A mole is nothing to be ashamed of. Cindy Crawford, of nineties supermodel fame, was and is renowned for the mole she has just above her lip. Still, a mole in a less “sexy” spot can be undesirable — even embarrassing — and it’s natural to consider removing it. That, of course, requires a doctor’s visit, which costs money and time. But does mole removal have to be done in a doctor’s office? The answer is “yes.”
While it’s tempting to try and get rid of a mole at home, it’s not a good idea. Various “natural” remedies are floating around on the internet, from special creams to daily swabs of apple cider vinegar. Yet these DIY projects can also be dangerous and even cause permanent scarring.
That’s the word from Morgana Colombo, MD, FAAD, co-founder of Skintap, and Anna Guanche, board-certified dermatologist, celebrity beauty expert, and founder of the Bella Skin Institute. To better understand why at-home mole removal is so dangerous, we spoke to both experts.
What is a mole, exactly?
A mole is a benign skin growth, and it’s usually brown or black, slightly raised, and circular. It occurs when melanocytes, or cells that create skin pigment, grow in clusters instead of spread out in the skin.
Some moles might look cancerous because they have blurred edges, uneven textures, or multiple colors — but these may just be atypical moles (benign skin growths that look abnormal).
However, not all skin growths are harmless, and some growths may become malignant over time. This is where a dermatologist’s expert opinion comes in handy. Without proper testing, you have no way of knowing whether a growth is skin cancer or not.
“A regular person is not trained to make that judgment call,” says Dr. Colombo. “A dermatologist is a trained expert who can evaluate your moles and make proper recommendations when it comes to removal.”
Why is it important to see a dermatologist for mole removal?
Unlike at-home remedies, a doctor can determine the best and safest method for removing your mole, as well as the most effective treatment plan.
“A specialist knows which growths require a biopsy, which can be frozen off with liquid nitrogen, and which can be cauterized,” explains Dr. Guanche. “The way a growth is removed and how it is tested determines your safety and favors the best possible healing/scarring result.”
What can go wrong if you try to remove a mole at home?
“Inappropriate or incomplete removal of an atypical or cancerous mole can lead to serious or even deadly consequences in the future,” warns Dr. Guanche. “We do see patients who have tried [home remedies] and have red, brown, and indented scars … we then have to treat [those scars] correctively. Not to mention that growths were removed without testing … there could be underlying cancers that were missed, which can re-grow deeply at some point in the future.”
“A lot of things can go wrong with home removal of moles,” Dr. Colombo agrees. In addition to severe scarring and potentially missing a cancer diagnosis, she says, a patient may experience infection at the removal site or excessive bleeding.
According to both dermatologists, no product — natural or manufactured — is safe to use for removing a mole at home. So, make sure you get any abnormal growths checked by a doctor, and get them professionally removed if you don’t want them sticking around.