Holy Crap—I’ve Got Barnacles!

Published: January 12, 2020

We’ve all seen them. Skin barnacles! Your once smooth body looks like a boat hull that needs dry dock! You are reluctant to wear short sleeves, or a swimsuit, lest you start a stampede of frightened onlookers! 

These little nasties are often called age spots or sun spots, but medically they’re called “Seborrheic keratoses” or “SK’s.” And honestly, they’re ugly.

They can appear at any age, but are more common after 50. As a matter of fact, most people over 60 have at least one, so you’re not alone! There is a genetic component (thanks mom and dad!) but they can also be due to chronic sun exposure. You can have a few, like I have, or you can look like the you’re descended from pachyderms. They are often accompanied by other lovely skin lesions like pretty red hemangiomas that look like blood sprinkles, or warty overgrowths that look like you’re sprouting horns. Sexy.

So, what to do. Well first, see a dermatologist. Even though treatment for SK’s is not necessary, very often malignant growths can look benign, so they will biopsy anything that looks suspicious. Once that’s done, you can talk about treatment. Because many of these are genetic, it may be hard to prevent them from appearing, but regular maintenance can help.

Sunblock is helpful to mitigate these and other skin growths, benign or malignant. Early treatment is good before they get too big. This can include light acid peels that can be done by an aesthetician, or even at home with light exfoliating agents. Many physicians have Liquid Nitrogen in the office and that can be very effective on flat and small growths.

Laser treatments, like Erbium or CO2, can work well to remove larger growths, but may require more than one treatment and have a small risk of scarring or pigment changes.

And finally, depending on where they’re located, they can be surgically removed with local anesthesia in the office.

The bottom line: You don’t have to live with those barnacles, unless you think you’ll be lonely without them!

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About The Author
Larry Pollack
Larry Pollack
Larry Pollack is a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon in Del Mar, California. In addition to co-founding and writing articles for, he has written a television presentation pilot called "Manopause" and a horror film called "Spore."
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