Moles, a.k.a. nevi, are small dark spots on the skin that are formed when groups of pigmented cells bunch together. They come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. Some of us were born with them; others develop them as they age and expose their skin to the sun. Some of us are okay with moles; others find them annoying or embarrassing and want to get rid of them. Still others prefer to remove moles as a precautionary measure.
Moles can appear on the face, arms, legs, and essentially anywhere on the body. Most moles are harmless but some of them can become cancerous (melanoma), and it is crucial that they be surgically removed. For those of us who simply want cosmetic mole removal, there are several options.
One method, of course, is mole removal surgery, which involves freezing the mole with liquid nitrogen and removing it with a scalpel. This requires stitches and may cause scarring. Another solution is to treat the moles with mole removal cream. But certain types of moles can be treated effectively with laser mole removal techniques.
When is laser mole removal appropriate?
Laser mole removal is most successful for flat brown or flat black moles. Laser removal of moles may also be possible for raised moles if the patient has had the mole for a long time and it has not grown or changed shape. However, raised and protruding moles often grow beneath the upper layer of skin. Laser mole removal only addresses the superficial layer of skin and cannot safely penetrate to deeper levels. For this reason, many dermatologists advocate removing protruding or raised moles surgically instead.
Removing moles via laser appears to work best for smaller moles. Older, larger moles are not so easily removed using this method. Also, only pigmented moles can be removed with a laser, so removal of very light colored moles may not be successful. However, laser treatment can also be effective for pigmented freckles, sunspots, birthmarks or age spots.
How does laser mole removal work?
The laser energy is targeted at the mole in pulses. The pigment of the mole absorbs the laser energy and breaks apart. This disintegrating pigment will be removed by the body during healing. Procedure time depends on the size and severity of the mole. You may need up to three laser treatments before the mole disappears completely.
What can I expect after treatment?
Most patients require no anesthetic for laser mole removal, although a topical anesthetic is often be applied for comfort. Patients compare the laser pulse to a rubber band snapping against the skin. They also report tingling of the area.
The skin of the treated area usually turns darker immediately after treatment but this fades away quickly. A scab may form as the skin heals. Some redness may remain after the scab falls off, and this should fade over time.
Removing moles without cutting into the skin as in the surgical option reduces the chance of scarring. Also, because the laser seals the blood vessels, the need for sutures is eliminated.
One very important thing to remember after treatment is to stay out of direct sunlight.
Are there any risks?
Laser mole removal is non-invasive so the risks are minimal. However, there is always the potential for skin discoloration, pain, bleeding or infection. Also, the laser may not remove the entire mole.
What is the cost of laser mole removal?
The laser procedure appears to average $50 to $100 per treatment. If the typical mole requires three treatments to remove it, you could expect to spend $150 to $300 per mole.
This is a cosmetic procedure and is generally not covered by health insurance.