Moles can be removed without scarring. Unfortunately, not all moles are suitable for removal using low-scarring techniques and even these techniques can result in scarring in certain cases. An experienced skin cancer doctor or dermatologist can usually examine the mole and discuss scarring risk factors to advise whether it's realistic to expect no or minimal scarring after removal of a given mole.
Getting moles removed almost always involves some scarring or other visible sign that the skin has been treated in some way. Fortunately, for the right patient and the right type of mole or skin lesion, it's possible to remove most moles and skin lesions so that scarring is unnoticeable.
Some moles must be removed using surgical excision (i.e. cutting through the full thickness of the skin and stitching the skin together). This technique must be used if a doctor has examined the mole, spot or lump and decided it's either a melanoma or very likely to be one. This technique leaves a scar in all cases.
Fortunately, the majority of moles and other skin lesions are harmless and low scarring techniques can be used safely.
- Removing moles or other skin lesions with IPL or laser usually results in minimal or no scarring. This method is suitable for pigmented (i.e. red, black or brown coloured) spots that are very flat and shallow. These include lentigines ("age spots" or freckles) on the face, chest and hands and angiomas and telangiectasia (clusters of small red blood vessels). IPL can be used to treat large numbers of these spots leaving no scarring. Moles can also be removed by IPL leaving no scar, but usually multiple treatments are required and moles may return because the IPL may not have penetrated deeply enough to completely destroy the mole
- Removing a mole without surgery is possible using specialised lasers. Lasers using high energy and very short bursts of light can damage the pigment in moles and other skin lesions, resulting in mole removal with no scarring. Again, multiple treatments may be required. These specialised lasers can be useful for low-scarring mole removal in people with darker skin who might otherwise be prone to pigmentation problems after other mole removal techniques
- Radiofrequency surgery is usually the best way of removing a raised mole with little to no scarring. This technique allows the doctor to precisely control the extent of treatment and minimise the damage to surrounding tissues. There is normally a small "crater" after surgery which heals over the following weeks but may remain pink for many months after treatment. In most cases there is almost no scarring, but in people with dark (Fitzpatrick type IV-VI) skin or young people (under 30) there is a small risk which needs to be taken into account
- Photodynamic therapy (applying a drug that it is toxic to skin cancers and certain types of pre-cancer skin lesions, and then activating it with an LED or other light source) can be a low to no-scarring way of treating selected skin cancers