A Dermatologist Explains the Difference Between Black and Red Beauty Marks
I was born with a lot of small black beauty marks on my face and body. I never thought much of them growing up and even take pride in them because I know I got them from my mother — we have a lot of the same marks on our face. Recently, I saw that my cousin has a mark similar to one of mine on his back, but instead of black, it’s red. It got me thinking, can beauty marks be different colors? Or is his mark something else? To help answer my questions, I reached out to Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, board-certified dermatologist, founder of Entière Dermatology and clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone, and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Loretta Ciraldo. Here’s what I learned.
What is a beauty mark?
“Beauty mark is a layman's term for a longstanding small growth on the face,” says Dr. Ciraldo. According to Dr. Levin, beauty marks are most commonly moles or freckles. And while they may look similar in appearance, they are actually different. “Freckles are due to melanin production from pigment cells, known as melanocytes,” she says. “Moles are a collection of melanocytes — some can be raised, others can be flat and some can have hair growing out of them.” A beauty mark can also be a blood vessel growth called angiomas. “A blood vessel growth represents an overproduction of blood vessels or a dilation of a vessel,” says Dr. Ciraldo.
Why are some beauty marks pink or red and others brown or black?
“There are many different types of moles which can be brown, black, pink or skin-colored,” says Dr. Levin. “This is due to how the melanocytes are arranged and other components of the mole that can wrap around hair follicles, sebaceous glands or blood vessels.” Cherry angiomas (a type of blood vessel growth) commonly appear as red beauty marks. “They are made up of many tiny vessels that come together in the growth to produce a red bump that looks a bit like a miniature cherry,” says Dr. Ciraldo. Cherry angiomas are hereditary. Beauty marks that are actually moles or freckles can also be genetic or caused by too much sun exposure.
Should you be concerned about a beauty mark?
Beauty marks are typically harmless but Dr. Levin says it’s important to look out for the ABCDE traits to ensure your beauty mark isn’t something to worry about. The traits you can look for are as follows:
A - Asymmetry: One half is unlike the other half.
B- Border: The border is irregular, scalloped or poorly defined.
C- Color: The color is varied in one area, such as multicolored with tan, brown, black, red, purple, blue or red shades.
D- Diameter: Melanomas are usually larger than six millimeters (the size of a pencil eraser) but nowadays melanoma can be much smaller.
E- Evolving: If a mole or any skin lesion looks different or is changing in size, shape or color, it needs to be promptly evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist.
Can you remove a beauty mark?
“It's important to see a board-certified dermatologist in order to evaluate whether the mole is benign or concerning,” says Dr. Levin. “Once the dermatologist determines that the mole is safe or healthy, there are different treatment options to remove moles such as a small skin surgery or shaving the mole flat.” Never try removing a beauty mark at home. If you’re planning to get your beauty mark removed by a professional, Dr. Ciraldo recommends asking your doctor a few questions before the procedure, such as what the resultant scar will look like, what the chances are of it coming back, how long the healing process is and what to do to ensure the best cosmetic outcome after the procedure.
Photography: Chaunte Vaughn