What aftercare is recommended post mole removal?
I had two large moles on my back and I was close to ripping them off a few times, so I decided I should have them removed by a surgeon before I do something stupid. My doctor recommended using hydrogen peroxide and band aids to cover the wound. Is there something else I can do to speed up the healing process? I kind of miss sleeping on my back.
First of all, let me say that you made the right choice in getting your moles surgically removed by a professional rather than attempting to do it yourself. DIY methods can lead to infections, hyperpigmentation, and severe scarring, so let this be a warning to anyone else who might read this!
In regard to healing time, you should be fine to sleep on your back within a week or two (provided the healing process goes smoothly). At the risk of contradicting your doctor's aftercare instructions, I recommend not using hydrogen peroxide as part of your mole removal aftercare routine. Research shows that hydrogen peroxide is toxic to new cells and can interfere with the healing of the wounds. You should also avoid using Neosporin as it is not hypoallergenic, which can lead to side effects that may irritate the skin and impede healing.
Instead, I recommend using an ointment such as Vaseline, Aquaphor or a simple petroleum jelly to keep your skin clean and hydrated. These products are inexpensive and can be purchased over the counter at your local drugstore. Apply the ointment twice a day after washing the wound site with water and a gentle soap. Continue this routine until the skin has healed over. This usually takes a week or two.
You can cover the wound site with a Band-Aid for an extra layer of protection if you wish. Don’t worry about removing it to let the skin air out. A Band-Aid helps keeps the skin moist as the wound heals and prevents a scab from forming (contrary to popular belief, a scab is not optimal for healing wounds and usually results in more visible scarring). I also recommend minimizing sun exposure and applying sunscreen whenever the treated area is exposed to the sun. Your skin will be more susceptible to sun damage in the months following your mole removal procedure, which can affect the cosmetic outcome.
Most doctors these days advise against hydrogen peroxide. While it can certainly prevent infection of the wound site, it’s also known to be toxic and can have an adverse effect on your skin as the tissue around the wound tries to heal.
Unless your surgeon had very good reason to prescribe hydrogen peroxide, I recommend a more gentle solution such as petroleum jelly, like Vaseline. Continue to apply it for a couple of weeks until the wound heals over. You can also use a Band-Aid if you wish, but this is optional as the petroleum jelly will provide adequate protection for the wound. If you notice any signs of infection (such as excessive swelling, redness beyond the wound site, experience chills or a fever), follow up with your doctor immediately.
The initial healing process is fairly quick, and you should be able to sleep on your back after about a week following the mole removal procedure. The skin around the surgical site will continue to go through subtle changes over the next year or so, however.
If you’re concerned about the visibility of your scars, there are a few things you can do to help your skin heal. Staying out of the sun as much as possible (or applying a strong sunscreen) can reduce the risk of hyperpigmentation, which will otherwise make your scars more noticeable. In addition, some scar maturation products can promote healing and reduce scars. Be sure to talk to your doctor before using these products.
Beyond these simple strategies, it’s simply a matter of of time.