Management and Treatment
How is seborrheic keratosis treated?
You should always have new skin growths clinically diagnosed to make sure they aren’t cancerous. Different kinds of skin growths can be hard to tell apart from each other. If your healthcare provider is in any doubt about your growth, they might want to remove it for biopsy.
If it is clearly a seborrheic keratosis, it won’t require any treatment. But you might want to have it removed if it becomes itchy or irritated or you don’t like the look of it. Your healthcare provider can remove it for you in the office using one of several common methods.
How is seborrheic keratosis removed?
Medical offices offer several options for removing your seborrheic keratosis:
- Cryotherapy. Your healthcare provider will numb the skin and then use liquid nitrogen to freeze the growth. This will cause it to fall off within a few days or weeks. Cryotherapy is a common choice when the diagnosis is clear and there is no need to preserve a sample of the growth for biopsy. One possible side effect is that the skin where the growth was will lose some of its pigment and look lighter.
- Electrodessication/Curettage. Your healthcare provider will numb the skin and then use a targeted electrocurrent to burn the seborrheic keratosis. They use a surgical instrument called a curette to scrape away the remains of the growth. Electrodessication and curettage are also sometimes used individually. The risk of scarring is generally low with both methods, but there is some wound care involved afterward.
- Shave Excision. This is the preferred method when your healthcare provider wants to preserve a sample of the growth to analyze in the lab. After numbing the skin, your healthcare provider will carefully shave off the growth and smooth the skin underneath with a surgical curette. Then they’ll send the shaved growth to the lab for analysis.
- Laser Therapy. Lasers offer an alternative to surgery by burning the growth, sterilizing the wound and sealing the tissue all at once. Laser therapy is quick, but the wound will be sore for a while afterward. Lasers are associated with good cosmetic results.
- Prescription Hydrogen Peroxide. The FDA has recently approved a topical solution of 40% hydrogen peroxide to treat seborrheic keratosis. (Over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide is a 1% solution.) The solution comes in an applicator pen, which your healthcare provider will apply to your seborrheic keratosis several times in one visit. You may need more than one visit to see results. Mild skin reactions are a common side effect.
Is there an over-the-counter treatment for seborrheic keratosis?
Some over-the-counter topical treatments have shown promise for reducing seborrheic keratoses. Research is limited on these solutions. They take time and persistence to work and are not 100% effective. But they also have fewer side effects and little-to-no recovery time. They might be a practical option to try if you want to treat many growths at once. Options include:
- Tazarotene cream 0.1%.
- Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) products, including glycolic acid and salicylic acid peels.
- Vitamin D3 cream.