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Moles develop due to an accumulation of pigment-producing cells called melanocytes at specific spots. The buildup of skin pigment, or melanin, makes that area appear darker than the rest of the skin. The color can range from light coffee, brown, red, and dark brown to black depending upon the concentration of melanocytes in the area.
These hyper-pigmented lesions can also vary in shape and size, but they are generally oval or round with a smooth texture. Almost every person has moles on different parts of the body, with the average count being 10 to 30.
This article discusses various home treatments for removing these moles and important self-care measures to follow.
Here are some useful self-care measures to reduce the appearance of moles without damaging your skin.
- If you are bothered by your moles but not enough to get them removed or treated, simply camouflage them with makeup. You may have to go through a number of concealers or foundations to find the perfect shade, but always go for products that are labeled “noncomedogenic” and “hypoallergenic.” Noncomedogenic means the product will not clog your pores, and hypoallergenic means the product is devoid of any harsh chemicals that can irritate the mole or your skin. If regular concealers fail to get the job done properly, you can try a tattoo concealer.
- Carefully clip the hair growing out of your mole from its base, but make sure not to cut or injure your mole surface. An alternative way to remove the hair is to pluck it out, but that can be quite painful.
- Keep your mole clean and do not touch it repeatedly.
- Surgical removal of a mole is usually followed by stitching the affected skin and covering it with a bandage to prevent infections or further injury. However, you must clean the wound and change the bandage periodically, as prescribed by your doctor. The recommended way is to wash the site with water (or with a doctor-prescribed antiseptic) once or twice daily, and then let it air dry before covering it with a new bandage. As the skin starts healing, the bandage can probably stay on for longer.
- Cryotherapy is another common treatment for mole removal. It involves applying liquid nitrogen to freeze the mole tissue, which then falls off the body on its own or is excised by a doctor. You may suffer some pain after the procedure, which can be managed with over-the-counter pain killers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. But take these medications only when required and in appropriate amounts.
- Moles are mostly benign, but any change in their shape, size, texture, or color could be a sign of malignancy or cancer, which needs prompt evaluation by a doctor. The same goes for a sudden increase in the number of moles on your body, such that the mole count goes beyond 50 at a time. (1) So, self-examine your moles every month for any untoward changes, and check your entire body for new ones, if any.
- Large or odd-looking moles on the face or other exposed parts of the body usually invite a lot of uncomfortable stares and whispers from others. This can make you extremely self-conscious and lower your confidence to an extent that affects your social life. In such a case, you can join a support group of people facing similar problems to feel less alone in your struggle and find productive ways to overcome it.
- Regular detergents and soaps usually contain harsh chemicals that can make your mole itchy, which can be quite a discomfort. Scratching the mole can further damage the skin and invite infections, so best not do it. Use mild cleansers to avoid the itch in the first place. The itchiness is usually not a cause for concern and usually resolves after you make the necessary changes. However, if your mole continues to itch, visit a doctor to rule out the risk of melanoma. (2)(3)
- Rough fabrics or pointed jewelry can irritate or injure your mole by rubbing against it. To keep things comfortable, opt for soft fabrics, such as cotton or linen, and lightweight jewelry.
- Using unsterilized knives, scissors, or any other sharp object to scrape off the mole by yourself is strictly prohibited. The forceful puncturing of the skin by an amateur can induce deep tissue damage, which will take long to heal and leave behind scars. Moreover, using unclean tools to poke the mole can give rise to serious infections, including cellulitis. Therefore, mole removal is best left in the hands of a skin specialist.
- Do not apply herbs and other home remedies to shrink or lighten moles as these actions can hinder the detection of cancer-related changes, such as changes in mole color, shape, size, or texture. Consequently, you will fail to get an early diagnosis of melanoma, which will lead to delayed treatment and a lower survival rate. Moreover, this kind of at-home mole removal can leave behind stubborn scars.
- Many unverified and untested mole removal products are sold on the market without a prescription, but they are often associated with negative side effects such as hypopigmented scarring and keloid formation. (4)(5)(6) Never use any such cream, ointment, or lotion on your moles without consulting your doctor first.
- You can also find many specialized tools that claim to safely remove moles at home, but you can’t take their word for it. These devices use heat, cold, or laser therapy to destroy the mole tissue, which is gradually shed from the healthy skin. However, the process can trigger a number of adverse side effects and unforeseen complications.
- Some people get a tattoo over their mole, but this can keep you from noticing any untoward changes in the lesion that can indicate melanoma. Since you will remain oblivious of the cancer, it will get time to spread to other parts. Once it metastasizes, the melanoma can be very difficult to treat.
Anecdotal Remedies for Mole Removal
The following topical remedies are widely acknowledged on Internet forums and among general users for their ability to diminish the appearance of moles, but there is little to no scientific evidence to confirm their safety or efficacy.
In fact, a few of these remedies have caused a negative reaction in some people (7) instead of any benefit. So, there is no guarantee for successful outcomes and it may be best to consult your doctor before trying any of them.
Here is a list of some of the most commonly cited ingredients for at-home mole removal in descending order of their popularity:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Bloodroot paste
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Tea tree oil
- Baking soda and castor oil
- Coconut oil
- Aloe vera
How to Keep Your Mole From Turning Cancerous
Moles are basically a collection of pigment-producing skin cells that don’t pose any risk to health. But in some cases, these harmless lesions can turn malignant and give rise to melanoma or skin cancer.
Unprotected sun exposure for prolonged periods not only causes mole formation (8) but can also turn your moles malignant over time. The harmful UV rays of the sun destroy the DNA structure of skin cells to give rise to cancer. (9)
Thus, you should do your best to minimize this UV-induced skin damage. Here are a few things you can do:
- Try not to go out when the sun is at its peak, between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. Plan your entire day in such a way that all the outdoor activities are scheduled for the afternoon or evening. But if you must stay out during these peak hours due to your job or other unavoidable circumstances, try to stay in a shaded area as much as you can. Religiously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen during the day to block out the harmful UV rays of the sun. Slather it all over the exposed areas of the skin, and reapply it every 2 hours or every time you wash your skin, go for a swim, or sweat profusely. Look for products that have an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Artificial sources of UV radiation such as tanning beds and lamps can also trigger the appearance of new moles and induce malignancy in existing ones. So, people who are prone to mole formation should steer clear of this kind of UV exposure as well. (10)
- When stepping out in the sun, wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing to keep your skin covered as much as possible.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your skin and body properly hydrated.
Moles are not a health threat unless they start to expand, change their color or texture, develop rough edges, and increase in number, which could mean that the lesion has turned malignant or cancerous.
Keep an eye on your moles to catch these cancer signs early and seek prompt treatment. You can easily go without treatment as long as your moles are benign. But some people still choose to get them removed for cosmetic reasons.
While many at-home treatments are available to remove moles on your own, most of them come with deleterious side effects and can cause long-term complications. So, it is very important to check with your doctor before trying any new remedy, device, or product for mole removal.
All in all, the safest and most effective way to get rid of moles is to let your dermatologist handle them.