Everything You Need To Know About Skin Tags
5 minutes read
If you’re sporting those fleshy bits of excess skin, chances are – it’s a skin tag. Please don’t fret, as they’re pretty common; almost half of all adults have skin tags. They rarely cause medical complications, but they can be unsightly and bothersome for some, catching on clothes or skin friction, which means they can become sore.
If their appearance lowers your self-esteem, we have listed down expert ways to get rid of them.
Beauty Daily asked top skin experts what makes you more likely to get skin tags, how to identify and safely remove skin tags, as well as how to prevent future formations.
What are skin tags?
“Skin tags are small skin-coloured bumps that often have a thin stalk. Sometimes, they can be large and fleshy as well. They are most common in areas of friction like the neck, armpits, and groin,” Dr Karan Lal, a cosmetic dermatologist, describes.
They feel soft to the touch and are also common in the areas of the upper chest, eyelids, under the breasts, and under the folds of the buttocks. As skin tags age, they may become red or brown in colour.
According to Mount Sinai Health, they may form when skin rubs together.
“They can vary in size – from a few millimetres up to 7cm wide,” adds Esperanca Sergiou, Senior therapist at Avicenna Aesthetics and Wellbeing Clinic.
What causes getting skin tags?
“It’s not clear what causes skin tags, but possibilities are your genetic makeup or irritation from rubbing within skin folds. There is no clear evidence to suggest an unhealthy diet is a factor. However, underlying health conditions may affect your likelihood of developing skin tags,” Sergiou explains.
No one is exempt from having skin tags, men and women can develop them. However, according to the NHS, skin tags tend to occur more frequently in 60-year-old people or older, and people who are obese, have type 2 diabetes or have metabolic disorders.
“People with diabetes are more likely to develop skin tags because changing hormones and glucose fluctuations can interfere with skin cells,” Sergiou says.
This is also the case for people going through hormonal changes, such as pregnant women. In rare cases, the development of multiple skin tags may be a sign of an underlying hormonal or endocrine syndrome, such as polycystic ovary syndrome.
Others develop them for no apparent reason.
Can you safely remove skin tags yourself?
If you think removing your skin tags via a sharp cuticle scissor or nail clipper is a swift solution, you’re entirely mistaken. So, please, under no circumstances should you do a DIY removal.
“As a board-certified dermatologist who has seen it all, I do not recommend at-home removal of any growths other than warts. Moles, and even skin cancers, can sometimes look like skin tags. It is imperative to make sure what you have is a true skin tag. In addition, at-home removal can lead to infection and/or even scarring,” cautions Dr Karan.
Does apple cider vinegar remove skin tags?
A popular myth. But, unfortunately, no, apple cider vinegar doesn’t remove skin tags.
Mayo Clinic experts say home remedies can lead to skin irritation and even skin ulcers from the application of apple cider vinegar.
Best to leave your skin tags to the hands of the experts.
How to remove skin tags?
“Skin tags can be left alone but if they become irritated or increase significantly in size, a sample can be sent to a laboratory to ensure there is no presence of cancerous cells,” Sergiou explains.
Skin tags can be effectively removed via several different methods.
“Most commonly, we remove them with special scissors to get rid of the stalk, which results in the best cosmetic outcome. Some dermatologists use liquid nitrogen to freeze them off, which can result in blistering and irregular skin pigmentation. Lastly, some dermatologists burn them off using cautery. This is great for small stuck on appearing tags. There are also lasers that can be used to remove skin tags, but this must be done in the hands of a laser expert,” explains Dr Karan.
Sergiou adds that while you can remove the skin tag surgically, freeze the tag until it can be safely removed via cryotherapy or burn the skin tag off through cauterisation, he finds that cauterisation is the most effective method for safely removing skin tags.
“This is because although the healing process varies amongst individual skin types when well executed, signs of permanent scarring are slim or non-existent,” says Sergiou.
Surgical removal has the advantage of removing the skin tag completely, but there is a risk of minor bleeding according to the NHS.
Talk to your chosen skin specialist about the plan of action for you.
If uncertain, get any skin growth check
Most of the time, skin tags are harmless. They are generally common and noncancerous skin growths. Sometimes, they even fall off on their own if the tissue has twisted and died from a lack of blood supply.
However, it is best to see a dermatologist about your skin growths for peace of mind. They will diagnose whether you have skin tags or another skin disorder that can mimic the appearance of a skin tag like moles, warts and seborrheic keratoses, as well as malignant skin cancers, including melanomas.
As a rule of thumb, if you develop an unusual growth on your skin, see a dermatologist or GP immediately. The situation may be more urgent if skin growth dramatically increases in size or changes its shape and colour in a short amount of time.
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