I frequently see patients who have waited, for too long, to remove an unsightly mole on their face or body. Their story is usually the same–they saw another dermatologist or physician in the past who advised against mole removal because the removal would most certainly leave a large post-surgical scar. However, these patients still remained secretly wishful that one day, someone could remove their mole without the severe consequences that they were previously warned about. Patients would bashfully ask me at my practice whether removing their mole could possibly result in a decent cosmetic outcome, and my answer is usually “yes”. There are actually many methods to remove moles that result in aesthetically elegant outcomes.
From my 10+ years as a dermatologic surgeon and cosmetic expert treating a variety of medical and cosmetic skin concerns, it’s not just about removing the mole, but also listening and understanding the concerns of each patient in making the decision to treat and how. From a technical standpoint, knowing which method to utilize depends on body location, skin type, and type of mole.
Here are some of the top considerations that I ask our patients to consider when deciding on mole removal:
#1 What kind of mole or skin growth is it?
The word “mole” is a medically nonspecific term, but is often taken to be the equivalent of what dermatologists refer to as a “benign nevus’. When evaluating a mole, it is important to consider the following:
- Contour: Is it flat or raised?
- Color: Is it light brown or very dark?
- Location: Is it located on a difficult/delicate area like the eyelids, lips, or nose?
- Evolution: Is this a new mole? Is it rapidly changing in appearance? Suspicious changes to a mole may warrant a medical biopsy first, as determined by your dermatologist.
A benign nevus is usually removed via surgical excision, shave removal, or laser (in some cases). The actual method of removal will depend on a careful evaluation of the above factors, along with patient preference.
Sometimes, what patients refer to as “moles” may actually be diagnosed as skin tags, sun spots, or seborrheic keratoses by the dermatologist. These types of growths are often removed differently from a benign nevus.
#2 Are newly-acquired moles a symptom of something more?
Normal, healthy individuals may continue to develop new moles throughout their lives, with many located in sun exposed areas. People with lighter skin tones generally have anywhere from 10 to 40 moles on their skin.
However, it is recommended that you have your dermatologist evaluate new moles to make sure they are not cancerous.
#3 Do home remedies and topical solutions work?
Any mole or growth should be evaluated by a dermatologist and be given a benign or noncancerous diagnosis first before cosmetic removal can be considered. Therefore it is recommended that moles not be removed yourself without approval by a dermatologist, and the method of removal is medically significant.
The biggest misconception that people have about removing moles is that self-treatment or treatment by a non-physician is acceptable because of the incorrect assumption that visible removal means complete removal. If a mole turned out to be a cancerous growth and was removed by improper methods, it will continue to persist and potentially spread to surrounding tissue and distant organs. Therefore, proper dermatologic diagnosis is critical to determining the proper method of its removal.
In short, don’t self treat your moles and don’t go to a salon to remove your moles. This can be dangerous to your health. Go see a dermatologist. It’s worth it.
#4 How many moles are you removing?
Some moles can be removed in multiplicity in one session. However, there are also moles that require highly skilled surgical removal and cannot be performed in bulk sessions. During your consultation, your dermatologist can discuss with you the numbers of moles that can be safely and optimally removed in one treatment session.
#5 Where is the location of your moles?
Moles on the face tend to require more skilled surgical removal by virtue of its cosmetically sensitive location. Moles located on the eyelids, nose, lips, and ears in particular, can be more surgically challenging and will require a higher order of skill to remove in a cosmetically optimum fashion. Thankfully, there are a number of advanced surgical techniques that can be employed to optimize outcomes.
#6 How does the mole make you feel?
Does the mole impact your ability to display your inner confidence? Sometimes a large mole located on a highly visible part of the body, such as the nose or the cheek may cause anxiety and loss of self-confidence. You may have conditioned yourself to live with an unwanted mole.
It’s important that you understand that moles can be safely and effectively removed with good cosmetic outcomes. Don’t let the fear of surgery or a scar prevent you from discussing your concern with a dermatologist who is well versed in mole removal. You may be surprised at how easily and beautifully your mole can be removed with the proper techniques.
Taking the Next Steps on Mole Removal
The biggest and most transformative step for prospective patients interested in mole removal is simply making an appointment with an experienced dermatologic surgeon to discuss their cosmetic concerns. If you’ve been living with an unwanted mole for longer than you would like, I encourage you to see an expertly-trained specialist like myself who can guide you on what moles can be removed, how it will be removed, and discuss expected outcomes, risks, costs, and recovery time. I’m one of a few dermatologists who specialize in cosmetic mole removal at my practice. I have removed moles for both cosmetic and medical reasons for well over ten thousand patients, and it is honestly one of the more satisfying procedures that I do because of the permanent gratification that it provides my patients.
You may not need to live with that unwanted mole for much longer.