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Mole vs. Wart vs. Skin Tag: Key Differences and Skin Care Tips

Woman showing her birthmarks on neck skin.

Human skin is the body’s largest organ. It is a complex organ that protects the body while allowing it to breathe and perspire and is susceptible to environmental and medical ailments.

Common skin conditions include warts, moles, and skin tags, all of which can appear on the skin without warning. Despite their prevalence, these conditions are often confused with one another. Understanding the differences between these skin growths is crucial for good health and cosmetic reasons. Here, we’ll clarify what each condition represents, their causes, and how they can be treated, and explore the treatment options available at SpaMedica.

Let’s begin by delineating each type of skin growth and its common causes.

What is a Wart?

Warts are skin growths caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts can develop anywhere but are most often found on the hands, feet (plantar warts), and knees. They have a rough texture and are often rounded in shape, although flat warts can also develop around skin lesions. Filiform warts are smaller projections of 1-2 mm around the eyes or lips.

What Causes Warts?

The primary cause of warts is an infection with the human papillomavirus. HPV is a group of more than two hundred related viruses which are easily transmitted between humans or from infected surfaces to humans. Most of these viruses are benign and asymptomatic, apart from the strain of the virus that causes warts. The wart-producing type of HPV can be spread through direct contact with a wart or through contact with surfaces touched by someone with warts, such as towels or bathmats.

What is a Mole?

Moles are small, dark brown or black spots on the skin that are usually round or oval. They are caused by clusters of pigmented cells and are commonly found on skin exposed to the sun.

Moles can be flat or raised, smooth or rough, and may contain hair. Atypical moles should be monitored because a certain kind (melanoma) can be an earlier indicator of a developing skin cancer. If in doubt, do consult a dermatologist.

What Causes Moles?

Most moles develop due to a combination of genetic factors and sun exposure. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can stimulate the skin cells that produce melanin, leading to the formation of moles.

To avoid developing excessive benign moles, or melanomas, avoid prolonged sun exposure, and use sun block when out in strong sunlight.

What are Skin Tags?

Skin tags are small, soft, flesh-colored bumps that hang off the skin and are commonly found on the neck, armpits, and groin.

Unlike moles, skin tags are typically small and have a stalk.

What Causes Skin Tags?

Skin tags develop primarily due to friction and are more common in regions where skin rubs against clothing or itself. Additionally, certain medical conditions like diabetes and obesity can increase the likelihood of developing skin tags.

Difference Between Skin Tags, Warts, and Moles

Warts vs. Moles vs. Skin Tags

Here is a summary of the differences in nature, causes, and treatments for these three most prevalent types of skin growths:

Criteria Moles Warts Skin Tags
Appearance Small, dark spots; flat or raised Rough-textured growths; rounded Small, soft, flesh-coloured bumps
Location Sun-exposed skin Hands, feet, knees Neck, armpits, groin
Cause Genetics / sun exposure Human papillomavirus Friction, certain medical conditions*
Treatment Monitoring, removal if necessary Salicylic acid, freezing Clipping, freezing

*Conditions may include insulin resistance, high blood pressure, hormone imbalance, polycystic ovary syndrome, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, skin cancer, or pregnancy.

Risks of Moles, Warts, and Skin Tags Turning into Skin Cancer

While moles are usually harmless, they can develop into melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer. It is essential to monitor moles for any changes in size, shape, color, or texture. Unlike moles, warts and skin tags do not typically turn into skin cancer.

If you are worried that your skin may be developing melanomas (potentially cancer-indicating moles), you can conduct a mole inspection following the acronym ABCDE:

  • A: asymmetry. Melanomas may have an irregular shape, rather than being evenly round or oval.
  • B: border. Unlike benign moles, melanomas may have blurry or jagged boundaries.
  • C: color. Moles tend to be an even color, whereas melanomas may vary in tone across the same feature.
  • D: diameter. Melanomas tend to be over 6mm in diameter, i.e. much larger than moles.
  • E: evolving. Unlike benign moles, melanomas may change in size or shape over time. They may also itch, bleed or become crusty.

You can ask a friend or loved one to inspect moles in hard-to-reach locations.

When to See a Doctor

It is crucial to consult a doctor if any mole or skin growth changes in appearance, becomes painful, or bleeds. However, if you are in any way concerned about a skin condition, a consultation with a skincare professional can help provide peace of mind, even if the blemishes are entirely benign.

Early detection and treatment are key to managing skin conditions effectively. Talk to one of our dermatologists at SpaMedica for effective diagnosis and treatment options.

Treatment Options

Professional treatment options at SpaMedica include laser therapy, cryotherapy, and surgical removal for moles, warts, and skin tags. Each method has its own specific applications and advantages depending on the type of skin condition being treated.

Here is a brief breakdown of each type of skin blemish treatment available at SpaMedica:

Laser Therapy

Mole Removal - Patient Before and After Gallery – Photo 2

Laser therapy uses focused light beams (lasers) to treat various skin conditions. In the case of moles, warts, and skin tags, the laser is used to precisely target and destroy unwanted skin growth without significantly damaging the surrounding skin. This method is effective for removing warts and skin tags and can also be used to lighten or remove moles. The procedure typically results in minimal scarring and is preferred for its precision and quick recovery times.


Cryotherapy involves the application of extreme cold, usually through liquid nitrogen, to freeze and destroy abnormal skin tissue. This method is commonly used for treating warts and skin tags. The extreme cold causes the cells within the wart or skin tag to freeze and die, after which the treated growth falls off, within a matter of days or a week. Cryotherapy is quick, effective, and has a low risk of scarring, but it may require multiple visits to achieve complete removal, especially for larger or stubborn warts.

Surgical Removal

Surgical removal, or excision, is a more traditional method where a doctor physically cuts out the mole, wart, or skin tag using a scalpel. This method is often used when an accurate diagnosis or complete removal of a mole is necessary, particularly if there is a concern about skin cancer. The procedure is usually performed under local anaesthetic and may require stitches, depending on the size of the cut. Surgical removal is highly effective in ensuring removal but can leave a scar, making it less desirable for highly visible areas unless medically necessary.

Each of the above treatments can be highly effective depending on the individual’s specific condition, the size and location of the growth, and the desired aesthetic outcome.

For more detailed information, please refer to our dedicated pages on Mole Removal and Mole and Skin Tag Treatments.

Skin Blemishes: The Bottom Line

Understanding the differences between moles, warts, and skin tags is essential for proper skin care and treatment. At SpaMedica, we offer professional consultations and personalized treatment plans to help you achieve the best possible results.

Why not book an initial consultation today?


Can skin tags, moles, and warts naturally disappear over time?

Yes, some small warts and skin tags may disappear over time, but moles do not usually go away on their own. If you believe you may have a melanoma, it is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Do home remedies for wart or mole removal work?

Home remedies are not recommended as they can be ineffective and potentially harmful. Professional treatment from a medical skincare specialist is advised.

What are the similarities between sakin tags, warts, vs moles?

All three conditions are common skin growths that may cause concern due to their appearance. However, all three are usually benign.

How can I tell if it’s a wart or a mole?

Warts are typically rough and raised, while moles are smoother and darker. Consulting a dermatologist should provide a definitive diagnosis.

Is it safe to remove a wart by cutting it off?

No, cutting off a wart is not safe and can lead to infection and scarring. Professional medical treatment is the safest approach. Always talk to a specialist before acting.

by Amber Chen

Dr. Amber Chen is a highly respected practitioner in non-invasive cosmetic treatments. She holds a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Toronto Medical School and a certification from the Canadian Board of Aesthetic Medicine (CBAM). Dr. Chen's exceptional skills have been refined under the mentorship of cosmetic physicians and plastic surgeons across Canada and Asia.
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