Skin Tags – What are they and what to do about them?
Reviewed by Sandy Diaz O’Donnell, PA-C
What’s a skin tag?
You know about hashtags, geotags, price tags and photo tags. But what about skin tags? You’ve probably seen them on others or perhaps yourself without knowing what they’re called. But there they are – those little fleshy growths hanging on by a tiny end to a larger area of skin. Like a balloon on a bit of string.
Skin tags, also known as acrochordons, are quite common and mostly harmless. They are unlikely to become cancerous or lead to some other type of skin disease. Skin tags are different from warts. Warts are rough bumps caused by a viral infection while skin tags tend to be wobbly and emerge with no infectious cause. Warts occur mostly on the hands and feet. Skin tags can develop anywhere on the body, but they tend to emerge on the neck, armpits, groin, and eyelids.
Although skin tags can sometimes become irritated the main issue is one of aesthetics. Most people find skin tags unsightly and somewhat embarrassing.
What causes skin tags?
No one knows the exact cause of skin tags. And given that they are harmless, skin tags are not a top priority for scientific researchers. Skin tags are likely caused by a combination of factors, including:
Skin tags can develop in areas where your skin rubs together, such as the neck, underarms, and groin. Or even under the breasts. Tight clothing causing additional friction may also contribute to the forming of skin tags.
Skin tags can occur during pregnancy due to hormonal changes.
People with diabetes are more likely to develop skin tags.
Obesity is also a risk factor for developing skin tags, possibly because of additional skin folds.
Skin tags tend to run in families.
Additional skin folds and benign mutations at the cellular level that occur with age could trigger skin tag growth in older people.
Should you get a skin tag removed?
Because skin tags are mostly harmless, there is no medical need to remove them. It is more a matter of personal preference and wanting to feel confident in how you look.
Skin tag removal becomes more urgent if it:
becomes irritated, painful and/or bleeds
tends to get nicked during shaving or interferes with other skin care
turns painful for no apparent reason
One area where it may be important to have a skin tag removed is on an eyelid. While a skin tag on your neck may be concealed by your hair or clothes, a skin tag on your eyelid is front and center. But in addition to potentially making you self-conscious, a skin tag on an eyelid could interfere with vision. This could affect your driving.
How do dermatologists remove skin tags?
Whether a skin tag has become problematic, or you just don’t like how it looks, your CSI dermatologist can safely remove it for you; usually with just one office visit.
Based on a skin tag’s location, size and other factors, the dermatologist will decide which removal options is best for you. The methods we most often use are:
This is the removal method we use most often. Your dermatologist will numb the area, use sterile surgical scissors or a scalpel to remove the skin tag, and then apply a compress to stop any bleeding.
Sometimes we may use this method. It involves freezing the skin tag with liquid nitrogen. Although there may be some initial blistering, a scab will soon form and heal within weeks.
Other options for removal will depend on your individual situation. One option we do not recommend is trying to snip off a skin tag yourself. This might lead to excessive bleeding, infection, and scarring. Not only can your CSI dermatologist safely remove skin tags with minimal pain and scarring, they also will send any suspiciously large skin tags to one of our pathology labs to make sure it’s not cancerous.
You can schedule an appointment online with one of our dermatology offices.