Wherever on the body they grow, skin tags are almost always benign growths. There are certain locations, however, that make them more bothersome and prone to irritation. One such area is the armpit because of constant skin-on-skin friction. Skin tags that grow in the armpit usually become irritated, sore, swollen, and painful; they may even bleed and become prone to infection.
Skin tags and warts are often confused with each other. But each has distinct characteristics that will help you with correct identification. Warts are raised with either a flat or slightly curved shape; they are hard to the touch; they are darkly pigmented; and they often resemble a cauliflower. Skin tags, on the other hand, are flaps of extra skin attached by a thin stalk; they are soft to the touch; and they are the same color as the surrounding skin.
Because skin tags are harmless, they are better left alone. Constant touching, pinching, twisting, or rubbing often lead to irritation and infection. Skin tags usually become a cosmetic problem when they grow in visible areas, such as the face. Most of the time, they do not go away on their own and require removal.
What Causes Skin Tags?
Practically anybody can develop skin tags, at least once in their lifetime. There are certain factors, however, that increase a person’s risk of getting them. These include being overweight; pregnancy; old age; having pre-diabetes; and a family history of skin tags.
Skin tags, unlike moles, are rarely a sign of cancer. But any sudden changes in appearance of a skin tag warrant a visit to a doctor. And skin tags that get irritated and/or infected may also require medical treatment and even removal. More often than not, though, skin tag removal is rarely necessary. Some individuals still opt to have their skin tags removed for cosmetic reasons.
Why Do Skin Tags Turn Black?
Skin tags, like moles and warts, also get blood supply. When they are starved of blood and oxygen – which is how skin tag removal usually works – they turn black, “die,” and then fall off. When a skin tag that is mostly left alone turns black, it’s most likely the result of accidental twisting.
DIY Skin Tag Removal for the Armpit
If you are unfortunate enough to grow skin tags in the armpit, you’d definitely want to try at-home removal methods so you can also get rid of the constant irritation. One of the most popular DIY options is the TagBand which removes skin tags through ligation.
The Micro TagBand is most effective for medium to large skin tags and takes between 7 and 10 days to work. This product also minimizes the risk of scarring.
- Micro TagBand works by stopping the skin tags blood supply and results can be seen within days.
- The included cone is placed over the skin tag with the removal device pushing off the band.
A great product to use for small skin tags is Apothecary Tea Tree Oil. The oil is applied directly to skin tags three times a day, every day, until they completely dry out and fall off on their own. This method takes longer than the TagBand, but it’s a safe, easy, and effective all-natural option, especially for the removal of skin tag clusters.
- Pharmaceutical grade, highly versatile essential oil
- Use to make your own shampoo, lotion, tea tree oil soap, body wash, toothpaste
Other at-home removal methods you can try include:
- Ligation with floss or string. Ligation simply means tying off the skin tag to cut off its blood and oxygen supply. You can do this yourself using a sterilized length of floss or cotton string. You simply wrap the floss/string around the bottom of the skin tag and leave it on until the skin tag falls off. This method is easy enough to do, but it carries a higher risk of infection than other DIY treatment options. Ligation is recommended for single, medium- to large-sized growths.
- Natural tea tree oil. As mentioned above, tea tree oil application works by drying out skin tags. When choosing a tea tree oil product, make sure it is a 100% natural solution. This method usually takes between 3 and 6 weeks before a skin tag “dies.” While it takes longer than ligation, it carries less risk of infection and scarring, and is also pain-free.
Another highly recommended tea tree oil brand is Bael Wellness Tea Tree Oil.
- UNIQUE KEY INGREDIENTS: Contains 47.8% Terpinen-4-OL & 2.75% Cineole. This rare but unique combination makes this tea tree oil highly antiseptic yet works virtually without irritation. Provides extremely refreshing fragrance too. This combination is UNIQUE TO THIS TEA TREE OIL ONLY.
- POTENT ACNE, FUNGUS & SKIN TAGS REMOVAL TREATMENT: Highly antiseptic properties make this tea tree oil very powerful acne remedy. Treats all kinds of skin tags and fungus including nail fungus, toenail fungus miraculously; more importantly without irritation (due to low Cineole).
- Chemical peel. The chemical used is trichloroacetic acid, which works by removing skin tags layer by layer. Handling an acid, of course, is dangerous, even if this product is meant for use on skin. You should be extra careful not to spill the acid on other areas of your skin, and to only use the recommended amount on the skin tag. Use a cotton ball or cotton swab to gently apply the acid directly on the skin tag/s in your armpit. Do this in front of a mirror as the armpit is a tricky area to treat if you’re doing it yourself.
Other Skin Tag Removal Options
Below are the treatment options usually offered by doctors:
- Freezing or cryotherapy using liquid nitrogen.
- Burning or cauterization using an electrical device.
- Laser treatment.
- Skin tag removal creams or gels. Some are available as OTC products.
- Essential oils, other than tea tree oil.
If the skin tags in your armpit are already irritated/infected, your best option is to see a doctor. Do not attempt any DIY removal methods, even OTC creams or gels, on an irritated/infected skin tag. You might end up making the problem worse and spending more and a longer time on treatment.
The armpit is an area prone to skin tags because it is prone to sweating and is constantly exposed to skin-on-skin friction – these two conditions often lead to chafing and the appearance of skin tags. The aforementioned conditions also make skin tags in the area more bothersome and prone to irritation and infection.
Shaving the armpit, of course, becomes a serious problem when you have skin tags. Cutting off a skin tag in the armpit while shaving will lead to an open wound, bleeding, and even infection. This is another reason why skin tags in the armpit may need to be removed.
Going to a Dermatologist
Unless your skin tag gets infected, their removal by a doctor will not be covered by your health insurance as the procedure will only be categorized as cosmetic in nature and not a medical necessity. This means you will have to pay out-of-pocket. And even if skin tag removal is only a minor procedure, it’s still not cheap. The price for a removal is per skin tag, and is usually about $200 each.
The location of the skin tag, its size, and your overall health condition will determine the type of procedure your dermatologist will perform. The type of procedure will determine the cost. Whether or not your skin tag removal is medically necessary, you should still contact your insurance provider to find out the following:
- If skin tag removals are covered by your insurance, whether partially or completely.
- If you need pre-authorization from your insurance provider before you make an appointment with a dermatologist.
- If the procedure is covered, what documentation will you and your doctor have to provide?
There are safe and effective over-the-counter treatment options available if you prefer an at-home removal. But if you can, you should still seek a doctor’s advice so you’ll be armed with all the information you need to take care of the “problem” yourself in the safest possible way.