We all have them: So many marks, dots, blemishes, and growths on the skin to make you sometimes feel like a knotty old tree.
But what do they mean? And should you be worried?
Fortunately, MOST of those knots and lumps are harmless.
But some might not be. And that means you need to give your skin the occasional once-over to make sure you know what’s there… what’s normal.
And most importantly when to call for help.
Benign beauty mark or something serious?
Here’s the 411 on all four of your most common beauty marks…
Freckles are very common. And fortunately, they’re a completely harmless beauty mark.
But two things you should know about them.
First, some appear after too much sun. And while sunshine ISN’T the monster the mainstream would have you believe, they do have one thing right. You do need to be smart about avoiding too much ultraviolet light, which can lead to more common forms of skin cancer.
The freckles themselves won’t increase your risk, but they could be a warning that you’ve had a little too much UV exposure. Try to get some sunlight on your bare skin daily. But limit it to around 15 to 20 minutes a day and then head for some shade.
And second, if you have a bunch of freckles on your body, it could make it tougher to spot other types of marks – including skin cancer. So take a bit of extra time examining your skin.
2. Skin tags:
Skin tags are fleshy little growths which can be QUITE concerning when they first show up… especially if you’ve never had them before. But like freckles, they’re both a common and harmless beauty mark.
Unlike most other marks, skin tags stand out because they’re not flat. Instead, they hang off your skin like, well, a tiny tag.
Friction generally causes skin tags. Which is why you find them on thighs, necks, armpits, and any areas that are constantly rubbing. They can be a problem if they become infected but otherwise won’t hurt you.
A doctor or dermatologist can remove skin tags in relatively painless procedures. But keep in mind removal isn’t typically covered by insurance.
(HINT: In some cases, insurance will pay for it if you can tell them the tags hurt or if you’re afraid they could be cancerous growths.)
Odds are you have some moles already. Most adults have dozens scattered about. Some appear when you’re young, but others can pop up in adulthood.
True moles are a harmless beauty mark. But the same genetics that causes some of them to appear can also raise your risk of skin cancer.
Some moles can change over time, very slowly. Others might stay the same. Some can even vanish just as mysteriously as they appeared.
4. Skin cancer:
Skin cancer, of course, is the most alarming skin mark. But let’s take a little fear out of the equation right away.
Most skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. Both are easily treated, and neither poses a risk of spreading. If you catch them early, they can be removed with minimal scarring. If you wait too long, removal can leave behind some nasty battle scars.
The more concerning ones are the melanomas. They can spread and turn deadly, killing close to 10,000 Americans every year. If caught early, however, they can be treated and defeated.
The key to spotting them is to check for the ABCDEs.
- A is for the asymmetrical shape of the cancer
- B for the irregular borders
- C for the changing color
- D is for a diameter (bigger than a quarter inch should get checked)
- E is for its evolution (how it grows and changes over time)
Give your skin a good once-over every few months to sort out what’s a benign beauty mark and what’s something more serious. But don’t stop there. Some growths—including melanomas—can appear in spots that might be difficult or even impossible to see by yourself including your head, the soles of your feet, and your back.
So ask your doctor for a full-body check every few months or make an appointment to see a dermatologist.