Skin Health

What You Need to Know About Harmless Skin Growths

Skin cancer awareness is essential, but there are common benign skin growths that people may be less aware of and which can have an impact on their quality of life.

Beyond moles and warts, many of us will experience a range of other growths, including corns, skin tags, seborrheic keratoses, and the bumps associated with keratosis pilaris. Case in point: Almost half of us will develop skin tags, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.

Understanding the different nature of these common growths is important Some – though unwanted – are actually protective. Others are harmless but may present a cosmetic or comfort concern. And, in certain cases, skin growths that are themselves benign may signal a bigger medical problem.

Corns, like calluses, are areas of thickened skin that have built up to provide protection from repeated friction. Corns form where underlying bones exacerbate the pressure on our skin, most often on our toes and the balls of our feet due to restrictive footwear.

corns and calluses

Other growths, such as skin tags, seborrheic keratoses and the bumps of keratosis pilaris, can occur as the result of factors such as genetics, hormones, and age.

Skin tags – medical name “acrochordons” – are small, loose dangles of flesh. Seborrheic keratoses – nicknamed “the barnacles of aging” – are waxy, wart-like bumps, typically brown. And keratosis pilaris are small and pimple-like, often appearing on our upper arms and the front of our thighs. They result from dead skin cells clogging our pores. All three are considered harmless.

However, in certain cases, such as the appearance of numerous skin tags, growths may be linked to problems with the hormone insulin and signal the possibility of diabetes.

To help sort out different growths, I have the following suggestions:

5 Tips on How to Handle Benign Skin Growths:

  1. Everyday TLC can help: 

    For conditions such as corns and the clogged skin of keratosis pilaris, our skin care routine – in particular, exfoliating and consistently moisturizing – can make a big difference. For corns, soaking and careful use of a pumice stone can soften and remove build-up. Wearing appropriate footwear is also essential. Moisturizers with salicylic acid, ammonium lactate, or urea can ameliorate both conditions.

  1. Practice patience:

    Once keratosis pilaris bumps have developed, it takes time to reverse course. Before discarding an intervention, patients should wait at least six weeks to see if what they’re trying may actually be working. Also, following an ongoing maintenance routine is important to prevent reoccurrence.

  1. Experiencing discomfort? Consider removal:

    When a “harmless” growth causes discomfort – due to its appearance or getting caught on clothes or jewelry – removal is an option. For skin tags and seborrheic keratoses, minimally invasive techniques such as cryosurgery (freezing) can be used. For keratosis pilaris, laser treatments may help.

  1. Rule out underlying medical problems: 

    In some cases, “harmless” skin growths may be indicative of a medical problem, in particular, diabetes. Patients who have numerous skin tags, for example, may want to get checked.

  1. Not sure? See a skin specialist:

    The range of different skin growths can be confusing. And we want to be sure that what we are experiencing is actually harmless. New, unidentified skin growths should be evaluated for cancer or other disease. Getting into the habit of a monthly skin self-check can help us keep track.

Once patients know a skin growth is harmless, they can comfortably proceed with a plan that best suits their lifestyle.

Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey) is one of the leading dermatology centers in the nation, offering highly experienced physicians in the fields of cosmetic and laser dermatology as well as plastic surgery and state-of-the-art medical technologies.

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