Treatment for seborrheic keratosis, a tumor forming in the outer layer of skin, is usually unnecessary. However, most people with the condition undergo some sort of medical intervention. Options include cryotherapy, shave excision, laser therapy, topical medications, and electrodesiccation — with or without curettage.

Some topical products are available over the counter, so a person may use these at home.

Home remedies are unlikely to treat seborrheic keratosis. Many people undergo medical intervention for various reasons, such as to improve their appearance or to remove a lesion that appears suspicious of cancer. Speak to a dermatologist about concerns and possible treatment options.

This article discusses seborrheic keratosis treatment, including cryotherapy, shave excisions, laser therapy, and topical medications. It also examines when treatment is necessary and answers common questions.

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Seborrheic keratosis refers to a tumor that forms in the outer layer of the skin. It is the most common noncancerous skin tumor, affecting more than 80 million Americans.

Because it is not a cancer, treatment is frequently unnecessary. However, people may undergo a medical intervention if it:

  • is unsightly
  • gets caught on jewelry or clothing
  • is changing, bleeding, or growing, which indicates an increased risk of being or becoming cancer
  • becomes irritated easily

Individuals with many seborrheic keratosis lesions should receive careful evaluations because they can conceal cancerous lesions.

Learn more about seborrheic keratosis, including how lesions can appear.

Cryotherapy is the most common and readily available treatment. It is effective, and people generally tolerate it well.

The intervention involves the application of liquid nitrogen to the growth with a cotton swap or spray gun. This destroys the growth, and it tends to fall off within days. Thicker lesions may require multiple applications. Sometimes, a blister will develop, dry to a scab-like crust, and fall off.

Additionally, since a doctor cannot examine the lesion under a microscope to see if cancer is present, cryotherapy should be an option solely for individuals with a low risk of cancer.

Learn more about cryotherapy.

Shave excisions are for lesions that are mainly within the outer skin layer — epidermis — without the involvement of the middle skin layer — dermis. The procedure necessitates the application of a numbing medication, such as lidocaine, to the site.

One method involves the removal of a thin slice of tissue with a scalpel, double-edged razor blade, or exfoliating blade. Afterward, a lab can perform tests on the specimen.

An alternate method to shave excision is electrodesiccation, with or without curettage. Curettage involves scraping or removing tissue and can be painful. Therefore, if a doctor uses curettage, they will first apply a numbing medication before the procedure. Following this is electrodesiccation, which applies an electric current to destroy the growth.

Doctors usually repeat this multiple times to ensure the removal of the affected tissue. While it has a low rate of negative effects, complications may include:

  • scarring
  • infection
  • increased pigmentation

Laser therapy uses light energy to burn the growth and seal the tissue. There are two types: ablative and nonablative. Ablative involves the laser removing the top layer of skin. Nonablative involves the laser treating the underlying layers of skin, without changing the surface.

Learn more about laser skin resurfacing.

Topical medications are creams and gels that people can apply directly to the skin. Some options may include medications for thickened skin, such as:

  • tazarotene, which is a vitamin A derivative
  • alpha hydroxy acids, which exfoliate the skin
  • imiquimod cream, which treats certain types of growths on the skin
  • urea ointment, which exfoliates and moistens the skin
  • medications similar to vitamin D, such as tacalcitol (Curatoderm, Bonalfa) and calcipotriol (Ciclodan, Loprox, Loprox TS, CNL8, Penlac)
  • diclofenac gel, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug
  • potassium dobesilate, which inhibits a substance involved in tumor formation
  • 40% hydrogen peroxide, which a 2019 review indicates may be an alternative to surgery

Below are some frequently asked questions on seborrheic keratosis treatment:

What is the best treatment for seborrheic keratosis at home?

Some topical products that treat seborrheic keratosis are available without a prescription, including:

  • 0.1% tazarotene cream
  • vitamin D3 cream
  • alpha hydroxy acid products

That said, a person who wishes to treat their condition at home should ask a doctor for a recommendation.

Is there an ointment for seborrheic keratosis?

Topical products come in different forms, including ointments, creams, and gels. Ointments have a thicker consistency and contain more oil than other forms.

However, someone looking for a topical product to use at home to treat seborrheic keratosis does not need to limit their options to ointments. Whatever product a doctor recommends is best, regardless of the form.

Seborrheic keratosis treatment involves cryotherapy, shave excisions, laser therapy, and electrodesiccation — with or without curettage. Topical medications are an additional treatment option.

Since the condition is not cancerous, treatment is usually unnecessary. That said, many people undergo a medical intervention for various reasons, such as to improve their appearance or to remove a lesion that appears suspicious of cancer.

It is worth noting that sometimes, many lesions may conceal a cancerous lesion. Consequently, a person who experiences this should receive more careful evaluation and monitoring.