Moles, which are also known as melanocytic naevi in the medical community is usually a benign (non-cancerous) skin lesion that may occur anywhere on the human body. They are dark brown or black in color and may appear alone or in a small cluster. Their texture differs from person to person. For some they are smooth, whereas for others they may be coarse to the touch. In some cases they lie flat against the skin, whereas in other cases they may be raised. Some even have hair growing from inside them whereas others don’t!
How do Moles Develop on the Skin?
Moles develop when melanocytes, a type of skin cells that gives each of us our unique pigment, grow in clusters, rather than being uniformly distributed throughout the skin. That is why they are usually far darker than the surrounding area. They are usually triggered by hormonal changes that may be caused by:
- Teen age: Once a person “comes of age”, there are a lot of hormonal changes that tend to occur. The incidence of moles will be the greatest during the teen years.
- Pregnancy:Pregnancy makes a lot of changes in a woman’s body. Although pregnancy does not usually lead to the creation of more moles, but existing moles tend to become darker in color.
- Sunlight:Prolonged exposure to the sunlight may trigger the formation of moles as well. Moles triggered by sunlight are more likely to turn into melanoma, or skin cancer. Towards the end of this article, we will discuss the link between moles and skin cancer in further detail.
Once people reach middle-age (40 years onwards) the number of moles on the body tends to go down.
Scientists believe that there is a genetic factor behind the creation of moles. If you have a family member that has moles on their face or body then there is a greater likelihood that you may develop this condition at some stage in your life.
Types of Moles
Although all moles may look the same to the untrained eye, on close inspection one can actually see the subtle differences among different types of moles. Some of the most common types are:
- Dermal melanocytic naevi: They typically protrude from the skin and tend to have a pale hue. They may contain hair as well.
- Junctional melanocytic naevi: They lie flat against the skin, is round and is usually deep brown or black in color.
- Compound melanocytic naevi: They protrude from the skin as well, is usually light brown in color and may contain hair as well.
Following are some more uncommon types of moles:
- Blue naevi: They are dark blue in color.
- Halo naevi: In this case the mole or moles have a pale circular ring (or halo) that surrounds it. For some reason the skin loses all pigments around the edges of these moles.
- Dyplastic or atypical naevi (Clark naevi): These moles are somewhat large and looks a bit awkward. They could be flat or may be raised in a bump and can appear in different shades.
Ways to Remove a Mole
In most cases moles just look awkward, other than that they are absolutely benign. However, if there is continuous friction in the area, then it may get inflamed. That being said, most people choose to get rid of their moles for purely aesthetic reasons. It is recommended that one should try to remove the moles using certain easy to use and perfectly safe home remedies. If these do not help, then one should set an appointment with a dermatologist.
Please note that irrespective of what method you decide to use to get rid of your mole, chances are that it may leave a small scar behind.
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Moles
There are several home remedies that you can try to get rid of the mole that is eating at your self-confidence. Following are some examples:
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is a strong natural acid that can help to remove moles by slowly burning them, causing it to ultimately scab and fall off. ACV is also known for its anti-bacterial properties; hence it also protects the area from secondary infections.
Before you decide to use this treatment, you need to make sure that you are not allergic to ACV. To determine that, take a bit of undiluted ACV and put it on an unaffected part of your skin. It should sting for a little bit, but it should be normal after a few seconds. If the sting is persistent, then you may be allergic to ACV and you need to pursue a different treatment.
If you can tolerate this treatment, then there are a couple of methods that you can use ACV to treat your mole:
- Dip a cotton ball in ACV and press it against the affected area. Hold it in place using gauze and medical tapes. Remove after an hour. Doing this once everyday should get rid of your mole in about 10 days or sooner.
- To make this treatment even more effective, use an emery board to gently scrape the surface of the mole. Apply ACV till the area goes white and then let it dry naturally. This should allow you to burn off the mole even faster.
Take extra care to ensure that you never ingest undiluted Apple Cider Vinegar. For best results, use organic ACV that still has the “mother of vinegar” in it!
- Baking soda and Castor oil
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggests that baking soda and castor oil can be combined to create a slow, but highly effective remedy for moles. This is because castor oil is purported to have discutient (the ability to disperse pathological growth) properties. This treatment also reduces the chances of scars in the aftermath.
Following is how you would go about applying this treatment:
- Take a teaspoon of baking soda and add about three or four drops of castor oil to it. Mix it properly to create a gummy texture.
- Apply it on your moles right before you go to bed.
- Protect the area using adhesive bandages or gauze and medical tapes.
- Take it off and wash the area after you wake up.
This should get rid of the moles in about a month.
- Flaxseed oil, Ground Flaxseeds and Honey
Flaxseed oil is effective against raised moles. It slowly loosens the mole from the edges, gradually allowing it to come off. Honey is anti-bacterial properties, which prevents the area from secondary infections and also has scar removal properties.
Following is how you apply the treatment:
- Wash the affected area with lukewarm water and pat it dry.
- Combine a teaspoon each of ground flaxseed powder, flaxseed oil and honey to make a smooth paste.
- Apply it on the moles and protect the area with gauze and medical tapes if you need to.
- Leave it on for an hour, after which wash it off with lukewarm water.
Repeating this treatment three times during the course of the day may get rid of moles in a few weeks.
- Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil seems to work pretty well for raised moles with a shallow root. There is scant scientific evidence that supports this treatment, but there is plenty anecdotal evidence that seems to suggest that it is indeed an effective remedy. It does have proven anti-bacterial properties, which will protect the area from secondary infections.
Just like ACV, people can be sensitive or allergic to tea tree oil as well. The best way to determine whether you are allergic or not would be to apply tea tree oil to an unaffected part of your skin, to check and see how your skin reacts. If you feel a minor sting that goes away after a few seconds, then this treatment is right for you. However, if you feel a persistent burning sensation, then you may be allergic to and should not pursue this treatment any further.
Following is how you would use tea tree oil to treat your moles:
- Dip a Q-tip in tea tree oil and gently brush it against your mole.
- Cover the area with an adhesive bandage for an hour.
Repeat these two steps twice every day for a month. One of the suggested times for applying this remedy is right before going to bed. You should not ingest tea tree oil under any circumstance.
arlic contains enzymes that breaks down the anomalous cell structures that are manifested in the form of a mole. To apply this treatment, simply slice a piece of garlic clove, and apply the cut side on the mole. Hold the clove in place using medical tapes. Leave it overnight.
Repeating this garlic treatment every night before going to bed should get rid of the mole in a few weeks.
- Banana Peels
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that points towards banana peels as an effective treatment for moles. Simply cut a piece of the banana peel and place it on the mole, so that the yellow part of the peel is facing outwards. Hold it in place with adhesive bandages and leave it on for at least an hour. Repeating this every day should get rid of the mole in a few weeks.
For best results, one needs to use the peel of a ripe banana.
Iodine tends to trigger cell death, which can help eliminate moles. A 5% solution of tincture iodine that is available at any drugstore should do the trick.
Following is how you should apply the treatment:
- Wash the affected area with lukewarm water and pat it dry.
- Take a piece of emery board and gently scratch the surface of the mole.
- Apply some petroleum jelly on the surrounding area. This will help protect the area from pigmentation.
- Apply a drop of iodine directly on the mole.
- Protect the area with adhesive tapes or gauze and medical tapes.
Repeating this daily should get rid of the moles in a couple of weeks. Iodine should not be ingested under any circumstance!
- Aloe Vera
One of the main reasons why this is a preferred treatment for most is that it is completely painless, although most of the evidence supporting its usefulness is purely anecdotal. The fact that it is a natural sunscreen and is a topical anti-bacterial solution adds to the reasons why it is a go to remedy for many!
Following is how you can use Aloe Vera to treat your moles:
- Wash the affected area with some lukewarm water and pat it dry.
- Take an aloe leaf and chop off its rinds to take it apart.
- Take a Q-tip and scrape the organic aloe gel from the leaf and apply it directly on your moles.
- Protect the area with gauze and medical tapes and leave it on for about three hours. Doing this for about two to three times everyday should get rid of the moles in about a month.
If you cannot get hold of aloe leaves then purchase a bottle of organic aloe from your local health food store.
Frankincense has been revered as a remedy for a wide variety of afflictions in several cultures throughout the ages. Although its usefulness as a remedy for skin moles is purely anecdotal, it has documented astringent and anti-bacterial properties. There are several ways you can use frankincense to treat your mole:
- Frankincense bath: To create a bath, you need the following ingredients:
- One cup of baking soda
- One cup of sea salt
- 6 drops of lavender essential oil
- 3 drops of frankincense oil
Add all of the above ingredients to a hot bath and immerse yourself in the water for about fifteen minutes every day.
- Topical treatment: Take eight teaspoons of olive oil and add one teaspoon of frankincense to it. Mix the solution thoroughly and gently apply it to your moles with a Q-tip and let it get fully absorbed in the skin.
Applying both the treatments should get rid of the moles in under a month. However, if you feel that you are sensitive to frankincense then you should cease these treatments immediately!
Mole Removal Creams: Are they Effective?
Your local pharmacy or online stores are probably stocked with a wide variety of cheap, natural mole removal creams, many of which would probably contain the natural ingredients that we have discussed already. They provide a significant advantage over synthetic or a chemical based mole ointments or creams, which may go beyond the mole and cause irreparable damage to the underlying skin. Scars formed by surgical treatments (to be discussed later in this article) is minimal compared to the damage caused by these chemical solutions.
Natural mole removal creams are ineffective on cancerous moles, whereas chemical treatments will burn through the moles, irrespective of whether it is cancerous or benign. Hence this will delay the diagnosis of the condition, allowing the cancer to reach an advanced stage. This is because even if you get rid of the mole, the cancerous cells may still exist under the skin, only they are no longer visible to the untrained eye. Refrain from undertaking synthetic creams for removing moles unless specifically instructed by a doctor.
Surgical Procedures Done by a Qualified Medical Professional
If the home remedies do not work, it may seem really tempting to chop off or shave off the mole by yourself. This is a terrible idea because of the following reasons:
- One of the reasons why your mole is not responding to home remedies may be because you might be suffering from skin cancer. Chopping off the mole will not cure you of it and would delay the detection of the condition.
- Most of us did not go to medical school and doing a surgical procedure at home may cause us to nick an artery, which may be fatal.
- If the dressing is not applied properly, or if the equipment has not been adequately sterilized, you may make yourself susceptible to secondary infections.
- You cannot legally acquire local anesthetics, which means that you will cause yourself some serious pain. Even if you do get hold of some, you would not know how to administer it properly.
- You are practically guaranteed to be left with a scar.
Once you visit the doctor, he will first determine whether a biopsy is needed or not. After that, he may remove the mole using any of the following methods:
- Surgical shave: This is usually done for benign moles with a well-defined stalk. If done properly, there won’t be any visible scars.
- Surgical excision: This is akin to a minor operation and the entire mole is taken off, even the part that is under the skin. This will be done especially if your doctor suspects that your mole is a symptom of skin cancer. Stitches will be necessary after the procedure and the excised mole may be sent to a lab for a biopsy. Irrespective how skilled the dermatologist is, this procedure may leave a bit of a scar.
- Freezing: Some dermatologists may choose to freeze your mole with liquid nitrogen. Once it is applied to the affected area, the mole will be easily broken off and there will be minimal bleeding. There will be a blister instead, which will heal in due time and usually there aren’t any long term scars either.
- Burning: If your dermatologist suggests this treatment, seek a second opinion because there are no practical causes for subjecting yourself to this procedure. In this treatment, individual layers of the mole are burnt off using a heated wire. It is painful, especially after the anesthetics wear off and usually more than one session is required. However, the extreme heat immediately cauterizes the wound; hence there is minimal bleeding, if any.
- Laser treatment: Laser mole removal is another effective alternative but one cannot use this to get rid of large moles or those that protrude above the skin. It is usually recommended for flat moles that are black or brown in color. It usually takes about three trips to the dermatologist’s office to fully remove the mole tissue with a laser. Although some cosmetic salons offer this treatment as well, it is better to visit the dermatologist’s office to remove the mole safely because cosmetologists aren’t qualified to determine whether you are displaying symptoms of skin cancer or not. Secondly, someone who lacks proper training may leave a scar that is bad as those caused by synthetic mole removal creams, which are usually worse than scars caused by surgical excision.
Moles and Cancer
In most cases, a mole is just a mole. However, in people with fair skin, a mole can slowly evolve into melanoma, which is a type of skin cancer. Please note that in even more rare circumstances, melanoma may develop in a part of the skin that may look perfectly normal.
If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can slowly spread to the other parts of the body, such as the brain, bone, lung or the liver, which can then be fatal for the sufferer. Earlier the melanoma is detected and dealt with, greater will be the chances of survival.
As discussed already, melanoma is more prevalent among people with fair skin, rather than those who have a dark complexion. In women, these cancerous cells are usually found on the back or on the lower legs. In men, they are more commonly located on the head, neck or the back.
Although melanoma is relatively rare among those with a darker complexion, they too may end up suffering from it. The most common locations of skin cancer among such people are on the palm of the hand, the soles of the feel and also underneath the fingernails and toenails.
A biopsy is the only fool-proof way to determine whether you are suffering from melanoma or not. Also, only a qualified medical professional can ably judge whether you actually need to undergo the procedure. That being said, according to cancer.gov, the symptoms of melanoma usually follow the ABCDE rule. Following is what they are and how you should check for them:
- Asymmetry: One side of the mole is markedly different from the other side.
- Border that is irregular: They lack marked borders and it may seem as if the mole is spreading from the affected area to the surrounding skin. Even where there are marked borders, the edges will seem really sharp.
- Color that is uneven: The shade of the mole will not be uniform throughout. They are usually various shades of black, brown or tan. Sometimes there may be areas in the mole that are blue, gray, pink, red or white in color.
- Diameter: There have been instances of really small moles evolving into melanoma, however it is more common for moles having a diameter 6 mm (1/4”) to develop into cancer, provided they are not cancerous already. Another tell-tale sign is that the diameter of cancerous moles tend to increase with time.
- Evolving: The mole, especially the color of it will change over the course of weeks or months.
Please note that not all cases of melanoma will show all of the five symptoms. There have been many instances of melanoma where only one or two of the “ABCDE” symptoms were initially visible. Hence, if the characteristics of your mole match exactly what is mentioned above, seek immediate help from a qualified dermatologist.