Skin tags are typically harmless and do not cause any pain or discomfort. However, some people may feel self-conscious about their appearance and choose to remove them for cosmetic reasons.
Here’s a brief overview of what exactly is a skin tag and some popular methods for removal:
What Are Skin Tags?
A skin tag is a tiny, benign growth appearing on the skin. They don’t often pose any health risks and are usually harmless. However, some people may feel insecure about their appearance, so they resort to surgery to get rid of them.
Skin tags are made up of extra skin connected to the body by a thin stalk. They can be found on the neck, chest, back, or underarms. They can also occur on the eyelids or in other areas where skin rubs against skin, such as the groin.
While they can vary in size, most skin tags are small, measuring less than 1-centimeter diameter. They can be flesh-colored or slightly darker and often have a smooth, domed surface.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Skin Tags
Skin tags are often painless and do not cause any symptoms. However, some people may experience mild discomfort if the skin tag is located in an area where it rubs against clothing or other objects.
If you have a skin tag, you may notice:
- A small growth on your skin that’s connected by a thin stalk
- A smooth, domed surface
- Flesh-colored or slightly darker skin
- A growth that’s less than 1 centimeter in diameter
- Flesh-colored or slightly darker skin
Causes of Skin Tags
The root cause of skin tags is still unknown. However, they’re thought to be related to friction or skin rubbing against skin. This could explain why they’re often found in areas where the skin creases or rubs together, such as the neck, groin, and underarms.
You can see these skin disorders more often in people who are overweight or have diabetes. This could be because excess weight puts additional strain on the skin, leading to friction and subsequent skin tags.
Compared to other minor skin disorders like seborrheic keratoses (See seborrheic keratosis treatment here). It’s estimated that 50 to 60% of all adults will develop at least one skin tag in their lifetime.
How to Remove Skin Tags
There are a number of ways to remove skin tags, but some are more effective than others.
- Home remedies: Some people opt for home remedies to remove their skin tags. This includes using over-the-counter treatments, such as wart removers. However, you should note that these products are not specifically designed for skin tag removal and can cause irritation or other side effects.
- Cryotherapy: Cryotherapy is a treatment that uses freezing temperatures to destroy tissue. It’s sometimes used to remove warts but can also be effective for skin tags. During cryotherapy, the skin tag is exposed to extremely cold liquid nitrogen. This causes the tissue to freeze and eventually fall off.
- Cautery: Cautery is a process that uses heat to destroy tissue. An electric current passes through a metal rod to create heat, which is then used to cauterize the skin tag. This process destroys the tissue and causes it to fall off.
- Ligation: Ligation is a process that involves tying off the blood supply to the skin tag. This can be done with a surgical thread or other types of string. Once the blood supply has been cut off, the skin tag will eventually fall off on its own.
- Surgery: Surgery is usually reserved for larger skin tags that are difficult to remove with other methods. Your physician will make a tiny incision in your skin and remove the skin tag. Skin tag removal surgery is often performed under local anesthesia, like dermatofibroma treatment and other skin problem surgeries. See more info here about dermatofibroma.
Home Remedies to Remove Skin Tags
There are a few home remedies you can try to remove your skin tags, including:
- Compress: Soak a clean cloth in warm water and apply it to the skin tag for 15 minutes. Repeat this process three to four times a day until the skin tag falls off.
- Tea tree oil: Tea tree oil is an essential oil with antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s thought to treat skin conditions like warts and acne effectively. To use, mix a few drops of tea tree oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil or jojoba oil. Apply it to the skin tag 3-4 times per day using a cotton swab.
- Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar has long been used as a natural remedy for various skin conditions. Gently soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar, applying it to the skin tag 3-4 times per day.
- Banana peel: The vitamins and minerals in banana peels are thought to be beneficial for the skin. To use, place a small piece of banana peel over the skin tag and secure it with a bandage. Leave it on for 24 hours, then remove and repeat the process as needed.
When to See a Doctor
In most cases, skin tags don’t require medical attention and can be safely removed at home. However, you should see a doctor if:
- Your skin tag forms in an area where it’s constantly being irritated by clothing or jewelry
- You have diabetes or another condition causing changes in your skin.
- You notice signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus.
- You have a skin cancer family history.
If you’re unsure whether a growth on your skin is a skin tag or something else, it’s always safe to see a doctor for an evaluation.
Ensure to choose an experienced surgeon, such as Toronto Minor Surgery Center (TMSC), to avoid complications. TMC also offers other minor surgeries, including pyogenic granuloma (See FAQs about pyogenic granuloma on this page).
If you have a skin tag causing discomfort or simply don’t like the way it looks, talk to your surgeon first about the best treatments. There are a few options available, including cryotherapy, cauterization, ligation, and surgery. Home remedies, including apple cider vinegar or banana peels, may also be effective. In most cases, skin tags don’t require medical attention.