How to remove a mole safely?

Possibly you have ever wondered if you can remove that unsightly mole or wart that sticks out somewhere on your body. Or that maybe it gets irritated from time to time, starts to bleed or even black hairs come out of it.

I'm sure you have a solution! But first of all, the most important thing is to make a correct pre-surgical dermatological diagnosis to avoid problems in the future. Now I will explain why.

Mole removal on the face

What will I talk about in this article?

Why is it important to make an accurate diagnosis?

The first step for a successful treatment is to make a correct diagnosis of this wart or mole. There are different dermatological lesions that may present as raised lesions on the skin both benign as well as malignant. 

There are many differential diagnoses of moles and warts and only a dermatologist is trained to diagnose them correctly. 

Here are a few examples of some lesions that may look like moles on the face:

As you can see, many times what we call moles or warts can have different diagnoses and therefore the treatment will be very different in each case. In some cases we can even find malignant lesions such as melanoma or basal cell carcinoma that can also present clinically as warts.

Therefore, it is important to consult a dermatologist before performing an operation on any lesion.. In our profession we are used to make accurate diagnoses by dermoscopy and in difficult cases even by confocal microscopy that will allow us to remove a mole safely. 

The good news is that if we do everything correctly we can get very good results like the ones I show you below. 

Dermatological photo showing before and after removal of a mole on the eyebrow.

Is a mole or wart the same thing?

One of the things I see most often in my practice is patients who come in to have burn their "warts". However, lesions that patients interpret as warts are rarely warts. Knowing the difference between a mole and a wart is very important so that avoid applying treatments at home that may worsen the situation.

A mole is a group of cells called melanocytes. which are usually brown or black and can appear anywhere on the body. They usually appear before the age of 20 and most are benign.

Different types of warts and moles to remove
Here we can see the difference between different diagnoses. Birthmark (Birthmark) and dermal mole or nevus (Mole) are constituted by melanocytes and are benign lesions. The wart (Papilloma) is a benign lesion caused by the proliferation of the human papilloma virus. Finally, melanoma can also manifest itself as a mole although it has some atypical characteristics.

On the other hand, the warts are viral lesions produced by the human papillomavirus (HPV). These warts have different clinical presentations depending on the site where they appear. In this way we can find them in the office:

  • Palmar and plantar warts
  • Genital warts (condyloma) 
  • Flat warts in children
Diagram showing how to remove viral warts caused by papillomavirus.
Diagram showing plantar warts caused by human papillomavirus.

It is important to know that viral warts are contagious and can continue to appear more if left untreated. But this is not what I will cover in this post.

How to remove a mole safely?

Once we have made the correct diagnosis of a dermal mole or other benign lesion we must choose the most appropriate procedure. There are different surgical techniques that should be assessed depending on the initial diagnosis of the lesion to achieve the best esthetic result. 

Among the different surgical techniques we can find:

  • Punch biopsy: A circular punch is placed over the mole to remove the mole with the smallest possible diameter.
  • Excision by shaving (shave): We reserve it for raised lesions that look like warts in which we shave the lesion at the skin level. The aesthetic result is excellent.
  • Surgical excision: We normally use it in flat lesions in which we need to remove the entire lesion to make a correct diagnosis. In this case stitches must be used.
  • Ablative laser or CO2 laser: In benign and non-melanocytic skin lesions we can use the CO2 laser for vaporization. It has an excellent aesthetic result.
  • Cryotherapy: Only in some benign lesions confirmed by dermoscopy can we apply cryotherapy. Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to generate extremely cold temperatures (-196°C) to destroy the cells. Although it is a quick and easy procedure to perform in the office, the aesthetic results are worse, so I prefer to use other methods.
Mole removal
Diagram in which we show how we perform the excision of a mole by shaving it in order to biopsy it and perform the histological study. Subsequently the base of the mole is safely destroyed by laser.

Subsequently, all lesions that we remove require a histological study, i.e. a biopsy and microscopic examination to rule out signs of skin cancer. It is not uncommon for a skin cancer to appear on a mole and sometimes the only clue to the diagnosis is microscopic study of the lesion.

Do you want me to assess if your mole can be removed?

Removing flat or raised moles

Removing a flat mole and a raised mole are different procedures due to the unique characteristics of each type of mole. This is very important when deciding whether to remove a mole or leave it alone. 

Removing flat moles

Flat moles are found deeper in the skin. In order to remove them we will need to make a deep incision to be able to remove the entire mole and analyze it correctly under the microscope.  

Generally, in these cases, the removal of these moles tends to be avoided.The reason? Well, because removing them involves undergoing a slightly more complex surgical procedure. As illustrated in the image below, the challenge is that removing a flat mole requires the application of stitches, which inevitably results in the formation of a scar. Consequently, we remove flat moles when we suspect that there is any suspicion of malignancy.

Removing raised or dermal moles

Dermal moles rise above the surface of the skin giving a warty appearance. Although these moles can be much more noticeable, in most cases they do not represent a medical problem and their removal is simpler than that of flat molesThe most common options are laser surgery or surgical removal by shaving.

In the following illustration you can see how we perform a shaving procedure to remove a mole with relief. 

What can I expect after mole removal?

Once a mole has been removed, there will be a phase of recovery or regeneration of the skin. During this phase the patient will play a key role as it will require a specific wound and scar care protocol to be followed.  

Healing time after mole removal depends on the individual. Younger people tend to heal faster than older adults. And, of course, a larger incision will take longer to close than a smaller one. In general, a mole removal scar will take at least two to three weeks to heal.

If everything goes well, we can observe very good results as the following picture shows the result after removing a dermal nevus or mole with relief. 

laser mole removal
Example of mole removal by CO2 laser. The first photo shows 2 papules corresponding to dermal moles. The next photo shows a small scar in the recovery phase. In the third photo you can see the results a few months later which is practically imperceptible.

Initial phase of healing

During the initial phase (0-14 days) when we still have a scab or surgical stitches in place will be very important:

  • Follow the guideline specific care that your doctor has left you when removing the mole. 
  • Avoid exposure of the scar to sunlight, as it can cause it to heal more slowly. It can also make the scar darker and more noticeable.

Recovery phase

The recovery phase will begin when the scab from a shaving wound has fallen off or when the surgeon has removed the stitches. Normally the healing process usually lasts from a few months to 1 year. It will be essential for your care:

Massage the wound

Massaging the scar can help to make it less hard and improve vascularization. You can do this 1 to 3 times a day by gently massaging the scar for 1-2 minutes.

Use silicone-based products

Silicone products, such as silicone sheets and gels, can improve healing and have been the most studied. You can use them under makeup and clothing and for a minimum period of 3 months.

  • Silicone sheets: Silicone sheets can help make your scar smoother and flatter. To use a silicone sheet, cut it to the size of your scar and apply it over it. You can leave it on for up to 7 days without changing it. Some brands of silicone sheeting include Trofolastin silicone patches and the Cica-Care  
  • Silicone gels: To use a silicone gel, use it 2 times on your scar and let it dry. Some brands of silicone gels are Mederma silicone gel with sun protection and also Dermatix gel

Protect your scar from the sun

It will continue to be very important avoid the sun as much as possible and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen. daily to avoid abnormal pigmentation of the scar. 

Laser-assisted healing

If you are very concerned about aesthetics, lasers can further aid in the treatment of surgical wounds by speeding recovery and improving scars. Acting quickly and performing them as soon as possible is advantageous, maximizing benefits and scar quality. If you have any questions you can ask us. 

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Are there any risks when removing a mole?

The biggest risk after surgery is that the site may become infected and leave a visible scar. If you carefully follow the instructions we will give you to care for the wound until it heals, it is very rare for this to happen.

Will there be much scarring?

Whether from surgery or a scrape on the knee, all skin wounds can leave a scar. A scar is the body's natural way of closing the skin and healing a wound.

If you follow all the post-surgical instructions, the chances that you will be able to the wound heals well will be very high and will leave little mark. It is always important to talk to your dermatologist before any procedure to assess the risk of scarring depending on the location and size of the mole. 

Can I remove my moles at home?

You should never apply an anti-wart treatment or try to remove something from your own skin if you do not know the diagnosis. Many times we find in the consultation with moles very irritated by treatment that do not correspond and end up leaving a scar or residual hyperpigmentation. This is something we see very frequently in our office and that is why I decided to write the following article: Why is it not a good idea to remove a mole at home?

But not all concerns are aesthetic. The biggest problem associated with removing something from your skin on your own is that there is no way of knowing whether you are removing a benign lesion or a malignant one. At the Melanoma Unit of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona we repeatedly encounter patients or people not trained to make a proper diagnosis who burn malignant lesions. This leads to late diagnosis of malignant lesions that can be potentially fatal.

Messages for home

In conclusion, I always recommend you to go to a dermatologist to correctly assess your moles or other skin lesions and choose together the best treatment for your case.

If you plan to have a mole removed, talk to your dermatologist about your options for minimizing scarring. Share your concerns up front and ask what you can do after the procedure to help make the scar as faint and small as possible.

Do you want me to assess if your mole can be removed?

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Sebastian Podlipnik - Skin cancer

Sebastian Podlipnik

Dermatology Blog

I am a dermatologist and cum laude MD and author of multiple research studies. I specialize in skin cancer, laser technologies and cosmetic dermatology. The intention of this blog is to bring you closer to topics of interest in dermatology and research.

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