- Skin tags are generally harmless, but can be annoying to some.
- We don’t know exactly what causes skin tags.
- It’s recommended to have a dermatologist remove your skin tags rather than doing it yourself.
Moles, pimples, freckles — the marks that can pop up on our body are many. Some are bothersome and some are more neutral — they’re not a life-changing annoyance yet we’re aware of their presence. Skin tags can fall into either category. They’re very common — almost everyone will find one on their body at some point in their lifetime — but even still, they can be a nuisance.
Sometimes confused with moles, skin tags are small, flesh-colored, noncancerous growths attached to the surface of the skin by a slim stalk. They tend to form where the skin folds and are often found on the neck, chest, underarms, groin, and eyelids. The bad news: You can’t really avoid getting a skin tag. But the good news is that you can remove them pretty easily with a trip to the dermatologist.
Ahead, dermatologists explain everything from how to remove skin tags to what causes them.
What Is a Skin Tag?
In the medical world, skin tags are known as acrochordons or fibroepithelial polyps. They’re essentially the result of extra skin cells growing on the skin. “They grow out from your body but vertically,” dermatologist Neal Schultz, MD, previously told POPSUGAR. “Their height is usually much greater than their width. Sometimes they are virtually hanging off by a thread.” Thankfully, they are usually harmless and more annoying than anything, but they likely won’t go away without treatment.
What Causes Skin Tags?
What we do know: About 50 percent of adults in the United States have skin tags. What we don’t know: What causes skin tags. They are often hereditary and more common in those who are middle aged, obese, or people with diabetes. Friction caused by the skin rubbing against itself or your clothing can be the culprit behind skin tags. So, if you can minimize friction in the affected area (doing things like avoiding tight clothing, removing necklaces, and using anti-chafing products), that may help the situation.
How To Remove Skin Tags?
Even though they are harmless, it’s completely normal to think about removing skin tags. As with any skin condition, it’s best to visit your dermatologist to talk about your treatment options. Although it would be great to know how to remove skin tags on your own, the best skin tag remover is one that’s done by a professional. “Because they are based on a small stalk of skin, the easiest and safest way to remove them is to go to a doctor’s office,” dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla, MD, FAAD, tells POPSUGAR.
Know that there are different removal methods. One popular with dermatologists involves being numbed with local anesthetic before the growth is cut off with sharp, sterilized scissors. “You are totally awake, and it is just a small pinch of a very thin needle,” said Dr. Mariwalla. “The result is a very small cut that will heal in a few days.” Cryotherapy, or freezing the skin tag, is another option as is cauterization, or using heat.
Can I Remove Skin Tags at Home?
Full disclosure: Yes, it’s possible, but it’s definitely not recommended. “If you try to remove them at home you may do it incorrectly, leading the skin tag to become inflamed and potentially infected,” Dr. Mariwalla says.
If you don’t have access to a dermatologist or professional — and you feel that you absolutely must remove a skin tag on your own — Dr. Schultz advises tying a tight piece of string around the skin tag (after you’ve cleansed it and the surrounding area with alcohol) to cut off the blood supply to the area before cutting it off with disinfected scissors. You can dab it with alcohol and follow up with some ointment and a bandage once you’re finished, making sure you keep it covered until it heals fully to avoid scarring.
But again, at-home removal isn’t doctor approved. “Just be careful with those DIY solutions that you see on TV or the internet; those work by causing a severe irritant contact dermatitis and the skin tags fall off because the skin gets so irritated,” explained Dr. Mariwalla.
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