There are a lot of things that are tiny but are not cute. Skin tags are one of them. They are harmless growths, and offer no benefit whatsoever either. They literally just hang there. Sometimes they’re easy to ignore; other times they’re irritating in every sense of the word.
They are medically called “acrochordons,” or cutaneous papilloma. The Greek word “acro” means “top, summit, or extreme;” “chorde” means string. A skin tag hangs on the surface of the skin by a thin string of flesh. It is typically flesh-colored, soft, and smooth. It is an extension of the skin – also filled with collagen fibers and blood vessels.
Skin tags are non-cancerous growths that appear in areas of the body with creases and skin folds. They can develop as a single growth or in clusters. As harmless as they are, they can get itchy and irritated. What should you do when this happens?
What causes itchy skin tags?
Red, itchy, and irritated skin tags can be caused by a number of things:
- The area is often rubbed or scratched.
- The skin tag/s may be getting snagged on clothing.
- An adverse reaction to certain ingredients in skincare products.
- Extreme skin dryness.
- Sudden weather changes.
- Incorrect diagnosis.
A skin tag can be easily misdiagnosed because it can look similar to other skin growths or because their location makes correct identification difficult. An itchy growth in the anal area, for example, could be caused by warts or some other condition, such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or inflammatory bowel disease.
Any itching or burning sensation in the anal area should be checked and treated by a doctor.
Treatment options for itchy skin tags
Itchy skin tags can become more irritated over time, and even infected. They can be removed at home, or you can have a doctor perform the procedure. Here are some of the safest and most effective options.
Tea Tree Oil
Australian tea tree oil has been used by the aborigines for thousands of years as a natural remedy, particularly in healing a variety of skin conditions. And anecdotal evidence strongly suggest that tea tree oil is effective in removing skin tags.
The oil is simply applied to the skin tag 2 to 3 times daily using a cotton swab. After 3 to 6 weeks, the skin tag should dry out and fall off on its own. Because tea tree oil has antiseptic properties, there is minimal to zero risk of scarring and infection.
This method simply involves tying off the skin tag at the base of its stalk with a string or dental floss. This cuts off circulation to the growth, thereby killing it.
You can also opt to use the TagBand device which is specifically designed for skin tag ligation. The bands are easier to tie around a skin tag compared to a string or floss. They are also easier to maintain as you wait for the skin tag to fall off, which takes about 7 to 10 days.
If you do opt to go to a doctor, one of the options they will recommend is laser treatment. Depending on the size and location of the skin tag, a topical anaesthesia may be applied to the area. Most skin tags usually only require a single treatment, and the result is often immediate.
Another treatment option your doctor may offer is cryotherapy. This involves flash-freezing a skin tag with liquid nitrogen to stop the flow of blood. One or two applications are often required before the skin tag falls off. An over-the-counter freeze spray is also available, such as Compound W Freeze Off.
Before attempting to remove a skin tag yourself, it is best to consult a doctor. This is especially important if the skin tag is in a sensitive area, such as the groin or anus.
Why do skin tags occur?
Scientists theorize that skin tags develop as a result of skin rubbing against skin, which is what happens with skin folds. This is why skin tags normally appear on the eyelids, neck, underarms, groin, and anus; this is also why overweight and obese individuals often have skin tags in areas where they have excess skin folds. Because diabetics are usually overweight or obese, the disease is also associated with skin tags.
Hormonal changes are also a contributing factor. Pregnant and menopausal women are particularly susceptible to skin tags as a result of the hormonal imbalances they experience.
Certain strains of HPV have also been associated with a higher incidence of skin tags, especially among darker-skinned individuals.
A genetic predisposition to skin tags is also a known factor.
Before attempting to treat an itchy skin tag, make sure that you have properly identified the skin growth. Using the wrong treatment may result in a more serious problem. When in doubt, consult a doctor.
If the itchy skin tag is located in a sensitive area, you must take extra care in choosing a product to treat it. And you must also take extra care in following treatment instructions. Never apply any treatment directly on your genitals. Your best options is to receive treatment from a healthcare professional.