Can't Get Rid of Seborrheic Keratoses?
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Seborrheic Keratoses

What is Seborrheic Keratoses?

Seborrheic keratoses (SK) is a common skin growth that may look worrisome, but is actually harmless. Most begin as small, rough bumps on the skin, but can be smooth and flat. They tend to have a waxy, “stuck-on-the-skin” appearance, like a dab of wax. These typically occur at later ages and are often called “barnacles of aging.” Most people who get them develop several. They’re mostly tan or brown, but can be white and black too. 

SKs may resemble other common skin growths, including warts, actinic keratoses (AKs), moles and melanoma. Although SKs are harmless, they can be mistaken for more serious or dangerous growths (like melanoma), so it’s still important to see a board-certified dermatologist to properly identify. 

SKs can form anywhere on the skin, except the hands and soles of the feet. Most appear on the chest, back, scalp, face and neck. Anyone can get SKs, but they usually appear on those that are middle aged or older. Children rarely develop SKs. SKs are common with people that are fair skin, but those with darker skin tones can also develop them.

The exact cause of SKs is still not clear. The number of growths a person has usually increases with age. This may appear that the growths are spreading, however SKs are not contagious. Genetics can play a part in your chances of developing SKs. They can also appear in women when estrogen levels quickly increase or decrease, like during pregnancy. 

Do I Need Care for Seborrheic Keratoses

Most cases don’t require treatment, however it’s still important to see a board-certified dermatologist to confirm diagnosis. This is especially important if:

  • It’s growing very quickly, or itching or bleeding.
  • It looks dry, flat, rough or scaly.
  • It’s easily irritated, like from clothes rubbing against it or shaving.

Don’t try to remove seborrheic keratoses yourself. You could risk infection.

Treating Seborrheic Keratoses


Although it’s harmless, it’s still important to confirm if it’s seborrheic keratoses or not, since it can resemble possibly-cancerous growths.  A board certified dermatologist can evaluate the growth and determine if it’s seborrheic keratoses. If there’s question whether it could be a cancerous growth, they’ll remove it to examine.

Besides examining for possible cancer, if your seborrheic keratoses is irritated, gets caught on clothing or is unsightly to you, it can also be removed. Your dermatologist will recommend the best course of action. In-office procedures to remove an SK include:

  • Cryotherapy destroys an SK by freezing it with liquid nitrogen. This is the most common AK treatment option.
  • Electrosurgery (or curettage) involves removing SKs by cutting or scraping it out of the skin. Sometimes this is combined with electrosurgery, which uses electric current to destroy precancerous cells.
  • Laser Therapy relies on a laser to destroy SK cells. Different types of laser surgery can be available and can be especially effective in removing a large amount of SKs and thicker SKs. There is less scaring associated with this treatment, but there is a higher risk of permanent loss of skin color in treated areas. 
  • Topical medication, such as a hydrogen peroxide solution, can be applied over the course of two office visits. While the risk of scarring is low, side effects may include itching, stinging, crusting, swelling, redness and scaling at the application site. 

Liquid Nitrogen Cryotherapy

Liquid nitrogen cryotherapy works by freezing and destroying the cells in a skin growth or lesion. Learn More

Oral and Topical Medications

Dermatologists are experts in bacterial, viral and fungal infections in the skin and have a deep knowledge of how to best use antibiotics, antiviral and antifungal medications. Learn More

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