Medically known as acrochordons, skin tags are basically fleshy skin protrusions that are relatively harmless. Adults 45 years old and up, pregnant women, overweight or obese individuals, and diabetics are more prone to developing skin tags, but almost anyone can get at least one in their lifetime.
Skin tags are small, soft, and flesh-colored growths that look like pouches. Inside are collagen fibers and blood vessels. They usually grow on the eyelids, neck, underarms, groin area, and buttocks. They are benign growths – which means they are not cancerous; they are not contagious; and they normally do not cause discomfort or pain. A skin tag can be left alone, but it can also be removed if it becomes bothersome.
Why do skin tags form in the first place? Can they be prevented?
What causes skin tags?
Doctors still do not understand exactly what causes skin tags. But where skin tags typically appear offers a clue. These growths normally develop in areas of the body where there are creases and skin folds: the eyelids, neck, under breasts, underarms, groin area, and the underside of the buttocks. These locations suggest that skin tags form as a result of skin rubbing on skin or even against clothing and jewelry.
This theory is also supported by the fact that overweight and obese individuals are also prone to skin tags in areas where they have extra skin folds. Because people with diabetes are more often than not overweight, they have a high risk of developing skin tags.
The susceptibility of pregnant women to skin tags also suggests that their appearance can be associated with hormonal changes. And then there is the genetic factor; skin tags may also run in families.
Frequently wearing tight clothing may increase one’s risk for skin tags.
Who are at risk for developing skin tags?
Practically anyone can have skin tags, but some have a higher risk than others.
- Overweight or obese individuals
- Pregnant women
- Menopausal women
- The elderly
- Steroid users
- People with a genetic predisposition
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way of preventing skin tags. What you can do is reduce or avoid the risk factors. This means maintaining a healthy weight by having a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Living a healthy lifestyle will also help prevent diabetes. Maintain a healthy skincare routine to minimize the harmful effects of skin friction and chafing; this becomes even more important as you get older.
Hormonal imbalances associated with menopause can be managed through hormone therapy. You should discuss your options with your doctor. Visiting a dermatologist for routine skin check-ups is also a great idea.
Is it safe to remove skin tags at home?
Skin tags are harmless and can be left untouched. They can be bothersome and unsightly if they’re bigger than normal, occur in a cluster, or appear in a visible area and affect your self-esteem. They can also get snagged on clothing or constantly rubbed; this can cause irritation, bleeding, and even infection.
Whether it’s for cosmetic purposes or a medical necessity, there are ways to safely remove skin tags at home. Consulting a doctor, of course, should always be a first option. Even if you’re not gonna have a doctor remove a skin tag for you, they can, at least, give you advice on safe and effective treatment options you can do at home. Remember that because skin tags are part of your skin, any attempt at removing them pose a risk for pain, infection, and/or scarring.
If you will opt for a medical procedure, your doctor will recommend several treatment options.
- Surgical excision is a minor procedure that involves cutting off a skin tag with a scalpel or pair of scissors. Topical anaesthesia will be applied to the area, so you don’t have to worry about pain.
- Cauterization involves burning off the skin tag using electricity.
- Laser treatment also burns off a skin tag, but with heat.
- Cryotherapy involves flash-freezing a skin tag with liquid nitrogen.
Your doctor will recommend the most appropriate treatment depending on the size and location of the skin tag that will be removed. Your overall health will also be considered. These removal methods typically have minimal to zero risk of scarring and/or infection.
If the skin tag removal is for cosmetic reasons, you will have to pay for your check-up and treatment out-of-pocket as cosmetic procedures are not covered by insurance. If the removal is medically necessary, however, i.e. the skin tag is irritated or infected, your insurance might cover the procedure; you should verify this with your insurance provider.
You can remove a skin tag, yourself, at home. There are over-the-counter skin tag removal products that are safe and effective. These are more affordable, but treatment does not provide immediate results.
You can try a skin tag cream or a ligation kit, such as the TagBand skin tag remover device. Ligation involves tying off the skin tag at the base of its stalk to cut off its circulation. After a week or so, the skin tag will die and fall off on its own. The TagBand device is specifically designed for skin tags so the bands are easy to use. But you can also tie off a skin tag using a piece of floss or cotton string, although placing and tightening it around the tiny stalk of the skin tag might prove tricky.
- TagBand works by stopping the skin tags blood supply and results can be seen within days
- The TagBand cone is placed over the skin tag with the removal device pushing off the band
Tea tree oil is a natural remedy option. The oil works by drying out the skin tag until it dies and falls off. You will have to apply the oil 2 to 3 times a day, and it usually takes 3 to 6 weeks before the skin tag falls off on its own. A good product to consider is Apothecary Tea Tree Oil.
- Pharmaceutical grade, highly versatile essential oil
- Use to make your own shampoo, lotion, tea tree oil soap, body wash, toothpaste
Skin tags are relatively harmless and do not have to be removed, unless they become a bother. Most people wish to remove a skin tag as a personal preference. Unfortunately, skin tags can’t be prevented as their exact cause is not yet known. What is known are the risk factors, and if you can minimize your risks, then you can also reduce the likelihood that you’ll develop a skin tag.