As harmless and minor skin tags are, they can be safely and effectively removed with home remedies or over-the-counter medications. The safest bet for minimal to zero risk of infection and scarring is to have it removed by a doctor, of course.
Skin tags are nothing more than small flaps or pouches of skin attached by a tiny stalk of flesh. They typically appear in skin folds, such as the eyelids, neck, armpits, and groin area. Because they are benign skin growths, i.e. they pose no health risk, removal is often a personal preference and done for cosmetic reasons.
Some people are more prone to developing skin tags than others because the condition runs in the family. Older people, people who are overweight/obese, diabetics, pregnant women, and menopausal women also have a higher risk.
Needless to say, a skin tag can be an unsightly and annoying blemish if it is bigger than normal, appears in a visible area such as the face, or is part of a cluster. Skin tags can make an individual feel extremely self-conscious and affect their self-esteem.
A skin tag can also become irritated and infected if it is constantly rubbed against another skin surface or against clothing, or snagged. Whether removal of a skin tag is a cosmetic decision or is medically necessary, going to a doctor is always a good idea.
Skin tag removal options
Your doctor will perform a visual evaluation of the skin tag. Based on this and his/her assessment of your overall condition, he/she will recommend the best treatment options.
This treatment uses liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze a skin tag. It might sting a little when the liquid nitrogen is applied to the skin tag. Only one treatment is usually required, but the skin tag will not fall off immediately. It might take a week or two for the skin tag to die, during which it will darken and shrivel.
You can perform the same procedure at home with an over-the-counter freeze spray, such as Compound W Freeze Off. It is safe and effective, and more affordable. Just make sure you follow the instructions carefully.
Your doctor might recommend surgically cutting off a skin tag if it is bigger than normal. A topical/local anaesthesia will be applied to the area so you won’t feel any pain during the procedure. Then with a scalpel, the skin tag will be cut at the base of its stalk. There will be some bleeding, as the removal will leave behind a wound.
You may feel mild pain or discomfort after the anaesthesia wears off. Your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic cream to help the wound heal faster and to prevent infection and scarring. If the skin tag was irritated/infected when it was removed, your doctor may also have the tissue biopsied to make sure there are no other conditions that will need to be addressed.
Excision/cutting of a skin tag can be performed at home with a pair of sanitized scissors or nail clippers. But we do not recommend this as there is greater risk for bleeding, infection, and scarring when such a minor surgical procedure is not done properly by a professional.
This procedure involves burning off the skin tag. There are two cauterization options: electric cauterization and laser treatment.
Electric cauterization is done by passing electric current through the skin tag using a cauterizing device. The electricity burns off the various tissue layers of the skin tag, as well as the blood vessels inside. The growth will not fall off immediately. It will first scab over, and then drop off after a week or two.
Laser treatment also burns off a skin tag by directing focused heat on it. This is a more advanced method of cauterization and has lower risk of scarring, but is more expensive. Only one treatment is usually required per skin tag.
This involves tying off the skin tag at the base of its stalk using a medical ligation band. The band cuts off circulation to the skin tag to slowly kill it. The band typically has to stay on for about 7 to 10 days before the skin tag falls off on its own.
This procedure can be done at home using a sanitized piece of floss or cotton string. It is relatively painless, although it requires dexterity to properly place the floss/string around the skin tag stalk and then tighten it. It may also be tricky to tie off a skin tag yourself if it is located in an area that is hard to reach and see.
The band may have to be retightened to make sure that the circulation is completely cut off. You will also have to make sure that it doesn’t get disturbed while it does its work. Otherwise, you will have to restart the whole process.
An over-the-counter ligation band that is specifically designed for skin tag removal is a better option for DIY ligation at home. The TagBand device, for example, is safe, effective, and relatively painless. It’s also easier to use. The skin tag dies and falls off on its own after about a week or so.
How much does it cost to have a skin tag removed by a doctor?
Going to a dermatologist will, of course, cost more than removing a skin tag yourself. But you will be paying for their expertise and the assurance that you’re in good hands; you won’t have to worry about pain, infection, and scarring.
The actual cost will depend on the kind of treatment, but the average is about $100 per skin tag, per treatment. And then there’s also the initial consultation fee when your doctor performs a medical check-up. If the procedure is cosmetic, you will definitely have to pay out-of-pocket, as cosmetic procedures are not covered by insurance. Skin tag removal will only be covered (you will still have verify with your provider) if it is medically necessary, i.e. due to infection.
Prices for treatment also varies depending on your location; and not all practices within the same area offer the same rates. You should also inquire about treatment packages, as these will save you some money.
If you have the money for it, going to a dermatologist for skin tag removal is always a good idea. Talk to your doctor about all your options; ask questions. And always follow their instructions, especially with regards to aftercare once treatment is done.