Sometimes it is not obvious just from looking at the skin what is going on. Possible skin cancers can be diagnosed and the cause of rashes can be determined by taking a sample of the skin. This small piece of skin can then be evaluated underneath the microscope. This procedure is known as a skin biopsy. If your dermatologist feels that this is necessary, she will first ask for your permission to do this test. The skin biopsy takes less than five minutes and involves very little discomfort.

Once you give permission to move forward with the skin biopsy, the area to be biopsied will be photographed so that a photo can be placed in your medical record. The part of the skin that will be biopsied will first be wiped with an alcohol pad. The area will be numbed using a local anesthetic. This means that you will just get a tiny shot in the area to numb the skin. You will not be put to sleep. The shot feels like a pinch and it burns a little bit. This minimal discomfort lasts less than 10 seconds. After this, nothing in the skin biopsy will hurt. You may feel the physician touching or pressing on your skin but nothing should feel painful. Sometimes it may feel like a gentle tugging sensation on the skin but it will not hurt. A tiny piece of skin will be removed. If necessary, two small stitches will be place in the skin. The dermatologist will be able to tell you prior to the procedure if stitches will be needed for your particular skin biopsy. After doing the procedure, a bandage will be placed on the skin. You will be given instructions regarding how to take care of the skin in the days after the biopsy. You will be called with the results of the biopsy in several days.