The difference between moles, warts, skin tags and cysts

skin • 3 min read

The difference between moles, warts, skin tags and cysts


Moles are usually brown, although they can vary in shade and the majority of them are raised, like a small bead on the skin, but some are flat and only identifiable by the difference in pigmentation. It’s when they’re raised that they cause the most problems as they can easily get caught on things. A tendency towards moles can run in families and they are more common in lighter skinned people, but do occur in all skin-types.


Warts are caused by an infection and tend to appear only on hands and feet. They are a noticeable growth, with tough, hard skin that is rough in texture.

They often grow in clusters and can be hard to get rid of as they have a root. Mostly they’ll go away of their own accord, but this can take two or three years and many people are embarrassed if they have visible warts on their hands.

Skin tags

Skin tags are usually caused by chafing and are soft and flexible. They can be skin coloured or have a slight brown pigmentation. Anyone can develop skin tags, but they are completely harmless – just annoying!


Cysts, sometimes described as ‘sebaceous cysts’ sometimes develop as a round lump under the skin. These can be quite small, but can also grow to several centimetres in diameter. They tend to appear on the scalp, upper back, face (especially in men) and on arms and legs. They’re totally harmless, but, the bigger they become the more noticeable they can be.

The good news is that they are all treatable and can be removed with similar approaches.

Treating ‘lumps and bumps’

Firstly, it will depend on each individual and what kind or ‘lump’ they have. Moles, warts and skin tags can be removed by freezing, laser heat, shaving down to skin level (shave excision) or by a minor surgical procedure. The method depends on the size and location of the ‘bump’ and the patient’s situation.

Cysts are generally removed under a local anaesthetic with a small incision that will have one or two stitches to aid healing.

Wherever possible treatment can be done right away, but in some cases you may be advised to make an appointment for the procedure.

When patients come to our clinics, either At Riverbanks (near Harpenden) in Bedfordshire or in London, the first step is a consultation. Before any treatment takes place the options are thoroughly discussed with the patient to ensure the treatment is the right one for them.

If a lump or bump is causing you problems or if your GP can’t help, book an online consultation with one of experts here.

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Patients love coming to Riverbanks for two reasons. The highly effective procedures we offer, many invented by Dr Ravi Jain. and the fact that they feel right at home the moment they walk through the door.