Types of birthmark

Birthmarks are very common and there are many different types. They vary in size and colour, some fade away over time but others are permanent. Birthmarks can be apparent at birth, but also appear over time.

The NHS only provides a limited list of the different types of birthmarks. What we have tried to achieve here is a more comprehensive overview of the majority of common and not so common types. We have followed the ISSVA (International Society for the Study of Vascular Anomalies)  classification which is followed by the world's leading specialists.

Most birthmarks are caused by a problem with the tiny blood vessels (arteries and veins) in the skin - these are called vascular birthmarks. These are divided into two groups which are called Vascular tumours (non-malignant) and Vascular malformations. There are also a few types of birthmarks that are non-vascular.

Approximately one in three babies are born with a type of birthmark.

Doctors still do not know what causes some children to develop birthmarks or how they get there. What they do know is that they aren't caused by anything a mother does during her pregnancy, and there's absolutely no way to prevent them. The vast majority are harmless and most fade away within weeks or a few years of birth.

A small percentage can present problems so all birthmarks need to be diagnosed correctly to see if treatment is needed.

Some of the different types of birthmarks are: 

Vascular tumours

These are abnormal growths formed from blood vessels of the skin or skin tissue.

Vascular malformations

These are abnormalities relating to blood vessels such as arteries, veins, capillaries, or lymphatic vessels.

Slow-flow vascular malformations

Fast-flow vascular malformations

Other birthmarks / non-vascular birthmarks

These are birthmarks which do not relate to blood vessels but the skin's pigmentation.