Some people are more prone to skin tags than others; you could be among the 60% of adults who will get at least one skin tag between the age of 45 and 70. Younger individuals can also get skin tags, but the condition seems to be more prevalent among older people. Why is this so?
Skin tags are a benign skin condition. They usually appear as tiny, flesh-colored growths that often go unnoticed, particularly when they develop in inconspicuous areas of the body. They may appear individually, or, if you’re unlucky, they may grow as a cluster.
The definitive answer as to why skin tags develop is yet to be determined by scientists. A popular theory is that skin tags form as a result of friction, such as when skin constantly rubs against skin, clothing, or jewelry. This seems to be supported by the common occurrence of skin tags in the underarms, groin area, and anus, and among people who are overweight or obese and have extra folds of skin that constantly rub against each other.
But age also seems to be a factor.
Are skin tags more common after a certain age?
This seems to be the case. Skin tags are a rare occurrence among young adults, and they are even rarer among teenagers and children. The pattern of incidence shows that skin tags become more common or are more likely to appear among older adults, or those that have reached their midlife – specifically, adults over the age of 45.
There are several factors that contribute to the increased risk for skin tags among older adults, and knowing them can help you take measures to minimize your own risk.
Weight Gain and Diabetes
As people age, they can more easily gain weight because their metabolism slows down and their physical activity also declines. Any amount of weight gain that increases skin-on-skin friction can result in skin tags. Continued weight gain can, of course, eventually lead to being overweight or obese and either one of these, in turn, also increases the risk for more serious health problems, such as diabetes.
Diabetes is a common consequence of being overweight/obese, and also becomes more likely as people age. Developing diabetes, therefore, further multiplies the risk for developing skin tags.
Another age-related factor is the skin’s loss of elasticity. When the skin begins to sag, it is more likely to rub against other areas of the body, clothing, or jewelry and result in the appearance of skin tags.
A family history of skin tags does not always mean that every individual in succeeding generations will develop these skin growths. What this means is that you may be susceptible to developing skin tags, particularly once you reach a certain age.
Women are more prone to developing skin tags than men mostly as a result of the hormonal changes/imbalances they experience during pregnancy and menopause. Hormonal changes can also lead to weight gain and, therefore, skin tags.
Are there treatment options?
There are a variety of treatment options available to remove skin tags. Because they are mostly harmless, however, removal is not necessary. Skin tag removal is often done when the skin tag is considered a cosmetic problem – that is, when it affects one’s looks and self-esteem. A skin tag may also become irritated and bothersome when it frequently gets snagged or rubbed. If a skin tag becomes infected, a biopsy might be done by a doctor and removal may become a medical necessity.
Skin tag removal involves cutting off the blood flow to the growth, thereby killing it. The skin tag then falls off on its own.
Having a doctor remove a skin tag is always preferable to doing it yourself. Treatment options that are commonly offered include:
- Surgical excision, which involves cutting off the skin tag at the base of its stalk using a scalpel.
- Laser treatment, which burns off the skin tag.
- Electric cauterization, which is another method of burning with the application of heat.
- Cryotherapy, which involves flash-freezing a skin tag using liquid nitrogen.
Alternative removal methods are just as safe and effective, and include:
- Ligation, or tying off the skin tag using an over-the-counter ligation band such as the TagBand Skin Tag Removal Device. This can also be done with a piece of sanitized floss or cotton string.
- Over-the-counter skin tag creams.
- Over-the-counter freeze sprays.
- Tea tree oil.
Needless to say, there is always a higher risk of scarring and infection if a skin tag is removed without the help of a medical professional. Additionally, skin tag removal takes longer when alternative, at-home treatments are used.
Skin Tag and Age
Changes in skin health and appearance are a common consequence of aging. Developing skin tags becomes more common as people age, but this skin condition poses no health risk. If you notice anything that bothers you, however, it is best to consult a physician.
Once they appear, skin tags typically stay for life. You can have them removed or employ alternative treatment options at home. If your skin tags are the result of more than just aging, such as weight gain, you can prevent more skin tags from developing by making lifestyle changes. Having a healthier lifestyle as you age is always a great idea, anyway.