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What Causes Moles to form on Skin & Face

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What causes moles on skin? What has caused this mole on my face? I have a mole on my body, what has caused it? These are some of the questions that you will find around in most online forums dedicated to beauty and health. If you can relate to any of the above questions, then this article is for you. We’ll highlight the common causes of moles so that you are better informed on ways in which you can prevent their appearance particularly if you are at higher risk of getting moles. Enjoy reading.

What Causes Moles on Skin?

According to the Mayo Clinic, moles are “clusters of pigmented cells that often appear as small, dark brown spots.” Although moles are generally harmless, they can become cancerous leading to melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. The question however is “What causes moles on skin?”

Hairy moles on a woman's face
What causes moles on skin?

Well, moles are often the result of clustered growth of melanocytes, the cells responsible for skin pigmentation. These cells are found in the two upper layers of the skin and produce melanin, the natural pigment that gives the hair, skin and iris of the eyes their natural colour.

Under normal circumstances, melanocytes are spread evenly throughout the skin but when they grow in clusters, moles form as a result. This can happen at any time of someone’s lifetime but moles tend to occur over the first 30 years of life (Some moles may however grow later on). It is usual to have around 10 to 40 moles by adulthood, either as single entities or in groups.

Moles can form in any location of the body but they tend to occur more often in areas that are frequently exposed to sunlight especially the arms, face, chest, hands and neck. As the years go by, moles may undergo gradual transformation as to become raised or have a different shade of colour and in some instances, the moles may even grow hair.

This does not however always happen and some moles may not have any changes at all and yet still others may disappear completely.

Let us now look at some of the factors that many cause moles on the skin.

Genetic predisposition

Genetics is among the most important factors for the development of skin moles. Some people may be born with one or more moles, while others develop moles in later stages of life whereby the moles occur and often fade away after some years especially after the age of 40 years.

Even then, some people are genetically predisposed to developing moles than others. This is especially thought to be the case among those people who have lots of moles all over their body. The dysplastic nevi form of moles is in particular thought to be influenced very much by the genetic makeup of individuals.

If you have lots of moles, you can tell whether you are genetically predisposed by taking a look at your first-degree relatives especially your parents and siblings. If a significant number of your relatives have a large number of moles, then chances are that you are as well predisposed to them.

Exposure to sunlight

Spending a lot of time in the sunlight is also known to lead to higher risk of growing moles on the skin. According to the National Cancer Institute, melanocytes produce more melanin when exposed to sunlight which can darken the skin resulting in a suntan. This effect of UV rays is thought to be behind the formation of moles.

It is thus not surprising that moles usually tend to grow on areas of the skin that are more exposed to sunlight. As The National Health Service of the UK notes, “People with fair skin often have more moles than people with darker skin”.


Moles can increase in number during teenage due to the hormonal changes that often characterize such times.

What Causes Moles on Face?

What causes moles on the face? Well, genetic makeup of an individual may be to blame and so can be excessive exposure to sunlight and the

Changes in growth pattern of melanocytes may cause growth of moles

natural ageing process e.g. hitting teenage.

These factors can make the melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin to either grow together in clustered manner rather than in their normally distributed manner, or produce more melanin leading to a darker shade of color in the area affected. These often results in growth of a mole.

The face is especially susceptible to sunlight induced moles since it gets the most exposure to sunlight compared to other areas of the body such as chest and trunk.

In a Nutshell What Causes Moles to Form?

What causes moles to grow? What makes moles to appear? In a nutshell, moles form because of:

  • Changes in growth pattern of melanocytes; the cells that produce melanin, the pigment responsible for the color of the skin. Some people may be genetically predisposed to this occurrence.
  • Prolonged exposure to sunlight: If you had lots of exposure to sunlight growing up as a kid, you may be more susceptible to moles.
  • Hormonal changes: During teenage, the number of moles may increase. The hormonal changes normally associated with pregnancy can also make the already existing moles darker and more visible.

    A woman sunbathing
    Sunbathing can cause moles on the body

What Causes Moles on the Body?

So what causes moles on the body? For the purpose of this discussion, we’ll assume that the term body refers to the trunk.

Since the trunk is usually less exposed to sunlight compared to other areas such as arms, face, neck and hands, it is less susceptible to the effects of sunlight with regard to the formation of moles. An exception is those people who are into the habit of sunbathing.

This makes genetic predisposition and hormonal changes due to natural ageing process the two most likely suspects for moles on body even though sunlight exposure can not be completely ruled out.

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