As a doctor who specialises in mole removal for aesthetic reasons I see many patients who have been tempted by home remedies and do it yourself mole removal solutions. The temptation is quite obvious as the so called ‘treatments’ are not only portrayed as quick, simple and easy but are also invariably free or cheap. Some patients of mine are often embarrassed to mention they have tried home treatments and other DIY cures with results ranging from ineffective to those that are extremely dangerous and in some cases left with severe scarring.
I can understand why patients are keen to get rid of their bothersome moles; whether it is for cosmetic reasons (not liking the look of them), practical reasons (e.g. where they catch on clothes) or simply peace of mind where the mole is causing any concern.
The great benefit of the internet is the vast amount of information available, enabling people to research any topic under the sun. Unfortunately, that information is not always correct… A quick Google search on DIY mole removal reveals some staggering suggestions.
DIY / Home Remedies Mole Removal Methods to Avoid
1. “Tying” a Mole Off
The method is to restrict the blood flow to a mole by tying it very tightly around the base with thread or dental floss. The idea is that the mole will fill with blood, dry up and then fall off.
This concept should be approached with caution. While it actually can work for skin tags, there are still risks around the possibility of infection. Where cotton thread is used, this can become wedged into the skin without finishing the job leaving a much bigger scar after surgical removal.
Moreover, when it comes to moles professional laser or surgical removal is the best option for complete removal and this process should always include mole testing. Tackling moles at home, no matter how harmless they may appear, misses this vital precautionary step which can highlight any abnormal or malignant cells. This point applies throughout all DIY mole removal methods and myths and is the number one reason why home mole removal should be left alone.
2. Creams, Lotions and Solutions
The internet also has a plethora of ready-made mole removal products which claim to lead to mole removal.
Again, approach these with extreme caution. These products are designed on a similar basis (or sometimes the same) as wart and verruca removal. The mole removal cures often suggest filing or scratching the top of the mole to ensure the acid is able to penetrate. However, true moles are very different in nature. Mole skin is quite sensitive and this can be painful and some patients have been left with scarring. In addition, the scratching process can be quite harmful to the mole itself.
Again, this approach completely misses the vital mole testing – patients could be missing the first signs of skin cancer.
3. Mole Lightening Products
Essentially acid or alkali based bleaching agents, mole lightening products are creams and potions that seek to remove the pigment from moles so that they are still there but much less obvious visually.
However, those bleaching agents available over the internet may not meet British safety standards. If they are too strong they could burn the skin and cause lasting damage.
Once again, the point applies that home removal does not include mole testing…
4. “Natural” Home Mole Removal
The principle here is again external application but based on common household foods. Some of these “cures” are designed to fade the colour of the mole; others claim to remove it altogether. These home remedies mimic the acid or alkali based products available over the internet by causing a chemical burn to the skin in order to remove the coloration and or mole itself.
Suggestions include rubbing the mole several times a day with lemon juice, apple juice, apple cider vinegar, cauliflower juice, pineapple juice, castor oil or honey. Other ideas are strapping a slice of onion or garlic over the mole underneath a sticking plaster. The most bizarre involves strapping urine-soaked cotton wool to the mole beneath a plaster, having first scratched the mole so that it can penetrate.
This area seems increasingly desperate. At best, the patient risks wasting time and facing the embarrassment and ridicule of their friends and family. However, they also risk irritation, infection and scarring.
At worst, as with all home cures, the risk of NOT having proper mole testing is the greatest of all. Some of the websites do mention that suspicious moles should be examined by a professional, though this is often in small print.
Patient Case Studies
Patient Case 1 – Used cream to bleach his mole that he felt was normal as it had not changed. This resulted in a severe skin reaction and has now left him with a thick horrible red raised scar (keloid) that is twice the size of the mole on his chest. He regrets he ever saw this on the internet as there is very little we can do to help improve his scar.
Patient Case 2 - Thirty year old man who had a melanoma skin cancer diagnosed on a mole he tried to bleach which may or may not have contributed to a delay in his diagnosis and treatment. He now wishes he never used the internet for advice on something he now admits should only be left in the hands of experienced doctors as the consequences can be potentially life threatening.
Professional Mole Removal
Mole removal surgery and laser mole removal are effective safe procedures to do with modern techniques and equipment. All procedures will leave a small scar but this is in most cases far more cosmetically acceptable than the original mole.
Even for harmless moles being removed for cosmetic reasons, I would caution patients not to risk DIY home removal solutions however tempting they may appear to be.
Good practitioners will always send even the most apparently innocent-looking mole away for testing to rule out any possibility of cancerous cells as skin cancer caught early has the best chances for the patient.
The doctors’ experience and training are the most important factors to look for when choosing the right person to remove your mole rather than glossy machines or cheap pricing as the wrong choice initially can lead to permanent disfigurement that is rarely easy to correct even with modern lasers and medicines.
Please see your family doctor / GP or a skin specialist regarding any existing or new moles that are changing in size shape and or colour ( getting darker in particular) or even if you have concerns from a cosmetic point of view just so as to get the correct advice to avoid potential scarring or missing a skin cancer.