Warts, moles and skin tags are all skin conditions that prevent you from getting that flawless, smooth skin. They are, in most cases, not harmful. But they, definitely, indicate some form of irritation that your skin cells are experiencing. It just makes life simpler to get rid of them.
Step one to know the methods of eliminating them is knowing the difference. Then, you can decide which method is most effective for your condition.
If you already know the condition you are trying to treat inside-out, I suggest you scroll down further directly to the treatments. But if you are doubtful about whether you have a mole, skin tag or wart, read on to find out more!
Difference between Warts, Moles, and Skin Tags
Warts mostly occur on the palm of your hands, the soles of your feet and the knees. They are hard, sometimes raised, bumps on your skin, unlike moles. Their origin can be felt to lie sunken deep inside the skin. They are felt as smooth on the top unless you have tried scraping or hard scrubbing the wart. In that case, they will appear scaly or uneven.
Warts start from a strain of Human Papillomavirus. Since they start with a virus, they can be contagious. If you see a wart on your hands, it’s likely that you got it from someone who had a wart too. The virus can get transmitted by shaking hands or using the same hand towel.
Some strains of the HPV virus also affect the throat, genitals and other parts of the body.
Since warts are contagious, they need to be removed quickly. For quick removal, it’s best you see a dermatologist. The best way that doctors treat these is by freezing the wart and some skin around it so that the virus cannot be further transmitted.
Wart removal can be a painful process too. The process not only targets the affected dead cells, it also targets cells around it which are life and in contact with nerves.
For slow, but relatively painless methods of wart removal that you can use at home, read on!
Skin tags are little flaps of skin that stick outside the surface. They are, literally, just tags that hang on your skin, suspended by a pedestal or rope of skin.
Skin tags are a by-product of friction. When the skin has been rubbed by a collar, clothing or skin on skin, it starts as a small bump or gland in the skin. Hence skin tags are most common on the neck or under the arms.
Once the small bump develops, it snowballs into a bigger and bigger mass of skin by further pulling and rubbing until it is hanging by the thin pedestal.
Skin tags are not problematic, except the irritation that they cause. It may be become itchy, bleed, snag and hurt. It is mostly harmless and painless till it gets pulled.
Moles are the more serious of the three issues. They appear gradually and grow. Over time, they may even change in appearance and become cancerous.
Moles are differentiated from warts by the presence of pigment and body hair. Moles may appear brownish or reddish while warts are generally the same color as your skin.
If a mole appears to be changing its shape, size, color or protrusion frequently or rapidly, it might be cause for concern and you should see a doctor. A rapidly changing mole can be a sign of melanoma or cancer.
Some people are genetically more sensitive to getting dark spots on their skin if they are exposed to the sun. In that case, you would see multiple brown or tan spots on exposed areas of your skin. It just means that you should be more careful and use sun protection.
Causes and Symptoms
As written earlier, every skin condition, wart or mole has its own cause.
Attack of The Wart Virus!
Warts develop due to skin contagion. The Human Papilloma Virus causes warts to appear on the skin. There are several strains of HPV that cause numerous types of warts, and all of them are contagious.
If you have a wart, it is likely that you had one before or came into direct contact with someone who has one. The virus can travel in epithelial cells that get scraped off the surface, although it is unlikely to get it from hard surfaces like doorknobs or toilet seats.
But it is not as infectious as the common cold or flu and you don’t have to avoid it like the plague (except genital warts followed by sexual activity)! A lot of people can resist the infection although the virus is extremely sneaky and has a battery of immune-evasion mechanisms.
Even HPV vaccines are ineffective in the case of some warts.
The appearance of a Wart
It generally appears to be smooth and slightly raised, but some types of warts may appear to look like what is called a cauliflower (plantar warts).
Under a microscope, the appearance is defined as hyperkeratosis or abnormal thickening of the stratum corneum, stratum spinosum and stratum granulosum and large blood vessels at the dermo-epidermal junction.
Sometimes, several warts close together grow, diametrically and fuse to become a mosaic wart.
As the virus infects surrounding skin cells, it will become larger in size, without changing color. Such a phenomenon is called autoinoculation.
A wart may spread to other places on the skin or even to other people. Hence it is important to treat is swiftly or arrest the infected cells in place to that they don’t spread.
Moles versus Melanomas- Know the Difference!
A mole appears due to hyperactivity of skin cells. They may rapidly divide in a very small specific area of the skin and become a brown or tan bump with hair on it. Skin cells have a natural tendency to store melanin, the pigment that gives skin its brown color. A large number of skin cells clumped together look darker in appearance.
Melanocytic nevus or birthmark or mole is a very common, non-cancerous disorder of the pigment-producing cells.
Moles that appear as an indication of skin cancer pose a larger underlying problem. This indicates a rapidly dividing, uncontrolled growth of cells. A melanoma, or skin cancer, is cancer of the melanin-producing skin cells. When they grow uncontrollably, they also change their overall shape and size. Some cells might even differentiate to manufacture a different color altogether. This gives the melanoma an asymmetrical appearance, brown, black, red, purple colors, ragged, notched or blurred borders and an evolving appearance that changes over days, weeks or months.
A-B-C-D-E of Moles
Knowing the difference between a mole and a melanoma and being vigilant of any unusual behavior of a mole can sometimes save your life! Moles and melanomas are differentiated as the mnemonic ABCDE:
A-Asymmetry– Moles are mostly symmetric (equal on both sides if a line was drawn through the center), melanomas are asymmetric
B-Border– Ragged, notched or blurred (appears to be fading into surround skin) appearance indicates a melanoma
C- Colour-Non- uniform coloration points towards melanoma, moles are generally uniformly colored
D-Diameter– Melanomas are generally larger than 6 mm in size, although some birthmarks may be larger than that too. It is best to let a doctor make that distinction
E-Evolving– An evolving mole, over days, weeks or months has a high risk of being cancerous, although, sometimes, when a mole appears in adults, it appears to be growing rapidly but stabilizes after some time
A doctor will have several treatments for your warts, moles and skin tags up his sleeve. Most of them would be painful but quick procedures.
Immunotherapy is a popular treatment for warts where interferons (virus-fighting agents) are injected into the patient to help the body itself destroy the virus.
Warts are treated with salicylic acid paints/lotion/ointment that stings when it comes in contact with surrounding skin and may even become painful as the wart dissolves over time and the ointment has to be applied to deeper parts of the skin.
The other options that a doctor may suggest for warts is cryotherapy (freezing) and electrodesiccation (scraping off or curettage using a special electro-surgical knife).
There may be several other chemical/allopathic treatments advised by your doctor. However, each treatment has its side effects, and some are even painful.
Essential Oils for Warts and Moles
Some of these oils are antiviral in nature. Their pharmaceutically extracted isolates are used in making lotions and creams for warts as moles. It then makes sense to directly use the oils for treatment. As is with natural therapy, homemade treatments take time and patience.
Moles are reduced by ointments and treatments that control hyperpigmentation and regulate uncontrolled cell growth. Lemon juice is a great treatment for hyperpigmentation while Vitamin C checks uncontrolled cell growth, and also acts as an immune-booster.
Some essential oils also help to speed up the process:
Neem oil comes from a very useful Indian tree, Azadirachta indica. The neem trees’ leaves, branches, bark, everything has medicinal value in Ayurveda.
Oil of Neem is used in all types of skin conditions, as it is antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal and even antiviral. Indians believe it has the ability to cure chickenpox and cold sores and the mere presence of its leaves in the same room as the patient prevents spread of the virus. It is widely used in face washes and as a natural pesticide.
Since the oil is very potent, it is mixed with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil.
It may also be carefully applied over the affected area, but with caution.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is found in many beauty products, soaps, shampoos and can be purchased at varying strengths.
In scientific studies, tea tree oil has been linked to antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. It also helps wounds heal faster, hence aids in the healing of warts.
Tea Tree oil can be used alone. Just apply the oil to the affected area 2-3 times a day. You should see results in about 1-2 months.
Tea Tree Oil mixed with aloe vera gel is also used at times, although there’s no proven efficacy of aloe vera in the treatment of warts.
Lemongrass or citronella oil is used as a culinary herb and also a medicinal herb. It is widely used as a pesticide and a preservative.
The principal components of citronella oil are geraniol and citronellol which are proven antiseptics, hence their use in soaps and household disinfectants. Studies have proven that the oil is antiviral even at very low concentrations.
Directly apply few drops of lemongrass/citronella oil to the affected area. The mole should dry in about 3 days time. Use lavender oil for providing additional soothing once the mole falls.
For warts, mix lemongrass and lavender oil and apply the blend 2-3 times daily.
Oregano Oil/ Garlic Oil/ Thuja Oil/ Eucalyptus Oil
Oregano Oil, Garlic Oil, Thuja Oil and Eucalyptus Oil are “hot” oils and require carrier oils for use. You can mix them in 1:1 ratio with olive oil, coconut oil or almond oil before applying else they cause irritation. Use a q-tip or toothpick for the very localized application.
If you decide to directly apply these oils over your mole or wart, discontinue using the oils after the mole or wart falls off. To soothe the area and prevent scarring, apply few drops of Frankincense oil or Lavender oil.
If any irritation, redness, itching or swelling occurs, stop using the oils immediately and gently remove the remaining oil with a mild cleanser.
Calendula is available commercially as an essential oil as well as a homeopathic tincture. It can be directly applied to the affected area. Calendula has long been used in homeopathy for the treatment of warts and bacterial skin infections.
You can use the oil directly on the skin as well. Dip the end of a toothpick in oil and the apply very locally to the mole or wart.
To use the oil in a diluted form, add about 2 ml of Frankincense oil to 16 ml coconut oil or olive oil. Apply liberally and use the blend for a month.
Frankincense oil will also be effective if used as a bath oil. Just add a few drops of the oil with bath salts, baking soda, and lavender essential oil into your bath water, daily. The mole should fall off in 6-8 weeks. It further softens the hard skin around warts as well and soothes it.
Castor Oil is another godsend for hyperpigmentation. Directly apply a few drops of castor oil to the affected area. Apart from being great for hair growth, castor oil is used in several treatments for skin conditions.
To use this oil, mix castor oil with baking soda into a thick paste. Apply this blend every night. Use it on alternate days if you see minor skin irritation.
Keep the affected area covered with a micropore tape or band-aid after applying the essential oil.
You would know that a mole is healing if its edges start drying. Eventually, the mole will dry up completely and fall off on its own.
A wart heals by becoming softer. It will no longer feel like a small rock in the shoe (in case of a wart on the soles of your feet), but just a small bump that will keep reducing in size.
A Word of Caution
It is good to know that although complementary medical treatments are highly effective, they may not be the best for genital warts or those on mucous membranes. Essential oils are only for topical treatment and a doctor should be consulted before using the method for warts on sensitive skin or areas.
Pregnant and nursing (breastfeeding) women should use essential oils with caution and after consultation with their doctors.
Essential oils are highly concentrated; hence they are not to be ingested and should be used with carrier oils when applying directly to the skin.
Some people may find the scent or fumes from essential oils overwhelming or nauseating. In case of uneasiness, dizziness, nausea, skin irritation or anaphylaxis, immediately discontinue the use of the essential oil. You may be allergic or intolerant to it.
Moles and warts are very prevalent, normal skin conditions that are generally harmless.
Although, some types of moles may turn out to be cancerous. And all warts are contagious, especially genital warts (which are classified as a sexually transmitted disease).
Since these conditions have persisted for ages, there are several well-studied alternative treatments that have been passed down as old wives’ tales. The proven effectiveness of these methods gives us reason to believe in them. Moreover, the chemical treatment of warts and moles is painful, and it also runs the risks of harming the surrounding skin.
You don’t always have to rush to your nearest doctor if you happen to notice a wart or a mole. Be vigilant about its appearance and expansion and try some of the above-mentioned DIY treatments to control or arrest it.
If the condition persists, without any improvement after at least a month, you may seek help from a doctor.