Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic keratosis is a benign skin growth that appears like a mole.

Last Updated: September 21, 2023

It is common in middle to old aged individuals. It occurs equally in both males and females but having lighter skin increases the chances of it developing. 


Experts do not know why this skin disease develops but they look at the events that often happen with it. The first is age, seborrheic keratoses are most common in adults over 50 and they tend to get worse as people get older. Some studies suggest that greater sun exposure leads to an increased risk of developing the condition.  Next, they also tend to run in families, which suggests that genes may have something to do with it. Lastly, they are not caused by a virus or bacteria.

Seborrheic keratoses are round or oval patches on the skin that look like they are ‘stuck on’.  Keratin, a fibrous protein, is the substance responsible for the textured detail that often makes seborrheic keratosis lesions stand out. Keratin is also the reason why some of these skin growths can look like cysts with small bubbles, scabs, or warts.

Seborrheic keratosis skin growths are usually raised above the skin so they can be felt even when they are flat. These lesions can feel scaly or waxy and most of the time they are brown, but they can also be black, tan, pink, yellow, or white. They often come in groups of several.

Seborrheic keratosis is clinically diagnosed through proper physical examination. A dermatoscope can be used to rule out other benign skin disorders and a biopsy can be done by a physician to see whether the lesion is cancerous. For this, a sample is cut out from the skin growth and examined in the laboratory. 


Seborrheic keratosis is a benign skin disorder that doesn’t usually warrant any treatment. However, there are multiple options to remove the skin growths if you wish to do so for cosmetic or other medical reasons. 

Cryotherapy is another treatment option. This approach uses liquid nitrogen or CO2 to rapidly freeze/thaw cells, killing them. Here, liquid nitrogen or CO2 is used to rapidly freeze and kill the skin growth so that they just fall off in the next few days. 

Shave excisions are another way that seborrheic keratosis can be treated. Most of the time, this method is used to treat skin problems that are mostly in the epidermis and don't involve the dermis. 

Another approach is laser therapy. There are two types, namely ablative and non-ablative laser therapy. 

Lastly, some doctors also recommend the use of Tazarotene cream 0.1%, Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) products (such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid peels), and Vitamin D3 cream.

Unfortunately, seborrheic keratosis is unpreventable but keeping your skin clean using proper hygiene and skin protection can decrease the risk of acquiring this disease.


Greco MJ, Bhutta BS. Seborrheic Keratosis. [Updated 2022 Aug 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:

Cleveland Clinic (2022). Seborrheic Keratosis. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from

Last Updated: September 21, 2023