Whether you’ve never seen a skin tag or you’ve developed one or two over the years, you might not know exactly what these teeny tiny tumors are (don’t worry, they’re totally noncancerous!).
We’ve got the skinny on these skin growths, including what they are, what causes them, and how you can treat and even prevent them from happening.
What are skin tags?
Skin tags are noncancerous skin growths that can develop anywhere on your skin.
They’re likely caused by skin rubbing together, or by a buildup of collagen fibers and blood vessels.
Skin tags are harmless and don’t hurt, but they can be uncomfortable at times — like when they rub against clothes or jewelry.
Treatments include surgical removal by a professional (like a dermatologist) or at home patches, creams, or kits.
Skin tags (aka acrochordons) are small, noncancerous growths that can develop on your skin. They generally don’t cause pain or discomfort, and have no effect on your health. In fact, you may not even know a skin tag exists unless you see or touch it.
Skin tags are usually the same color as your skin, but can sometimes be a little darker. They usually dangle from the skin on a stalk (called a “peduncle”) and feel soft and smooth. Tags can range in size from just a couple of millimeters to several centimeters long.
While they can grow anywhere on your body, skin tags are most often found in areas where there are creases or folds or where the skin rubs together. Skin tags commonly develop on:
Anyone can develop skin tags, and researchers suggest that 50 percent of all adults will experience at least one during their lives. They’re most common in older adults, but can appear at any age.
Even though they’re harmless and don’t need to be removed, skin tags can sometimes be uncomfy — particularly if they’re rubbing against your clothes or accessories. While they can sometimes rub or fall off on their own, you can also opt to have a medical professional treat them if they’re bugging you.
TBH, it’s not entirely clear why skin tags occur.
Because they commonly pop up in folds or creases, they might be a result of the skin rubbing against itself in these areas.
While skin tags can occur at any age, they’re most likely to pop up in mid- to late-adulthood.
Anyone can develop skin tags, regardless of gender, body type, or ethnic background. However, certain factors can increase your chance of developing skin tags, such as:
Unless you experience irritation from rubbing against your clothes, jewelry, or body, you likely won’t have any symptoms associated with skin tags. Skin tags don’t usually affect your health or cause pain. In fact, you probs won’t be bothered by them at all.
Your doc will generally do a quick evaluation to diagnose a skin tag. There isn’t an actual test for them to perform, so they’ll simply examine the area and may ask some follow-up questions about your family history.
If there are any questions or concerns, your doc may choose to perform a biopsy on your skin tag to make sure it isn’t something more serious.
Skin tags can sometimes be mistaken for other conditions, such as:
Like we’ve mentioned, skin tags are often harmless and won’t affect your health. However, they can be located in areas that can cause discomfort.
Places where your clothes or jewelry regularly rub against a skin tag may lead to irritation or even bleeding, while skin tags on your face or other highly visible areas might make you feel uncomfortable or self-conscious (no shame, we’ve all been there!).
So, even though you don’t generally *need* to have a skin tag removed, you might find that you *want* to. If your skin tag is bothering you or if you simply don’t like how it looks, there are options available for having them removed.
While there are ways to treat skin tags at home, seeking help from a dermatologist or other medical professional is the most effective — and safest — option.
There are several ways your doc might surgically remove a skin tag, including:
- cutting or shaving the tag off with a scalpel or other sharp medical instrument
- using heat to cauterize (aka burn off) the skin tag
- using liquid nitrogen to freeze the skin tag off
- cutting off blood circulation to the skin tag, causing it to fall off
We won’t sugarcoat it: Skin tag removal isn’t always painless. While your doc may give you some meds to numb the area or curb any twinges, you might experience some level of discomfort.
After the doc removes the skin tag, the area will likely scab over and start to heal, much like any other wound. There might be a scar left behind once the wound has healed, but the likelihood of scarring is minimal if you have a medical pro remove your tag.
You can purchase over-the-counter (OTC) treatments, like patches, creams, or even freezing kits (similar to OTC wart removers). You can also opt for natural remedies, like apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, or iodine.
It’s important to keep in mind that removing a tag at home is possible, but there *are* risks involved. Complications of DIY removal can include:
You also run the risk of not fully removing the tag when you decide to DIY. If the entire skin tag isn’t removed, there’s a chance that it will grow back.
You should also NEVER try to cut off a skin tag at home. This can cause all sorts of problems (hello, infection!), so best to leave any snipping to the pros.
We can’t promise that you’ll never develop a skin tag or two, but we can give you some tips to help keep them at bay.
You may be able to prevent skin tags by:
- steering clear of clothing or accessories that may irritate your skin
- maintaining a moderate weight
- exercising regularly
If you’ve had previous tags professionally (and fully!) removed by a derm, there’s little chance that past skin tags will grow back. However, this won’t stop new ones from forming in other areas.
What are skin tags caused by?
While the exact cause is uncertain, skin tags are likely the result of skin regularly rubbing against itself. They may also be caused by collagen fibers and blood vessels building up inside pieces of thick skin.
Are skin tags common?
Yes, skin tags are very common! In fact, the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology estimates that nearly 50 percent of all adults experience at least one skin tag during their lives.
What does it mean if I have skin tags?
Skin tags are harmless and usually don’t mean anything. While living with certain conditions can increase your chances of developing a skin tag, you likely have nothing to worry about.
Some factors that might increase your chances can include living with:
- high blood pressure
- polycystic ovary syndrome
- certain types of human papillomavirus
- certain skin disorders
- a family history of skin tags
Can I remove skin tags at home?
There are several OTC options for removing skin tags at home, as well as certain natural remedies you can try. However, there are many risks associated with DIY skin tag removal — including scarring, bleeding, and infection.
The safest and most effective way to remove skin tags is to seek treatment from a medical professional, like a dermatologist.
Can skin tags come back after treatment?
Professionally removed skin tags usually won’t return, but that doesn’t mean new ones won’t form in the future.
If a treated skin tag isn’t completely removed, however, there is a possibility of it growing back. This is more common in self-removal methods, since your doc will likely remove the entire tag.
Skin tags are harmless, painless skin growths that can develop anywhere on your skin. They’re likely caused by skin rubbing together, or by a buildup of collagen fibers and blood vessels.
Skin tags are usually NBD, but they can be uncomfortable at times — like when they rub against clothes or jewelry. They can also show up on places you feel self-conscious about — like your face, neck, or eyelids.
Treatments include surgical removal by a professional (like a dermatologist) or at home patches, creams, or kits. At-home treatments can be effective, but in-office treatments by a dermatologist are often safer, more permanent, and less likely to cause scarring, so reach out to a derm if you’re interested in snipping one off.