and you are living your healthiest. 

Visit Your Dermatologist

It is always important to visit your dermatologist on a regular basis. A dermatologist will be able to conduct a full exam to get a closer look at any of your spots to determine whether or not any treatment may be necessary. 

Visiting your doctor on a regular basis can also give you the peace of mind regarding your health and give you one less thing to worry about.

If you want to be sure your birthmarks are indeed birthmarks and nothing else to worry about, reach out to us at the Dermatology Center of Acadiana today and schedule a consultation!