Treatment for Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic keratosis treatment usually isn't necessary, unless you want it for cosmetic or comfort reasons. Learn more about this condition in this article!
Treatment for Seborrheic Keratosis

Last update: 08 June, 2021

Seborrheic keratosis is a skin condition that, in most cases, only affects your appearance. It looks like skin growth and it can range in color from white to brown, and even black. Also, people who have this condition tend to have several growths at the same time. Today, we’ll tell you more about it and the treatment for seborrheic keratosis.

Seborrheic ketosis most commonly affects the head, neck, chest, and back. In addition, it tends to affect people who are middle age and older. Experts estimate that 75% of people over 70 years old have this type of growth. 

This condition is also known as basal cell papilloma or seborrheic warts. It’s important to keep in mind that these bumps are harmless, don’t require treatment, and aren’t contagious. However, since they look similar to melanoma, your doctor may want to do a biopsy before confirming the diagnosis.

The main causes of seborrheic keratosis

Experts have not yet established the exact cause of seborrheic keratosis. They have seen that this condition has genetic mutations similar to those of multiple myeloma or ovarian cancer. However, this condition isn’t malignant. 

The following factors could influence the formation of this condition:

  • Sunlight: They usually appear in areas that get a lot of sunlight. Therefore, experts believe that ultraviolet (UV) light could play a role.
  • Genetics: These skin growths are often hereditary.
  • Age: There’s a relationship between this condition and aging. Keratosis can appear at any age, but it’s much more common after the age of 50.

Risk groups

The people who are most at risk of developing this condition are those who have a family history of seborrheic keratosis. Like we previously mentioned, this problem is often hereditary.

Also, this condition commonly affects middle-aged and elderly people. Therefore, your risk increases as you get older.

In addition, those who are frequently out in the sun are also at a higher risk. For example, people who work outdoors or do outdoor activities regularly are more likely to develop these growths. 

woman in sunglasses

What does it look like?

Seborrheic keratosis starts with a small and rough growth. Then, it increases in size, thickens, and takes on a wart-like appearance. In addition, they’re commonly brown, but they can also be different colors. 

Its shape is oval or round, and the growth will almost always appear on the chest, scalp, back, abdomen, or face. Also, there are several types of seborrheic keratosis growths, each with its own distinctive characteristics.

  • Common: with this kind, it appears as if the growth is stuck to the skin and it looks very similar to a wart. They also feel like wax or velvet to the touch.
  • Black papular dermatosis: these are black and raised pimples. Also, they’re more common in women and people with darker skin.
  • Stucco: these growths are gray and look like rough warts. They’re more common in men and usually appear on the forearms and legs.
  • Flat: brown, oval patches that increase in number as you age.
  • Pedunculated: dark growths with a stem. They appear in the armpit or neck.

When to seek medical help

For the most part, seborrheic keratosis isn’t dangerous and doesn’t require treatment. However, you should never overlook a skin growth. This condition looks very similar to melanoma growth, which is why it’s necessary to see a doctor so they can make the diagnosis.

In addition, you should see the doctor for any of the following situations:

  • Change in size or appearance of the growth
  • The growth has a strange color, like blue, purple, or reddish-black
  • Ragged edges
  • Irritation or pain in the growth
  • Secretions from the growth
  • Many growths develop in a short amount of time
  • The growth is bleeding

Treatment for seborrheic keratosis

Seborrheic keratosis itself doesn’t require treatment from a dermatological point of view. However, they may cause pain or discomfort when they’re rubbing up against clothing or other surfaces. In addition, they can cause an aesthetic concern.

In those cases, you may want to remove the growth. You can do this through the following procedures:


This consists of freezing the growth with liquid nitrogen. The doctor will apply it with a cotton swab or a spray gun. Then, the growth will freeze and fall off on its own in a few days.

Sometimes, a blister or a scab will form, but that will also fall off eventually. This method isn’t always effective for larger and thicker growths.

Treatment for seborrheic keratosis: Curettage

This involves scraping the surface of the skin. First, the doctor anesthetizes the area. Then, they will perform the procedure with a scalpel blade. 

This blade is called a curette and it’s shaped like a shovel. In some cases, this method is combined with electrocautery, if necessary.


In this treatment for seborrheic keratosis, the doctor will use an electrical current to remove the growth. First, they will numb the area with anesthesia and then they will apply the electrical current. This cauterizes the growth.

However, if the doctor doesn’t do this procedure properly, you could end up with scars. This is only used for the thickest growths. 


Treatment for seborrheic keratosis: Ablation

This consists of vaporizing the growth using a laser. The laser uses low radiation flux. First, the surface of your skin will get warm, and eventually, the growth will evaporate. 

This treatment for seborrheic keratosis may or may not require anesthesia. In addition, this procedure requires a lot of precision. 

Hydrogen peroxide

With this treatment, the doctor will apply this solution to the growth and it will eliminate the seborrheic keratosis. However, it can also irritate the skin and damage the eyes. Therefore, you have to handle the substance with care.

Recovery and prognosis after treatment for seborrheic keratosis

It’s common for the skin to appear slightly lighter in the area where the growth was removed, but it will even out over time. Seborrheic keratosis won’t return to that particular area of your body, but it can pop up in other places 

Treatment for seborrheic keratosis is usually successful and won’t leave scars. In addition, changes in skin color after the procedure are usually more noticeable when removing a growth from the torso.


Normally, your doctor will diagnose seborrheic keratosis with a routine physical exam. However, sometimes you may go to the doctor because you want them to do a skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

When the seborrheic keratosis is very thin, it may be a type of skin cancer called lentigo maligna. Also, if many growths appear in a very short period of time, it’s important to talk to your doctor, because that could be a sign of cancer.

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