Birthmark Removal

Latest update: July 14, 2024
Medically reviewed by: Jordan Frey, MD


Birthmarks are harmless skin growths, usually appearing at birth or a few months later. 

Birthmarks come in different sizes and colors: black, brown, red, purple, and blue. They arise from abnormal growth of blood vessels, muscles, fat, or skin. While some birthmarks lose color with age, others may become darker and pigmented. In such cases, patients may choose to remove a birthmark through various treatments. 

There are two primary types of birthmarks: vascular and pigmented.

Vascular birthmarks result from a collection of blood vessels. Pigmented birthmarks arise from groups of melanocytes (cells that produce the pigment melanin). Most birthmarks are benign. Doctors do recommend patients undergo a routine examination to rule out any possible disorders.

Many treatments, surgical and non-surgical, are available for birthmark removal. 

Non-surgical treatments include laser treatments and oral medications.

Intense pulsed light (IPL), Nd:YAG, or pulsed dye laser can diminish and decrease the size of vascular birthmarks and prevent further growth. Pulsed dye laser and IPL treatments target the hemoglobin pigment in blood vessels and destroy them. It may take 3-5 sessions to see visible improvement. Redness, swelling, and bruising are common side effects. A typical laser session lasts 30 minutes with no downtime required. Q-switched 1064nm Nd:YAG lasers target and destroy the pigment melanin in dark brown birthmarks without affecting the surrounding skin. 

Another treatment option for vascular birthmarks is oral beta-blockers and steroids. Beta-blockers reduce blood flow in the birthmark to stop further growth and cause it to disappear. 

The last option for birthmark removal is surgery. The surgeon will shave off the top of the birthmark or excise it. This option can sometimes leave a scar. The process begins with numbing the area with a local anesthetic. The surgeon uses a sharp blade to cut out the lesion and close it up with stitches. Also, a sharp razor can remove just the top of the lesion, and the wound will heal on its own without stitches. Patients need to keep the area clean and return for a check-up or suture removal.
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How to treat birthmarks

Dr. Davin Lim talks about birthmarks and the differences between them. He explains how lasers are used to remove birthmarks and continues to discuss which types of lasers would be used for both types of birthmarks. He talks about Q-Switch lasers for brown birthmarks and explains why they are fit for purpose. The video shows footage of the treatment procedure so viewers with light sensitivity should view it with caution.