What are skin tags and should you be concerned?

How To Remove Skin Tags - Jennifer Lopez

Are you freaking out about that weird skin lesion? Here’s what you need to know

Beauty Crew Contributing Editor / November 29 2018

It’s not quite a mole, pretty sure it’s not a wart. What on earth are those fleshy little bumps hanging off your skin? Allow us to introduce you to your skin tags. Don’t freak out - they are completely harmless. Just more of an annoyance than anything. And while there’s no need to rush off and get them removed (we repeat, they are not a medical emergency), we get that you’d rather not have them in your life. In which case, this is what you can do - and everything else you need to know about these weird and not-so-wonderful things called skin tags.

What are skin tags?

We’ve already established they’re small, fleshy and odd-looking, but seriously, what are they?! “Skin tags are harmless fleshy skin-coloured growths made up of collagen fibres and blood vessels that hang off the skin, and can range from a few millimetres to a few centimetres in size,” explains Canberra-based Consultant Dermatologist and Skin Surgeon, Dr Leona Yip. She adds that you’ll most likely find skin tags - also known as acrochordons - in skin folds like your neck, armpit, under the breasts and around the groin. “These are areas that are prone to skin friction where the opposing sides of skin rubs against each other.” They can also form along the lash line of the eyelid.

What causes skin tags?

We’re afraid the reasons behind your skin tags are still relatively unknown, other than the aforementioned skin friction. “In most people, a cause is not apparent,” says Dr Yip, but notes that “People who are overweight, have diabetes or are pregnant [are] more prone to developing skin tags”.

Can you prevent skin tags?

While there is no foolproof method for preventing skin tags, given they’re often caused by skin friction, what you can do is avoid things rubbing against your skin, like jewellery and too-tight or ill-fitting clothes (bras are a top culprit). 

Is it possible for a skin tag to become infected?

Dr Yip notes that while it’s uncommon to experience an infected skin tag, it’s likely they may become red, inflamed and itchy if they're constantly rubbing against clothing and jewellery. “If there is infection, it is usually red, swollen and painful and may have pus discharge and a malodour [an unpleasant odour].” If this occurs, apply an antiseptic cream to mild irritations or see a dermatologist if the pain is more severe.

The difference between a skin tag vs wart

Not sure if your skin lesion is actually a wart? Dr Yip explains how to tell the two apart: “A skin tag is usually soft and hangs off the skin with a narrow base. Warts are rough, scaly and raised bumps on the skin surface caused by viruses, therefore they can spread easily to other body areas and may be contagious to others.” If you can’t figure out which one has taken up residence on your body, it’s best to see your GP or dermatologist. Moles can also look similar to skin tags, so when in doubt (as some moles can be cancerous), it’s always best to get them checked by a skin professional. 

How to remove skin tags

They may be little more than an uninvited skin blemish, but we get that you’re probably pretty keen to know how to get rid of skin tags. The best thing you can do is go and see a dermatologist for safe skin tag removal as you don’t want to cause scarring, infection or bleeding.

“My preferred method is snip excision (cutting off the skin tag base with sterile surgical scissors) and cautery of the base to help stop bleeding and reduces the chance of regrowth,” says Dr Yip. “This method allows multiple skin tags to be removed in the one session and is usually scarless. Extensive treatment may need local anaesthetic. Other methods used by dermatologists include cryotherapy (freezing), surgical excision and ablative laser.”

How to remove skin tags at home

Contemplating a DIY skin tag removal approach? Please proceed with caution. Remember, skin tags are firmly attached and have their own blood vessel supply. 

There are a few at-home skin tag removal kit options you can pick up from pharmacies - some products are designed to freeze small skin tags, others involve wrapping small rubber bands around the skin tag to cut off the blood supply, and we’ve also seen ones where you apply a solution to the tag and cover it in a bandaid to hinder the supply of oxygen.

We’ve also heard about natural skin tag removal remedies like tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar, and while we can’t see any major harm in giving them a go (other than potential redness and irritation if your skin is sensitive to these ingredients), there is no scientific evidence to prove they will work. 

Want more expert advice from a dermatologist? These are the 10 things top dermatologists wish you'd stop doing.

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Do you have any skin tags? Have you had any success removing them? We’d love you to share your experiences and tips with us below!

Main image credit: Getty

Chelsea is BEAUTYcrew’s Contributing Editor. She has a sweet spot for anything that claims to make skin glow and won’t leave the house without a slick of mascara. Chelsea has 10 years of experience as a beauty editor and her words can be found on BEAUTYcrew, Women’s Health, Daily Addict, The Joye and Primped.