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Benign Skin Growths and Warts

Seborrheic Keratoses

As you age, seborrheic keratoses are more likely to appear.  These are often brown or tan, raised, warty/rough growths.  Seborrheic keratoses are benign, but they can become bothersome if they are itchy or irritated by clothing.  In these cases, a dermatologist can treat the growth with cryotherapy (freezing) or other techniques.  

Seborrheic keratosis FAQs

What is the cause of my seborrheic keratoses?

The cause of these growths is unknown.  Some people inherit a tendency to develop very large numbers of them, but about 90% of people will get them at some point in their life.

What are the symptoms of seborrheic keratoses?

Seborrheic keratoses appear on the skin as rough, raised, warty brown/tan growths.  They can be pink if they are irritated.  They are usually asymptomatic, but they can become itchy especially if they rub on clothing.

What over the counter treatments can I try for seborrheic keratoses?

Sometimes lotions that contain an exfoliant, such as Amlactin lotion, can help with the texture of seborrheic keratoses.  Unfortunately, there are no over the counter treatments that will make these growths resolve completely. 


Skin Tags

Skin tags are fleshy growths that are more common in areas of friction – around the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin.  More may appear as you age.  Skin tags are benign, but they may become irritated by clothing, traumatized when grooming, and occasionally they can be painful.  If they are bothersome, your dermatologist can treat them with cryotherapy (freezing) or other techniques.

Skin Tag FAQs

What causes my skin tags?

The cause of skin tags is unknown.  Friction may play a role, as skin tags are more common in areas of friction.

Will my insurance cover removal of my skin tags?

Most insurance companies do not cover removal of skin tags.  Skin tag removal is generally considered a cosmetic treatment. 

Can I remove my own skin tags at home?

We do not recommend removing skin tags at home.  It’s important to have any bothersome growth evaluated first by your dermatologist prior to removal. 



Cysts are round growths under the skin that may grow over time.  There are several different types of cysts. 

The most common cyst is called an epidermal cyst.  Epidermal cysts are encapsulated sacs of keratin, a component of the top layer of skin.  Epidermal cysts occur following injury or irritation that results in skin getting trapped in the top layer of skin.  This trapped skin forms a sac.  The skin cells within the sac continue to multiply, forming the contents of the sac.  Epidermal cysts are most common on the face, neck, and trunk. 

The second most common type of cyst is a pilar cyst.  Pilar cysts are most common on the scalp.  They are typically firm and move around easily.  Pilar cysts tend to run in families. 

Other types of cysts include ganglion cysts, steatocystomas (also known as sebaceous cysts), dermoid cysts, and eruptive vellus hair cysts. 

Cysts are benign, but occasionally they become irritated, painful, or infected.  If this happens, your dermatology may recommend removal or other treatment. 

Cyst FAQs

What are the symptoms of a cyst?

You may notice a round lump under the skin.  The lump is usually painless.  It may drain liquid or a chalky substance occasionally.  Sometimes cysts become red and painful.  This is a reason to see the dermatologist.    

Should I drain my cyst at home?

Draining your cyst at home is not recommended as it may lead to infection and/or scarring.  If your cyst is bothersome, see your dermatologist for treatment. 



Lipomas are fatty growths that occur under the skin.  They are typically soft and move around easily.  Lipomas can occur anywhere on the body and are most commonly found on the trunk and extremities.  Having multiple lipomas can run in families, otherwise their cause is unknown. 

Lipomas are benign, but they may become irritated and bothersome.  If this happens, your dermatologist may recommend removal.   

Lipoma FAQs

What causes lipomas?

The cause of lipomas is unknown.  Having multiple lipomas may be inherited.

What are the symptoms of a lipoma?

Lipomas typically appear as soft lumps under the skin.  It may enlarge somewhat over time.  Lipomas are usually painless, but a type of lipoma called an angiolipoma can be painful to the touch.  Lipomas do not drain – if a lump under your skin in draining, it is more likely to be a cyst. 

Are lipomas cancerous?

Lipomas are benign.  If you think your lipoma is growing or changing, it should be evaluated by your dermatologist. 


Warts are growths caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).  They are most common on the hands and feet, but can occur anywhere on the body.  They may be single or multiple and can grow and spread over time.

Warts on the body are typically harmless but can become bothersome.  Your dermatologist may recommend treatment with liquid nitrogen (freezing) or other methods.

Genital warts are spread by sexual contact.  In some cases, genital warts are caused by higher risk HPV strains and may lead to precancer and cancer in these areas, including cervical cancer.  Genital warts can also be treated with liquid nitrogen.  

Wart FAQs

What causes warts?

Viruses in the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) family cause warts.  The virus may invade the skin through a cut or scrape.  You can get the virus through contact with a person who has it or through contact with an object they recently touched. 

How can I prevent warts?

It is difficult to prevent warts on the body.  If you have a wart, do not pick at it.  Do not shave over areas with warts, as shaving can spread the wart virus.  Try to keep your hands and feet dry – moist skin is more likely to spread the wart virus.

To prevent sexually transmitted warts on the genitalia it is important to use condoms and to avoid sex with anyone with signs of genital warts. 

What over the counter treatments can I try for warts?

The best over the counter treatments for warts are those that contain a high concentration of salicylic acid, such as Wartsick.  At home freezing treatments are not usually effective.

What can I expect at my visit for warts?

Your dermatologist may recommend liquid nitrogen or other treatments based on the location of the wart and what you’ve tried at home.  Freezing can be painful, especially on the fingers and toes.  Warts do not typically resolve with one freezing treatment – multiple visits to the dermatologist may be needed.