Why a mole may need to be removed
Moles are common skin growths. You probably have more than one on your face and body. Most people have 10 to 40 moles somewhere on their skin.
Most moles are harmless and nothing to worry about. You don’t need to remove a mole unless it bothers you. But if you don’t like the way it affects your appearance, or if it’s getting irritated from rubbing against your clothes, removing the mole is an option.
The moles you absolutely need to consider removing are ones that have changed. Any differences in a mole’s color, size, or shape could be a warning sign of skin cancer. See a dermatologist for a checkup.
You might be tempted to remove moles at home because of the convenience and cost. Before you try to snip off your mole with scissors or rub on a store-bought mole cream, read on to learn the risks involved.
Are there effective ways to remove moles at home?
A number of websites offer “do-it-yourself” tips for removing a mole at home. These methods aren’t proven to work, and some may be dangerous. You should talk to your doctor about your options before you try any home remedies for mole removal.
Some of these unproven methods include:
- burning the mole off with apple cider vinegar
- taping garlic to the mole to break it down from the inside
- applying iodine to the mole to kill the cells inside
- cutting off the mole with scissors or a razor blade
Other home remedies that claim to remove moles include applying:
- a mixture of baking soda and castor oil
- banana peel
- frankincense oil
- tea tree oil
- hydrogen peroxide
- aloe vera
- flaxseed oil
Pharmacies and online stores also sell mole removal creams. To use these creams, you first scrape off the top part of the mole. Then you rub the cream into the mole. The products claim that within a day after applying the cream, a scab will form. When the scab falls off, the mole will go with it.
A safer way to conceal moles if you’re self-conscious about them is to cover them with makeup. If you have a hair growing out of a mole, it’s safe for you to clip the hair or pluck it.
Why home removal is harmful
Home mole removal methods sound pretty easy and convenient. You might be tempted to try one of these techniques to avoid a visit to your dermatologist’s office. Yet there’s no evidence that home treatments for mole removal work, and some of them could be dangerous.
A few studies have reported on side effects from mole removal creams available at drugstores and online stores. These creams can cause thick scars to form in the area of the mole.
Removing moles by cutting them off with a sharp object like scissors or a razor blade carries risks, too. Cutting off any growth increases your risk of infection, especially if the tool you use isn’t properly sanitized. You can also create a permanent scar where the mole once was.
Another risk of removing a mole yourself is that you can’t tell if a mole is cancerous. A mole could be melanoma. If you don’t have a dermatologist test the mole and it is cancerous, it could spread throughout your body and become life-threatening.
When to see a doctor
See a dermatologist if you want to remove a mole that bothers you. And definitely see a doctor if the mole has changed, which could be a sign of cancer. The doctor can do a biopsy — removing a small piece of the mole to test under a microscope to see if it’s cancerous.
Dermatologists use two safe and effective methods for removing moles.
With surgical excision, the doctor numbs the area around the mole and then cuts out the whole mole. Then the doctor stitches or sutures the wound closed.
With a surgical shave, the doctor numbs the area around the mole and uses a blade to shave off the mole. You won’t need stitches or sutures with this method.
With either method, the doctor will test your mole for cancer.
The bottom line
If you have a mole that isn’t changing and doesn’t bother you, the best thing to do is to leave it alone. But if you don’t like the way the mole affects your appearance or if your clothes are irritating it, see a dermatologist to remove it safely.
Definitely see a dermatologist if the mole has changed color, size, or shape, or if it scabs over. These could be signs of melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer. Getting the mole checked out and removed could save your life.