I’ve had a large and hairy mole on the back of my arm for as long as I can remember. Growing up I felt very self conscious about it as it grows thick black hairs which I precariously shave. It seems to get bigger with age for which I have a paranoia of it becoming sinister as being just below a short sleeved shirt height on my arm it’s almost always exposed to sunlight and so I’ve pointed it out to my doctor across the years at routine health checks for a second opinion. Unfortunately I never took a picture of it years ago to be able to compare the shape, size and colour to what it is now and whilst it’s remained stable for the past several years I’ve been assured that it’s nothing to worry about and is safe to have removed which is why I’ve booked into Cosmedics Skin Clinic on London’s Harley Street with Dr Ross Perry.
I’ve previously had five moles removed, one cut out of the arch of my foot as a child and three cut off at skin level across my face and arms – all of which were rather raised and lumpy. However this is my first flat mole removal. Moles are defined as a collection of cells that can range from skin colour to dark brown and can be flat or raised depending on the individual type of mole. Moles have no use or function and are typically harmless, but if they change colour or continue to grow it can be a warning sign for skin cancer and should always be checked out by a doctor.
Moles are very common and can irritate, rub and catch on clothing as they grow larger with age as well as new moles appearing; therefore the size, shape and colour of darker moles should be closely monitored. There are many different ways to remove moles and each time I’ve had a mole removed it has been entirely pain free because of local anaesthetic which numbs the skin to make the procedure as comfortable as possible. The anaesthetic needle is very fine and isn’t painful but the anaesthetic fluid has a pH balance that slightly stings as it initially makes contact with the skin however this only lasts for a second. Typically the most common ways to remove a mole are through freezing, lasering or mole removal surgery and it’s strongly advised that home remedies and self mole removal creams are avoided because these can worsen scarring and potentially mistreat a skin cancer.
Ideally the skin should be checked over every three months to look at existing and new moles paying close attention to any changes in size, shape, darkening of colour and a size of 5mm or more. 70% of melanomas are new moles and suspicious ones will look different in appearance and stand out from all of the other which is reassuring to know as all of my moles have remained the same in appearance for years.
After meeting Dr Ross Perry we discussed the options for mole removal on my arm. In the past I’ve been advised to have this particular mole cut out through a surgical removal however this leads to greater scarring across a bigger area which can change texture, stretch and potentially heal raised. Despite my mole being flat Dr Perry reassured me that it could still be removed by levelling the mole off with the ‘shave’ technique which is essentially running a surgical blade across the top of the mole to remove the pigmented skin before cauterising the skin and dressing with a plaster. This would mean the hair could possibly still grow through the skin but its appearance would be greatly improved with very minimal scarring – as all of my other moles have been removed in this same way I was more than happy to take this option. Once it heals should I feel that the end result isn’t what I desire I could then go on to have it cut out. I had already planned and prepared myself for a rather large scar on my arm from mole removal surgery which I would cover over with a tattoo in several months time but through shaving the mole off instead I may never need to hide or disguise this scar.
The procedure is performed under local anesthetic which is administered via needle directly into the skin around the mole. This makes the area entirely numb and as such it’s completely pain free, I simply felt a hand on the skin nearby and a slight pushing sensation but couldn’t tell what was happening. The process itself took around half an hour for the consultation and removal of both of my moles, as once we decided upon the shave technique I pointed out a raised mole on the back of my neck which I often catch when brushing my hair or wear necklaces so it made sense to treat them both at once seeing as I was there.
As soon as the mole is cut off via shave excision the skin beneath is revealed which is bright white in colour indicating all of the brown pigment and raised tissue has been removed. The wound is a precise surface graze that is cauterised, a technique to seal the skin with heat to prevent bleeding for which a small handheld device is used with a fine metal tip that makes a slight fizzing sound but is again completely numb. Following this the area is cleaned and a small plaster is placed over the top and the treatment is complete.
Aftercare is very straightforward as I must simply keep the area dry for for first 1-2 days and then ensure I keep a plaster on for 7-10 days for which I was provided with spares along with my aftercare instructions. If I experience any bleeding I must apply firm pressure for with a clean tissue for 20mins until it settles but thankfully I haven’t needed to. Any sign of infection will present itself as redness around the wound within 3-4 days after treatment for which I must consult my doctor if this happens. After 10-14 days I should massage the skin with bio oil, vitamin E cream, silicone gel or moisturiser to help to reduce the final appearance of the scar all of which can be found at any chemist. All scars start out red and then fade to a lighter shade with time. As my moles were sent to the lab to be examined for abnormalities the histology report will be sent to me in 2-3weeks time by post however I’ve been assured my moles are nothing to worry about and the removal was a great success.
I was advised that I can return to my usual gym activities the morning after my mole removal yesterday as the wound is just a surface graze. By this afternoon some 25hrs after treatment my arm plaster dropped off to reveal a slightly sunken texture to my skin with darker dots within from the cauterising which is entirely normal and a healthy sign of healing. I’ve recovered it with a plaster as my neck plaster is still firmly in place and will post progress pictures over the coming weeks as I pass through each stage of healing. I’m beyond thrilled with the results and feel ecstatic to have a mole that I’ve disliked for so many years finally gone for good. I wish I’d done this years ago when I had my other moles removed and should have sought a second opinion when I was told that my only option would be cutting it out.
Update: 7 Days Into Healing
I was slightly apprehensive about how my healing would progress seeing as we’re in the middle of a glorious heatwave and daily temperatures creep around 30 degrees – which is great when you can relax and sunbathe on holiday but rather uncomfortable when you’re living and working without air conditioning. On the surface that may not seem like a bad thing, but when allowing the skin to heal after a cosmetic procedure it’s presented more issues for me than on a normal 20 degree summers day.
Firstly I feel constantly clammy and moist both indoors and outdoors, and whilst wearing plasters this causes them to curl up on the edges and lift away from the skin through sweat, so I have to carefully monitor them to ensure no dirt is getting in and change them more frequently than I would on a cool day which has left sticky glue on the skin that I’ve tried to carefully wipe away but didn’t want to pull at the wound or irritate it. It’s also very uncomfortable to sleep at night in this heat, even with a fan on and all of the windows open, which makes me toss and turn more to get comfortable – not something I would like to be doing with wounds on my neck and arm! And finally being outdoors I can instantly feel the heat on my skin, despite keeping my moles covered constantly with a bandage and wearing a t-shirt and my hair down it’s not advisable to get them hot or sweaty – so it’s safe to say that having moles removed during a constant heatwave hasn’t been the easiest of healing processes.
However, ridiculous clammy temperatures aside, my moles have healed beautifully so far and I’m really pleased with their progress. Today is one week since having them removed and aside from my arm feeling slightly tender because of how big my old mole was, I don’t even notice the one on my neck anymore. All in all they heal just like any cut would and I’ll be keeping them covered up until day 10 before letting them get to the air. I switched from the small circle plasters provided by the clinic to a wider fabric plaster to help them to stick on better when sweating. The wound started off as moist, white and sticky under the plaster which is the most important time to keep it covered to prevent infection, day by day the depth of the sunken skin from where the pigment was removed has risen up to the same level and a dry scab has formed to cover it. As expected there are still hair follicles in my arm which I will continue to shave after healing is complete and I’m overjoyed that the dark pigment has finally gone.
Update: 2 Weeks Into Healing
It’s wonderful having my plasters off and my scabs have dried out beautifully now. Seeing as my neck mole was far smaller than my arm it has dried up, dropped off and left behind a fresh pink patch of brand new skin just like any cut would be. The scab on my arm is drying out by the day and looks rather similar to the shape and colour of my old mole, only slightly smaller as it shrinks and has a ring of fresh skin around it.
I’m relieved to be able to shower again, wear normal clothes and carry on with life as usual as I no longer feel like I have a cut or sensitive area on my body – I’m not worried about catching or banging the scab, aside from seeing the small brown area I no longer think about my moles. I’m expecting the scab on my arm to drop off within the next week and for pink sink to be left beneath that will gradually fade to white. Once the scab is off I can begin to massage it with a vitamin cream to help it to heal less noticeably and I’m really excited to see the final result. I’m over the moon with how quick, easy and convenient this procedure has been so far – fingers crossed for the final few days!
Remember to check back soon to see how I’m getting on!