When we think about it, birthmarks are truly fascinating—they’re little anomalies that happen for no known reason, and many of them form before a baby has even been born. However interesting they are, though, it still doesn’t change the fact that many people find their birthmarks to be undesirable. The birthmark may be a unique part of their physiology, but it can lead to embarrassment and make the patient feel like their personality is being overshadowed by the distraction. Fortunately, significant progress has been made in birthmark removal by finding out exactly what birthmarks are and how they can be safely removed.
There are two general categories of birthmarks: pigmented and vascular. Pigmented birthmarks are areas of skin that appear as a different color than the remainder of the skin. This occurs when one area of the skin simply has more pigment than the surrounding skin, or when an area of the skin has a different color of pigment than the surrounding skin. There are three primary types of pigmented birthmarks:
- Café au Lait birthmarks – These spots are named for the French translation of “coffee with milk,” because that is the color they often appear in individuals with light skin. These patches of skin that are slightly darker than the natural skin tone are often oval-shaped.
- Moles – Moles vary in size and shape, but most often, they are small and dark brown in color, and create a slight bump on the skin’s surface. These are extremely common, and nearly everyone has at least one or two.
- Mongolian Blue Spot – A common birthmark among those of Asian, East Indian, and African descent, these spots are quite literally blue in color and typically appear on a baby’s back or bottom.
How are pigmented birthmarks removed?
At Laser Lights Cosmetic Laser Center, we utilize lasers that send short pulses of energy into the layers of the skin. This causes the pigments to break up microscopically so that the body can naturally absorb them. The exact course of treatment depends on the individual patient, as well as the color and size of the birthmark, but most patients require three or more treatments for complete removal.
While vascular birthmarks often appear as a patch of skin that simply is a different color than the surrounding skin, their color variation is not caused by excess pigment. Instead, it is caused by blood vessels that have grown abnormally or excessively. This may sound dangerous, but these birthmarks are just as benign as pigmented ones. There are three primary types of vascular birthmarks:
- Port Wine Stains – Appearing most often on the face, port wine stains are identified by their deep red or purple color which, as the name suggests, can resemble the color of port wine.
- Hemangiomas – Unlike port wine stains, hemangiomas usually protrude from the skin. They can form on the surface of the skin (in which case they appear bright red in color) or below the skin (in which case they have a blue/purple tone).
- Salmon Patches – With their pink or light red hue, these are typically the most subtle of the vascular birthmarks. Also called “stork bites,” salmon patches appear on 30-50% of newborns and are usually seen on the face or the back of the neck.
How are vascular birthmarks removed?
While some vascular birthmarks disappear eventually, laser therapy is highly effective in vascular birthmark removal. A specialized laser is used to selectively clot and seal off the unwanted blood vessels, which are then absorbed by the body so they are no longer visible.
Although birthmarks generally do not carry physical risk, the effects on a person’s self-esteem (especially if the birthmark is significantly noticeable) can be challenging. Birthmark removal can be performed on nearly any skin type and on children and adults of nearly any age. To take the first step toward a birthmark removal treatment plan that is customized to you, simply schedule an appointment online so we can help you achieve a clearer complexion that lets your personality shine through.