Skin tags are painless, non-cancerous growths that occur on the skin, and are connected to the skin by a small, thin stalk which is called a peduncle.
While skin tags can occur anywhere on the body, they’re most commonly found in the areas where the skin folds, for example the neck, underarms, groin, thighs, eyelids, and the areas of skin under the breasts and buttocks.
Skin tags are common in both men and in women, and they tend to occur in individuals who;
Sometimes, pregnant women develop skin tags, and this is thought to be a result of the increases in hormones and weight during pregnancy, however it is possible to develop a skin tag for no reason at all.
In most instances, a skin tag will resolve on its own in a matter of weeks or months, usually painlessly.
Skin tags are harmless, and they don’t usually cause any pain or discomfort on their own, but depending on where they are located, they might get caught on clothing or jewellery, or feel uncomfortable when tight clothing causes friction.
If this happens, they can bleed, and feel tender. For this reason, and because the appearance of skin tags can affect self-esteem, many people consider having them removed.
There are some so-called treatments advertised for skin tags, but you should never undergo anything without first checking it with a medical expert, like the GP, even if these treatments involve going to see someone who claims to be qualified.
People with skin tags should also be wary that there are many websites that purport to offer natural remedies to skin tags, such as the application of tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice, but there is no scientific evidence to support these as actual remedies. Some websites even suggest dangerous ‘DIY treatment’ for skin tags (for example, using dental floss to cut off the blood flow, or applying a chemical peel to the skin), and these can have very serious complications such as bleeding, chemical burns and infection, so don’t ever try a DIY method of removing a skin tag.
Always seek medical advice, or discuss it with a pharmacist before attempting any at-home method of skin tag removal.
Symptoms of Skin Tags
Skin tags are small, soft, flesh-coloured growths on the surface of the skin, that can be varied in colour and in size, from about 2 millimetres to 5 centimetres.
They don’t tend to be sore or painful, and someone who has a skin tag may not notice it unless it is pointed out to them.
While skin tags might look similar to warts, the chief differences are that skin tags;
If a skin tag has a long enough stalk that it can become twisted, it’s possible that it could turn black due to a lack of blood flow to the skin. If this happens, it may resolve on its own, but if it does not heal, or there are signs of infection, such as;
It is essential to visit the GP or urgent care, as it might require antibiotic treatment.
Causes of Skin Tags
Skin tags are made up of blood vessels and collagen (a naturally-occurring protein found in the body), which are surrounded by an outer layer of skin.
Experts say it is not exactly clear what causes skin tags, but since they tend to show up in skin folds, friction may play a role - for example, when the skin is rubbing against other skin, or against tight, or ill-fitting clothing. There is also some suggestion that skin tags might be genetically inherited, meaning that if a parent has skin tags, their child is more likely to have one.
Some research shows that the human papilloma virus (HPV) may be a factor in the development of skin tags and that insulin resistance (which can lead to type II Diabetes) could be another factor.
Skin tags are also known to be a common side effect of pregnancy, and experts think this is because of pregnancy hormones as well as weight gain.
In quite rare cases, the appearance of multiple skin tags might be a sign of a hormone imbalance or an endocrine problem, and so if many skin tags are presenting, the GP or another medical expert might suggest endocrinological testing.
Skin tags are not contagious.
Treatment of Skin Tags at Derma
Your appointment will begin with a skin check and medical history, followed by recommended treatment options.
Treatment for a skin tag depends on several factors, including its location on your body, its size, and the degree to which it interferes with your day to day activities, but together with the dermatologist, you will discuss the latest and most effective treatments. The dermatologist will explain all potential side-effects, enabling you to select the best option for you, and depending on insurance, treatment can often be carried out the same day as the consultation.
It’s important to note that while the dermatologist can usually remove most skin tags effectively, it depends on whether removal is medically suitable – for example, if it is likely to resolve on its own without causing any serious problems, it might be better to monitor the skin tag and let it heal without intervening, since removal might not be appropriate in a certain area, like the eyelid, or could risk leaving a scar that would be more noticeable. Most people can safely have their skin tags removed, but like any medical treatment, it is important to undergo a thorough consultation beforehand.
You might need to have a skin tag removed through freezing, which is known as cryotherapy. Most people don’t need to have any anaesthetic or a follow-up appointment for cryotherapy.
In some cases, or if a skin tag is particularly large, removal might require excision, and this may mean you require stitches, or possibly follow-up appointments. If you are having a skin tag excised, and especially if you have underlying medical conditions or are taking certain types of medications, you may also need to have other investigations, like a blood test first, to make sure that you can safely undergo treatment.
Depending on the treatment, and if skin tags are recurrent, the dermatologist might advise further tests, and follow-up appointments may be required to manage your treatment.