Many people at some point in life live with a skin tag or two. They can be awkward and unsightly, though they are not usually hamrful in themsleves. Nonetheless, you want to try to get rid of them if you can.
Ultimately, a skin tag is an excessive growth of skin, usually manifesting itself in what might look like a very small drip of extra skin somewhere. They are often found in areas where skin rubs against skin, such as the neck, underarms, and around the groin. Some men may also get them on the chin, where they more regualrly shave.
Fortunately, they can be removed relatively easily, so if you spot a skin tag on your body do not be unduly alarmed or think you have an impossible condition. They’re treatable!
Causes of Skin Tags
Excess friction caused by clothing, jewelry, or movement of the body
The main cause of skin tags is usually from friction. This might be skin-on-skin friction in parts of the body where heat is genrated, but it could also be from clothes or adornments, such as jewelry.
Clothes and jewelry are of course easy things to adjust, so that you run less risk of developing tags. However, perhaps more problematic is that some skin tags may come from the way you move your body.
Exercise routines, work routines, or generallly the way you sit on the sofa, for example, could, over time, generate a little bit of friction, enough to cause a skin tag.
Naturally, sensible advice is to wear looser clothing, or clothes that are made from cotton, linen or fine wools. Natural materials will always make tags less likely than polyesters or lycras.
It is more difficult if your body is such that its skin rubs togehter, perhaps due to being a tad overweight. But it is not impossible to alter your body so that some areas of it feel less fleshy! That is up to you.
While there may be a genetic predisposition to skin tags, genetics is not really the primary reason for skin tags. Though skin tags may be hereditary, meaning that the skin type can be passed down through families, they are usually due to lifestyle and environmental factors, rather than genes passed down from generation to generation. Do not unduly blame your parents!
As we implied earlier, weight is a factor. The truth is that weight gain, which we know is a health issue for many, can cause skin tags.
It may sound obvious, but ultimately the way to lose weight and reduce your propensity for developing skin tags is to eat more healthily and exercise frequently. You have to consume fewer calories than you expend, and do this over a reasonable amount of time. (Check the site for further advice on losing weight.)
If losing weight is difficult for you, and skin tags are a significant issue on your body that you want addressed more substantively, then you may need to talk to a dermaotologist. They are the skin experts, and will be able to offer a detailed level of advice specific to your particular situation and the timeline over which they recommend treating the skin tags. As you will see below, some of the treatments are not ones you can carry out yourself.
Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes
There is some evidence that diabetes sufferers may have a significantly greater tendency than non-diabetes sufferers to deveop skin tags. With diabetes, the skin is commonly exposed to higher than normal levels of sugar, and it is considered likely that this may well be a factor in the growth and spread of skin tags.
If you suffer from diabetes and have skin tags, discuss the matter with your doctor. There may be specific adaptations they will suggest to you that support treating your diabetes and that also help with your tags.
Maintain a healthy weight
Weight matters in life. And if you are suffering from skin tags, then maintaining a sensible weight can help. It is, after all, quite possible that the extra weight you are carrying is partly responsible for the skin tags. Extra fat is not conducive to ensuring that skin rubs against skin as little as possible.
If you need to determine whether you are within a healthy weight range, one way is to measure your body mass index (BMI). This is not an inviolable metric, and it can be a bit ‘broad brush’, but it nonetheless gives a decent indication. The BMI metric is based on your height and weight and can provide a sensible enough judgment on whether you are carrying excess pounds. Do not be frightened by the % of fat it might come up with, however, as even a healthy range can be around 20-25% body fat. Remember that fats are essential in the body!
Practice good hygiene
This is really a life essential! Nobody enjoys the company of someone with poor hygiene. In the case of skin tags, good hygiene practices can really help reduce the probability that they will develop.
As you might imagine, it’s highly important to keep your skin clean by showering regularly and, to be especially safe, using a mild soap or body wash. Additionally, if you’re prone to skin tags, be sure to keep the affected area dry as much as possible. It is often moisture that causes the tags to develop, so a well dried skin that is not too moist or sweaty will lead to fewer skin tags.
As we said earlier, remember that wearing lose clothing is also advisable. It, too, is a part of good hygiene, especially if you are overweight.
Tieing off the tag
Using a string or dental floss to gently tie off the base of the skin tag can, depending on the size of the tag, sometimes be an option.
That said, be careful. This is not a foolproof method, and if you get it wrong your skin may bleed.
To use this method, take a piece of string or floss and gently tie it around the base of the skin tag. It will not look very attractive, so be warned. Make sure that the tied area isn’t too tight.
Ideally, you then need to leave the string or floss tied for several days, in the hope that the tourniquet effect cuts off circulation to the skin tag and that it then falls off of its own accord.
Of course, if the skin tag is tiny, or in a public place on the body, this method will not be the wisest, so exercise some common sense judgement as to whether this is an option at all.
Apply an over-the-counter topical cream designed to remove skin tags
The usual ingredient in these creams is salicylic acid, offered in a mild dose. This acid gradually dissolves the skin tags when applied directly to the affected area. Usually, you will see a difference soon, but it may stil take a few days until you see the tag fall off completely.
In applying the acid, it is essential you do all you can to avoid it touching any other unaffected area of the skin. This can be tricky, so exercise care. In the early applications, err on the side of using too little product. Remember, acid is corrosive, so though the recommended use and the product itself will be entirely safe, you still want to avoid any mild red patches appearing on surrounding skin.
Freeze the skin tag with a cryotherapy device
This is a common option, though it is not immediate either.
Cryotherapy uses the application of cold temperatures to remove the tag. Generally, this procedure is quick and painless, but it can be tricky to get exactly right, so you may wish to consult a doctor, who will be able to apply the cold temperature more exactly.
You may find that in the hours or days after the application of the cryo treatment the skin tags increse in size. This can initially be alarming, but do not worry. This is a natural side-effect of the treatment. They may also darken and blacken, which can also be notably unpleasant to see, but this is a sign of them dying off and they will eventually probably just fall off and leave your skin smooth again.
Do not try to pull them off at any stage in the process, even though it can be tempting to tug a tag that seems almost off. Resist! You may cause bleeding and the process is far better left to nature.
Have a medical professional remove the skin tag with a scalpel or electrocautery treatment
This is usually an option reserved for skin tags that are espcailly resistant to other treatments, or which are in very difficult places on the body.
The professional treatment will involve using either a scalpel or a technique known as electrocautery. Electrocautery is ultimately best described as the use of an electrically heated implement, usually a needle, to perform a medical procedure. In this case, the needle will be applied carefully to the tag to ensure that it burns off. In reality is is the inverse method to cryo treatments, but in both cases it is the use of extreme temperatures that kills the skin tag.
Both these treatments absolutely require the specialist attention of a doctor or medical professional. Both treatments have risks if carried out personally, as misapplied implements could obviously cause harm to the surrounding area of the body.
These treatments may be thought more likely for resistant tags, but sometimes a doctor may look at a tag and see that it is perfectly suited in its place and size for this treatment, as on a clear and accessible part of the body it can be very direct.
Undergo laser surgery to remove the skin tag
The use of this treatment will depend on the discussion ou have with your medical service. Undergoing laser surgery may seem intimidating, but it’s actually a reasonably straightforward process. It is another example of an ‘extreme heat’ treatment, as the surgeon or doctor will use a high-energy beam of light to heat the skin tag until it dries up and falls off.
This type of treatment is virtually painless. In addition, it is not cumbersome for you personally, and the results are quick, often, in fact, instant. Though there is always a small risk of scarring in any skin related matter, the risks here are extremely low and complications are few.
Seek injections of steroid medication to shrink the skin tag
Injection treatments are among the rarer ways of addressing skin tags, but they may nonetheless be worth discussing with your doctor or dermatologist. Many steroids are of course entirely safe to use, but some use of steroids to treat ailments can have side-effects, so you must not self-diagnose here. Talk to a professional who can assess the overall situation of the tags on your body.
When to See a Doctor
If home remedies have not worked
Generally, home remedies help, and sometimes skin tags just disappear of their own accord, but if you have consistent problems with them, you are probably wise to see a doctor. As we say, you may need to make some adjustments to your weight if the tags are appearing in fleshy areas of the body, and this in itself is sometimes worth a talk with a medical professional.
If the skin tag grows in size or changes color
If this happens, you are certainly wise to see a doctor. The chances are there is nothing unduly problematic, so do not worry unnecessarily, as skin tags can alter their shade or size naturally as part of how they die off, but if you are concerned, or if the tag changes colour but then stays or grows, you may wish to have it examined. Rapid growth of any tags is certainly something to investigate further. If it is growing significantly in size and at pace, coupled to a significant changes to coloration, for peace of mind have a chat with a doctor.
If the skin tag is bleeding or painful
As skin tags are usually painless, if you do in fact have some pain in the area, talk to a doctor without undue delay, as this is certainly an irregular symptom.
Similarly, if the tag bleeds without any obvious cause or sign of friction or abrasion, talk to a doctor.
In rare occasions skin tags can actually be skin cancers and some people misdiagnose the tags as harmless, when in fact they are anything but.
Be reassured, however, that in the overwhelming majority of cases, a tag is a tag and not a cancerous growth. But if you are genuinely concerned, of course talk to a medical proefessional who can reassure you with a definitive diagnosis.