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Skin Growths

Benign skin growths encompass a wide spectrum of non-cancerous dermatological conditions that manifest as growths or abnormalities on the skin’s surface. These growths can arise from different cellular origins within the skin and are generally harmless, though they may occasionally lead to discomfort or aesthetic concerns.

Moles (Nevi)

Moles are perhaps the most well-known benign skin growths. Common moles are often harmless. They are typically small, dark brown spots that develop in childhood and adolescence. Harmless moles have a uniform appearance, shape and size. Most people have up to 40 harmless moles. However, moles that have an uneven shape and multiple colors are considered atypical or dysplastic nevi and can be mistaken for melanoma.   It is important to monitor moles for changes in size, shape, or color is crucial, as such alterations can raise concerns.


Milia are small white, dome shaped cysts filled with dead skin cells. They are common in children and adults. Dead skin cells become trapped in pores just beneath the skin. They may disappear without treatment and regular exfoliation can prevent milia.

Epidermoid cysts

An epidermoid cyst is an abnormal sac of tissue filled with a substance called keratin. They frequently affect young and middle-aged people and can develop after an inflamed hair follicle resolves. They can become infected and can discharge pus. They are usually yellowish or white with a small dark plug found on the face, neck, upper trunk and genitals.  Epidermoid cysts tend to occur with acne.

Sebaceous cysts

A sebaceous cyst is a common, benign cyst usually found on the face, neck or torso filled with sebum, caused by a damaged sebaceous gland which produces sebum or skin oil. They are typically dome shaped lumps that can be moved under the skin. They do not require treatment but can be treated by draining the fluid and if inflamed, can be injected with antibiotics.

Skin tags (Acrochordons)

Skin tags are small, soft, benign growths on a stalk. They often form in areas where skin rubs against skin or clothing, such as the neck, underarms, under the breasts or in the groin. They have been associated with metabolic syndrome, obesity, insulin resistance and high blood pressure. They are typically painless and can be easily removed if desired for cosmetic reasons or if they become irritated.

Seborrheic Keratoses

Seborrheic keratoses are harmless skin tumors that present as raised, waxy, and sometimes pigmented growths. They are frequently seen in middle-aged and older individuals found on the head, neck, chest and upper back. They can be removed if they become symptomatic or for aesthetic purposes.

Warts (Verrucae)

Warts are caused by viral infections, primarily by human papillomavirus (HPV). They can appear anywhere on the skin and are characterized by their rough, raised texture. Warts vary in appearance, from common warts on the hands to plantar warts on the feet. Several treatment options, including cryotherapy and topical medications, are available to eliminate warts.


Dermatofibromas are small, harmless skin tumors that develop in the tissue beneath the skin’s surface on the lower legs, arms and upper back. They vary in color and feel firm and dense. They are typically painless but can itch, become tender or irritated. They can be removed if they cause discomfort or for cosmetic purposes.


Hemangiomas are harmless, flat, red birthmarks characterized by an overgrowth of blood vessels.  They appear in the first few weeks of birth frequently on the face, scalp, chest or back that grow rapidly in the child’s first years to create a red bump that often fades over time until it disappears usually by age 10.


Lipomas are benign, slow-growing fatty tumors just beneath the skin. They are typically soft to the touch and painless. They may be inherited. While they are harmless, they can grow large and affect function. They can be surgically removed if they become problematic or are cosmetically bothersome.

Benign skin growths encompass a diverse array of conditions, each with its unique characteristics and considerations. While most of these growths are not a cause for alarm, any changes in size, shape, color, or associated symptoms should prompt individuals to seek medical evaluation by Dr. Michael Rains to rule out malignancy or address potential discomfort. It is essential to emphasize the importance of regular skin self-examinations and consultations, to ensure early detection and appropriate management of these benign skin growths.

Dr. Michael Rains is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Beacon Dermatology in Asheville, North Carolina. His approach to aesthetic and dermatological treatments are holistically focused on revealing and enhancing a patient’s natural beauty. Dr. Rains is known for his caring and compassionate approach to medicine, listening to his patients’ concerns and goals and ensuring they receive excellent care and education to ensure they can make informed decisions about their treatments.

At a Glance

Michael Rains, MD, FAAD

  • Board certified in dermatology
  • Specializing in medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology
  • Author of multiple peer-reviewed publications and previous adjunct faculty at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Learn more

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