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THE GENTLEMen's DEPARTMENT

THE GENTLEMen's DEPARTMENT

April 19, 2019

Hairy Moles: Why Do Moles Grow Black Hairs?

Let’s just face it. The modern man has to take his beauty into account. That might be an awkward way to phrase it, but taking care of yourself is no longer a feminine quality. That manifests in many ways — body grooming, dressing better, hair care — and it extends to how you treat your skin. Hopefully you already understand the value of lotion and sunscreen, but that’s not enough. You also need to know about blemishes and so-called imperfections. Let’s be blunt; we’re talking about moles. You need to know how to deal with them, and in particular, those long, thick black hairs that grow out of them. That lesson starts now.

What Is a Mole?

Let’s start at the beginning. Sure, you know that brown spot on your arm is a mole, but what is it, really? A mole is a group of melanocytes that cluster together on the surface of the skin. Are you enjoying your science lesson? A melanocyte is a skin cell that produces pigment. That’s why the name sounds similar to melatonin. Any time these melatonin-producing cells clump together, you get a dark spot. That’s what we call a mole. They can range in size, shape, and color. They’re typically raised, and in some cases that can be extremely raised. In all, there’s a lot of variety to moles, and it will be important to keep that in mind as you continue learning today. Everything you’re about to read has potential exceptions because moles are so varied.

What About Mole Hair?

Mole hair is not in any way special. A mole will be hairy if it happens to grow over existing hair follicles. In those cases the hair will eventually push through the mole, and there you go. That means that a mole can have one hair, lots of hair or no hair depending on where it sits on the skin and the density of hair follicles in that area.

As for the pigment, mole hairs are typically darker because they’re pushing through melanocytes. The pigment in the mole can be collected by the hair, and this turns it dark. It’s still possible for mole hair to be light, but it’s less common. Additionally, mole hairs are often stiffer and thicker than other hairs. This has two contributing factors. First, that pigement can increase the stiffness of the hair by a little. Second, mole hairs have to push through thicker skin. This requires them to grow thicker and stiffer just to get out.

hairy moles why do moles grow black hairs

Hair Removal

There are some weird myths about mole hair. The most disturbing is that removing mole hairs can cause skin cancer. We’ll get deeper into skin cancer in a minute, but let’s dispel this myth right here and now. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that removing mole hairs causes cancer. None. If you don’t like the look of a mole hair, you can deal with it in complete safety. 

Now, removing mole hairs requires some thinking. In principle, it’s the same as removing any other hair. The hair follicle sits under the mole, so it’s not actually impacted by the cluster of darker skin cells. You can cut or pull mole hairs to get rid of them, and generally speaking, both are perfectly safe. Since mole hair isn’t that dense, most people opt for plucking. Simply grab some blunted tweezers and give those bad boys a yank. There’s no more to it than that.

Since you are removing hair, it can come with a few complications. Plucking (and other methods) can cause irritation to the skin. Irritation to a mole can feel a little more extreme, so if that’s a problem, consider trimming the hair instead. Also, removing mole hair can potentially lead to an ingrown hair. If that does happen to you, treat it like any other ingrown hair. It’s not too big a deal to handle. As always, if it looks like it might be getting infected, see a doctor.

Lastly, we have to consider shaving. This is the one way moles can be different from other hair removal. Since they can get pretty raised and tough, shaving isn’t always a safe option. If there’s a risk of snagging the razor on the mole, don’t try it. Accidentally cutting or removing a mole with a razor can cause serious scarring and other complications. If you really want to get rid of a mole, talk to a dermatologist.

The Cancer Talk

We’re all adults here, and that means we have to be serious sometimes. Any talk of moles should include the cancer talk. They can be an indicator of developing skin cancer, and you want to take that seriously. Most moles are not cancerous, but it’s prevalent enough that you should be inspecting your skin and your moles once a month. This is doubly important once you break into your 30s and beyond.

The best way to determine if a mole is dangerous is to ask a doctor, but that’s not always practical. To help you identify risky moles, doctors have come up with a simple method. They call it the ABCDE approach, and you’re going to see how it works right now.

hairy moles why do moles grow black hairs

A stands for asymmetry. A healthy mole is round and symmetrical. If you have one lacking in that department, let an expert check it out. B refers to borders. You want your moles to have smooth, regular borders. Sharp edges are the enemy here.

C is for color. There’s not an inherent “correct” color for a mole to be. What you want to see is regular color throughout the mole and consistent colors from mole to mole. If one is particularly dark or has a discolored spot on it, that’s a warning sign.

D reminds you to check the diameter. There’s a huge caveat to this because everyone grows different sized moles. That said, most people will have moles smaller than the diameter of a pencil eraser. If all of yours are bigger than that, then you’re looking for exceptionally large moles. Otherwise, moles that are average sized shouldn’t have you worried.

Lastly, we get to E. In this case it stands for evolution. The annoying thing about moles is that they change over time. A healthy mole can become cancerous. Now, that shouldn’t have you in  a state of panic. Instead it should convince you to get to know your moles. If they do become cancerous, they’ll typically give you a warning sign. Moles that change in shape, size or color are moles that need to see a doctor. Additionally, moles that become persistently itchy, exhibit bleeding or get crusty need to be inspected by an expert.

Let’s wrap up this cancer talk by circling back to mole hair. We already said that removing the hairs won’t cause cancer. That’s true, but do mole hairs indicate cancer? No. As you read a minute ago, the hair follicles are under the mole. That means that hair in a mole is actually a sign that everything is healthy. While it is theoretically possible for a hairy mole to be cancerous, it’s quite uncommon. The healthy hair is a good sign. But, that does bring us to the final warning sign that isn’t in the ABCDE inspection. A hairy mole that suddenly stops growing hair should concern you. There are reasons other than cancer for this to happen, but one way or another that hair follicle has become less healthy, and you should probably talk to your doctor about that.

Hopefully you’re satisfied. You just learned more about moles than most people want to experience, but now you’re better equipped to manage your skin health. You know that moles are typically healthy parts of your body. You know how to manage mole hair rather than fear it. Most importantly, you’re equipped to keep a close eye on your skin to detect any dangerous signs as early as possible. That’s the most important thing when fighting cancer, and it’s the most important thing when being proactive about your health. Enjoy your newfound knowledge. And, you should probably moisturize, or something.

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