Discusses common skin changes and possible causes. Includes info on skin cancer. Includes home treatment tips for adults and children.
Most skin bumps, spots, growths, and
moles are harmless. Colored skin spots, also called
pigmented lesions (such as freckles, moles, or flesh-colored skin spots), or
growths (such as
skin tags) may be present at birth or develop as the
Most skin spots on babies will go away without
treatment within a few months.
Birthmarks are colored marks on the skin that are
present at birth or develop shortly after birth. They can be many different
sizes, shapes, and colors, including brown, tan, black, blue, pink, white, red,
or purple. Some birthmarks appear on the surface of the skin, some are raised
above the surface of the skin, and some occur under the skin. Most birthmarks
are harmless and do not need treatment. Many birthmarks change, grow, shrink,
or disappear. There are many types of birthmarks, and some are more common than
others. For more information, see the topic
Cause of skin changes
Acne is a
common skin change that occurs during the teen years and may last into
adulthood. Acne may be mild, with just a few blackheads (comedones), or severe,
with large and painful pimples deep under the skin (cystic lesions). It may be present on the chest and
back as well as on the face and neck. Boys often have more severe outbreaks of
acne than girls. Many girls have acne before their periods that occurs because
of changes in
hormone levels. For more information, see the topic
During pregnancy, dark
patches may develop on a woman's face. This is known as the "mask of
pregnancy," or chloasma, and it usually fades after delivery. The cause of
chloasma is not fully understood, although experts think that increased
levels of pregnancy hormones cause the pigment-producing cells in the skin
(melanocytes) to produce more pigment. You can reduce skin pigment changes
during pregnancy by using sunscreen and staying out of the sun.
You may have an
allergic reaction to a
medicine that causes a skin change, or you may develop a skin
reaction when you are out in the sun while you are taking a medicine (this is
called photosensitivity). Rashes, hives, and itching may develop, and in some
cases may spread to areas of your skin that were not exposed to the sun
(photoallergy). For more information, see the topic
Liver problems, such as
hepatitis, which may cause your skin and the whites of
your eye to turn yellow (jaundice).
Common skin changes
Some common skin growths
Moles. Most people have
between 10 and 40 moles. You may continue to form new moles until you are in
your 40s. Moles may change over time. They can gradually get bigger, develop a
hair, become more raised, get lighter in color, fade away, or fall
Skin tags. These are harmless growths that
appear in the skin folds on the neck, under the arms, under the breasts, or in
the groin. They begin as small fleshy brown spots and may grow a small stalk.
Skin tags never turn into skin cancer.
Seborrheic keratoses, which are harmless skin growths that are found most often on the
chest or back; occasionally on the scalp, face, or neck; and less commonly
below the waist. They begin as slightly raised tan spots that develop a crusty
appearance like that of a wart. Seborrheic keratoses never turn into skin
cancer. For more information, see the topic
Treatment of a skin change depends on what is causing the skin
change and what other symptoms you are having. Moles, skin tags, and other
growths can be removed if they become irritated, bleed, or cause
While most skin changes are normal and
occur with aging, some may be caused by cancer.
Skin cancer may start as a growth or mole, a
change in a growth or mole, a sore that does not heal,
or irritation of the skin. It is the most common form of cancer in North
Early detection and
treatment of skin cancer can help prevent problems. Treatment depends on the
type and location of the growth and how advanced it is when it is diagnosed.
Surgery to remove the growth will help determine what treatment will be needed.
For more information, see the topics
Skin Cancer, Melanoma and
Skin Cancer, Nonmelanoma.
Are you concerned about or bothered by any skin changes?
A new yellow tint to the skin can be a symptom of
jaundice. Jaundice occurs when levels of a substance
called bilirubin build up in the blood and skin. It may be caused by a problem
with the liver or the blood.
With jaundice, the whites of the eyes
also may look yellow, and stools may be light-colored or whitish.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
Your age. Babies and older
adults tend to get sicker quicker.
Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart
disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care
Medicines you take. Certain
medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can cause symptoms or make them
Recent health events, such as surgery
or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them
Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug
use, sexual history, and travel.
Symptoms of infection may
Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in or
around the area.
Red streaks leading from the area.
Pus draining from the area.
Skin changes are a common side effect of many prescription
and nonprescription medicines. Common side effects include:
Rash. Any medicine can
cause a rash. Two examples are aspirin and antibiotics.
Color changes in the skin. A few examples
of medicines that can cause this are:
Birth control pills.
heart rhythm problems, such as amiodarone.
Reactions when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Many medicines can cause these reactions. The reaction may
include just the skin that was exposed to the sun (phototoxic reaction), or it can spread to other
areas of the skin (photoallergic reaction).
Symptoms of an allergic reaction may
A rash, or raised, red areas called
Rash, Age 11 and Younger
Rash, Age 12 and Older
A change to a mole or other skin spot
can mean that the spot has:
Gotten thicker, raised, or worn down.
Started to bleed easily.
Seek Care Now
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and
arrange for care.
If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have
one, seek care in the next hour.
You do not need to call an
You cannot travel safely either by driving
yourself or by having someone else drive you.
You are in an area
where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.
Make an Appointment
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
Make an appointment to see your doctor in the
next 1 to 2 weeks.
If appropriate, try home treatment while you
are waiting for the appointment.
If symptoms get worse or you have
any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.
Symptoms do not improve, become more severe or
frequent, or don't go away.
Most noncancerous skin bumps, spots, and
growths can't be prevented. But there are steps you can take to help
prevent some skin problems:
Measures to decrease your risk of infection
Keep your skin clean.
Wash with lukewarm water and a mild soap or
cleanser. Do not use soaps and skin cleansers that contain irritating
Rinse your skin thoroughly after you wash it, and gently
pat it dry.
Wash soon after participating in activities that cause
you to sweat.
Do not use skin care products that contain oil,
because they may clog your pores. Instead, use water-based skin care products.
Read the labels on products, and look for the terms oil-free or
Do not squeeze, scratch, drain, or puncture a
painful lump. Doing this can irritate or inflame the lump, push any existing
infection deeper into the skin, or cause severe bleeding.
irritation by wearing soft, cotton clothing or moleskin under sports equipment
(if possible). Parts of equipment (such as chin straps) can rub your skin and
irritate it. Adjust your clothing so that belts and straps or elastic from bras
or underwear do not rub against your skin.
Prevent skin cancer
Most skin cancer can be prevented by
protecting your skin from the sun. You may decrease your chances of developing
skin cancer and help prevent wrinkles by avoiding sun exposure and using sunscreen protection. Be sure to prevent sun exposure in children and older adults too.
Do not use tanning booths to get a tan. Artificial tanning
devices can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.