Known as a marks of beauty among celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Cindy Crawford and Blake Lively, moles are common, harmless growths on the skin. Often, moles are confused with freckles and skin tags, which can be similar in appearance. To add to the confusion, hanging moles are also confused with skin tags, but those two can be differentiated by color. Although these growths don't usually require removal, a dermatologist may decide to cut, burn or freeze the mole or hanging mole.
While the internet is littered with at-home remedies and procedures, save the DIY for furniture and home decoration. Head to the dermatologist to get your skin properly checked out and treated. A dermatologist in your area is the best course of action for skin tag or hanging mole removal.
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The Difference Between Moles, Freckles and Skin Tags
Moles occur when skin cells, known as melanocytes, collect in one area, rather than spreading evenly across the skin's surface, according to Kaiser Permanente. These little clusters of skin cells often produce a dark color or pigment. While they are usually brown in color, moles can appear blue, black or even flesh-colored. Most often, moles appear earlier and life and may change in shape or size with age. Sometimes, moles can hang off the off the skin from a stalk, referred to as a hanging mole. Hanging moles are often confused with skin tags but are usually darker in color, according to Family Doctor, powered by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Freckles typically appear similar to moles in color but are usually smaller in size and closer to the surface level of the skin. Typically temporary, freckles are often caused by sun exposure and can also change with age, according to Cambridge University Hospitals. Like moles, freckles are usually harmless and can appear anywhere on the skin.
Skin tags, or hanging moles, are small bits of tissue that appear to hang off the skin, connected at the base by a stalk. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD), skin tags, like moles, are common skin growths but occur most often in obese or diabetic people. Most frequently, skin tags appear in folds of the skin, like the armpits, eyelids or neck. Skin tags are usually harmless and removal is not necessary. However, often people opt for removal due to cosmetic preference or discomfort.
Common Skin Growth Removal Procedures
While most moles and hanging moles don't need to be removed, some individuals consult a dermatologist for cosmetic preference. There are several procedures that a doctor may recommend for mole removal including excision (cutting), electrocautery (burning) or cryosurgery (freezing), according to the Kaiser Permanente.
While these procedures aren't completely painless, your doctor will likely numb the area before beginning. These procedures are relatively quick and tend to leave no marks behind.
Your dermatologist may decide to remove the mole or skin tag with surgical scissors. Depending on the depth of the mole, your dermatologist might decide to cut deeper under the skin to prevent the mole from resurfacing. In the case of a deeper cut, the procedure often requires stitches and longer recovery time.
While burning a skin growth may sound mildly horrifying, this procedure actually just involves passing an electric current through a wire (not an open flame, phew). This current causes the wire to heat and burn the top layers of the skin. Electrocautery is commonly used with skin tags or hanging moles, as the heat prevents any bleeding.
Nope, this type of cryo doesn't involve stripping to your undies and stepping into a cold chamber. Cryosurgery entails dabbing or spraying a small amount of liquid nitrogen on the mole in order to freeze it off. Often, you will be left with a little mark in the area, which heals completely in time.
Read more: 10 Ways Your Face Reveals Health Problems
At-Home Mole or Skin Tag Removal
There are many popular but not recommended at-home remedies for mole or skin tag removal. Some more complex techniques involve the use of dental floss or an at-home freezing kit. If these tactics make you feel uncertain or hesitant, they should! DIY mole removal is not recommended and can have some nasty results, including bleeding or even infection.
In some cases, according to the National Cancer Institute, moles can develop into melanoma, be precancerous or, simply, abnormal. These specific circumstances can be difficult to differentiate from an average mole and require professional consultation. Always err on the side of safety and take a trip to the dermatologist!