Seeing tiny bits of soft skin growth on your body? They’re skin tags – and they usually creep up as you age.
While skin tags are common, harmless growths that cause no medical complications, they can be quite bothersome especially if they’re found on more visible areas, such as the face.
Keep reading as we give you the 411 on this type of skin growth, including how to remove skin tags.
What are skin tags?
Skin tags, also medically known as acrochorda, cutaneous papilloma, cutaneous tags, and soft fibroma, are essentially small, benign (non-cancerous) tumours of the skin.
These tiny pieces of soft, hanging skin appear more often with age, affecting both men and women over 40 equally. Skin tags also tend to crop up on those who are overweight and may be associated with diseases such as diabetes. Skin tags also commonly occur during pregnancy and are believed to be caused by hormonal changes.
While skin tags can appear anywhere on your body, they’re typically found in areas where there’s a lot of skin-to-skin friction (chafing) – like where your skin folds or where your clothing rubs against your skin – such as the neck, armpits, groin, thighs, and under the breasts. Skin tags can sometimes be found on the eyelids as well.
How do I identify a skin tag?
Unlike moles and some other skin growths, a skin tag is attached to the skin by a small, thin stalk called a peduncle, which is the main way of identification.
Apart from its peduncle, skin tags are also soft to the touch and may either appear smooth and round or wrinkly and asymmetrical.
They typically resemble rice grains and usually won’t grow to more than 2mm in size, but some people have struggled with skin tags that can grow to 1cm or even 5cm wide.
Skin tags may be flesh-coloured, but can also have a darker colour than the surrounding skin due to hyperpigmentation.
Are skin tags the same as warts?
Good question! Skin tags are different from warts, but they can sometimes be misdiagnosed as the latter.
Warts are infectious skin lesions caused by a virus and can spread if left untreated. Additionally, warts tend to have a rougher and more irregular surface, whereas skin tags tend to have a smoother, softer appearance.
Should I be concerned about skin tags?
In general, skin tags are harmless and most don’t even notice that they have skin tags unless they look closely. Some skin tags may even rub off or fall off painlessly over time.
But as skin tags are not the most pleasant to look at especially if they grow on more prominent locations of the body, they are often removed for cosmetic reasons.
In some cases, skin tags can become irritated and infected if they get repeatedly caught in clothing or are constantly rubbed or scratched. When this happens, it is better to get the skin tags removed.
What are my treatment options for skin tag removal?
As mentioned, skin tags generally require no treatment and may fall away on their own, a simple medical procedure by a certified dermatologist or similarly trained medical professional can help you remove them especially if they catch on clothing or cause pain.
Typically, skin tags are easily removed through a minor surgical procedure under topical or local anaesthesia. These surgical techniques are cauterisation (where the skin tag is burned off using electrolysis), cryosurgery (where the skin tag is frozen off using a probe containing liquid nitrogen), excision (where the skin tag is cut out with a scalpel), and ligation (where the blood supply to the skin tag is interrupted).
After such skin tag removal, it is normal for the treated area to be a bit red and scabbed for one to two weeks following the procedure. If you have skin tags on the eyelid, they will have to be removed by an ophthalmologist.
Over-the-counter skin tag removal contraptions such as patches, creams, and freezing kits are also available but most simply do not work. There are natural remedies that are said to help remove skin tags too. These natural remedies involve the use of tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and even iodine, but keep in mind that these are largely anecdotal and there’s no scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of these remedies.
You may also come across DIY removal methods online such as tying them off with dental floss or thread, or using a chemical peel, but experts say that these are largely ineffective and can leave you at greater risk of infection, bleeding, scarring, and even hyperpigmentation.
Can I pull or cut off skin tags on my own?
While skin tags can be removed just by snipping them off, it’s not really a good idea to do it yourself at home.
Why? It’s because these fleshy bits of hanging skin are actually clusters of collagen and blood vessels trapped inside thicker pieces of skin so cutting or yanking it off yourself will be extremely painful and can cause prolonged bleeding. The affected area of the skin is also at a higher risk of infection too.
Can skin tags recur?
Unfortunately, skin tags are not 100% preventable and can recur even after removal. That said, you can try to lower the chances of recurrence by practising general measures such as maintaining a healthy weight, and minimising friction and irritation in areas where skin tags are prone to occur.