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What's the Difference Between a Mole and a Skin Tag, and How Do I Get Rid of Them?

Moles and skin tags are extremely common, and often benign. However, they might rub on clothes or make you feel self-conscious. While it might seem tempting to get rid of a mole or skin tag at home, you’re better off going to a doctor to get them professionally removed. And while moles and skin tags might seem similar, they require different methods of removal to prevent infection and scarring.

At Associated Dermatologists, with locations in West Bloomfield, Commerce, Novi, and Berkeley, Michigan, our team of expert skincare providers can accurately diagnose your dermatological issue and provide any needed excision and biopsy for moles and skin tags.

Moles versus skin tags
Moles are mostly harmless growths that can occur anywhere on the body, and they’re usually black or brown in color. You can have clusters of moles, and they can sometimes change shape or grow hair. If you have a mole that’s growing larger or changing color, mention it to your doctor. If it seems dangerous, they’ll safely remove it.

Skin tags are entirely benign, and often occur after age 50. They commonly grow in skin folds, like the crease of your groin or armpit. They’re usually the same color as your skin, but they can become hyperpigmented over time. Hormonal changes that often occur with pregnancy can also cause skin tags to form. Skin tags are held in place by a thin stalk called a peduncle.

Both moles and skin tags can be considered cosmetic flaws, but they might be uncomfortable as they rub on clothing or underwear. Many people have them removed to save trouble and improve their appearance.

Getting rid of skin growths
Moles and skin tags can be removed in similar ways, but you should always have these procedures done by a doctor. This prevents infection and excessive scarring, and they can provide anesthesia to make the process easier. If your growth is precancerous, they can also assess the risk and monitor your healing.

The methods for mole removal include:

Shave biopsy, which removes the top layers of skin
Punch biopsy, which removes a deeper section underneath
Incisional and excisional biopsy, which use a scalpel to remove an area of skin
Once the mole is removed, your doctor will test it to make sure it’s not cancerous. For skin tags, that’s not necessary, and your doctor may use the following techniques to remove them:

Cryotherapy, which uses liquid nitrogen to painlessly freeze the skin tag off
Litigation, where thread is used to cut off blood flow to the skin tag
Electrosurgery, which uses electrical energy to burn the skin tag away
Surgical removal, where the skin tag is removed using scissors or a scalpel
Your doctor will make sure you have minimal discomfort while the growth is removed, and minimal scarring as the area heals. They might use chemicals or electrosurgical feathering to stop the bleeding and reduce scarring.

Do you have a growth that’s bothering you? You can get it identified and removed in a single visit. Call the location closest to you, or request an appointment online.