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Birthmark Removal Methods

Birthmark Removal Methods

Most birthmarks do not require treatment.  However, for those that do, there are a variety of professional birthmark removal methods that modern physicians perform.  The method that your physician recommends will depend on the type of birthmark, its size, its location, your age, and general health.  Here are a few methods currently available as well as a few future possible treatment options.

Laser Surgery

Laser surgery involves the use of a high-energy laser that lightens the affected area. It is most effective on birthmarks that are close to the surface of the skin like port wine stains. Because birthmarks can become raised and bumpy with age, laser treatment is often recommended for children.  Laser surgery is typically performed in a doctor’s office under general or local anesthesia depending on the birthmark size and location.  The size and location will also dictate the number of sessions required for optimal results. [1]

Possible side effects: bruising, pain, and increased sensitivity to sunlight. [2]

May be used to treat: hemangiomas, port wine stains, nevus of ota, Café-au-lait spots [3]

Topical or Injected Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids medications can be used to effectively treat hemangiomas, which are a collection of blood vessels that can appear as a bright, red patch or lump on the skin.  The corticosteroids act on the stem cells reducing their ability to produce new blood vessel growth that is responsible for the birthmark’s growth. [4]

Most hemangiomas do not require treatment and will eventually resolve on their own, but may require treatment if they are obstructing vital functions such as obstructing airways or vision.

Possible side effects: high blood sugar, high blood pressure, poor growth, and cataracts. [5]

May be used to treat: hemangiomas.

Topical or Oral Beta Blockers

Beta-blockers tighten blood vessels restricting blood flow.  This restriction of blood flow helps to reduce the size and color of hemangiomas.  Beta-blockers also affect the cells that cause the birthmark to grow. [6]

Possible side effects: slow heart rate, low blood pressure, bronchspasm, weakness and fatigue, sleep disturbance, and low blood sugar. [7]

May be used to treat: hemangiomas.


Cryosurgery, also called cryotherapy, is an effective treatment for a variety of skin conditions including skin tags, age spots, and warts. It is also sometimes indicated as an alternative treatment for birthmarks. [8]The cryosurgery procedure involves the use of liquid nitrogen or argon gas to freeze an area of skin cells, which will die and slough off as a result. [9]

Possible side effects: blister formation, bleeding, hair loss, headache, and hypopigmentation. [10]

May be used to treat: hemangiomas.

Surgical Excision

Surgical excision may involve excision with or without stitches, or excision with cauterization.  The procedure is commonly performed to remove moles, but less frequently for birthmark removal. [11]

Possible side effects: scarring, infection, nerve damage. [12]

May be used to treat: pigmented birthmarks, hemangiomas in rare cases. [13]

Future Treatment Options for Birthmark Removal

Topical Immune Suppressants: One study has had success with the topical cream imiquimod. According to research published in Challenges in Medical and Surgical Therapeutics by the AMA, imiquimod is an immune-response modifier that worked successfully to treat typical hemangiomas.

Vascular Birthmark Foundation
New Topical Treatment for Hemangiomas Reported by AMA

Interferon alpha-2: Interferons modulate the response of the immune system. According to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, interferon alpha-2 induced early regression of life-threatening infantile hemangiomas that were corticosteroid resistant.

New England Journal of Medicine, Ezekowitz, RA
Interferon alfa-2a therapy for life-threatening hemangiomas of infancy.
1992, Volume: 326, No: 22, pages: 1456-1463



[1][2][6][7] National Health Service

[3][13] Cleveland Clinic
Mole Removal

[4]Boston Children’s Hospital

[5] Mayo Clinic
Hemangioma-Treatment and Drugs

[8] University of Maryland Medical Center

[9][10] American Family Physician
Cryosurgery for Common Skin Conditions

Mole Removal

Glossary of Terms

Bronchspasm: constriction of the air passages of the lung (as in asthma) by spasmodic contraction of the bronchial muscles.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Corticosteroids: man-made drugs that closely resemble cortisol, a hormone that your adrenal glands produce naturally.
Cleveland Clinic

Hypopigmentation: Deficiency of cutaneous melanin relative to surrounding skin.

Expert Resources

“In most cases, no treatment is needed for pigmented birthmarks. When birthmarks do require treatment, however, that treatment varies based on the age of the child, the type of birthmark and its related conditions, and its location. Typically surgical excision is the indicated treatment in these cases.”

Birthmarks       Cleveland Clinic

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