Cryotherapy for Skin Lesions

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Treatment Overview

Cryotherapy is the process of destroying a skin lesion by freezing it with liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen is applied to the lesion using a cotton applicator stick or an aerosol spray.

The skin may first be numbed with a local anesthetic. The liquid nitrogen is applied or sprayed onto the lesion and the immediate surrounding tissue. The application may be repeated. A dressing may be applied to the wound.

Cryotherapy is often used to destroy precancerous skin lesions such as actinic keratoses. It can also be used to treat other skin problems like warts, seborrheic keratoses, and skin tags.

What To Expect

An area where skin tissue has been destroyed by freezing with liquid nitrogen usually heals in 3 to 6 weeks. After the procedure, keep the wound clean and dry. A scab will form over the area.

Why It Is Done

Cryotherapy for skin lesions is done to:

  • Destroy precancerous lesions like actinic keratosis. This can prevent the lesions from turning into cancer.
  • Remove lesions that are painful or bothersome.
  • Treat viral infections like warts or molluscum contagiosum.

Cryotherapy is not usually used to treat skin cancer. But it might be an option for some people.

How Well It Works

How well cryotherapy works for skin lesions depends on what is being treated. Precancerous lesions like actinic keratoses usually go away after one treatment. But things like warts may need several treatments.


The risks of cryotherapy include:

  • Scarring, including a white spot (hypopigmentation) or a dark spot (hyperpigmentation).
  • Pain or stinging during and after the procedure.
  • A wound that may take a long time to heal.
  • Infection.


Current as of: November 16, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.