Acrochordons are a common skin condition. Most of us will get one or more skin tags during our lifetime – in fact, some studies suggest that up to 46% of the general population suffer from them at any given time. However, even though they are completely natural and don’t do you any harm, many people find them unsightly and want them to go away.
Anybody can get skin tags. They can grow on most areas of the body, although some areas are more prone to this condition than others. Skin tags are slightly more common among certain groups of people, too. For example, many women develop skin tags for the first time during pregnancy. Weight gain and obesity can also be a cause, as can the aging process. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop skin tags.
Unfortunately, there is no ‘guaranteed’ way to prevent skin tags from developing. There is no warning sign that a skin tag may appear, and even if there were, there are no any preventative techniques that are certain to work. Fortunately, there are many ways to remove skin tags once you develop them.
So, we’ve put together the guide below on skin tags: what they are, whether they will fall off on their own, and whether there are any ways to speed up the process. Read on to find out more.
What Are Skin Tags?
Skin tags are small, soft-textured growths that can occur anywhere on the human body. They consist of collagen (a type of protein), blood vessels, skin cells and sometimes fat cells.
Although their scientific name is acrochordons, their nickname is ‘tags’ because they hang off the skin, almost like a tag would hang from a piece of clothing. They are usually the same color as the rest of your skin, though they can be a bit darker, or be pink or red.
On occasion, skin tags appear similar to warts, but the two are completely separate conditions. Warts spread through the HPV infection, and are contagious, whereas skin tags are not. Also, warts tend to be rough to the touch, whereas skin tags are soft and smooth.
It may shock you to learn that skin tags are just small benign tumors. That being said, these kinds of tumors are not harmful in any way shape or form. They do not cause damage to your body like other kinds of tumor. No link exists between skin tags and cancer.
Skin tags are quite small, usually around the same size as a grain of rice (though they can be much more prominent or slightly smaller).
Nobody knows the exact cause of skin tags. However, the main theory is that they are caused by friction when the skin rubs up against itself. This is because they appear in places where the skin creases and folds, such as the neck, eyes, and armpit.
Clothing rubbing against skin may also cause skin tags. However, there have also been studies suggesting a genetic link, meaning that if your parents have skin tags, it’s much more likely that you’ll also develop them.
Do Skin Tags Come Off On their Own?
Skin tags can be both alarming and embarrassing. This is especially the case if it develops in a visible place where other people might see it (such as on the face). For this reason, people often wonder whether skin tags will eventually go away or fall off on their own. This isn’t an unreasonable conclusion to come to – if they develop on their own, why shouldn’t they go away on their own too?
Unfortunately, in the case of skin tags, they will not go away without some intervention. It is possible to treat warts by combating the HPV virus, for instance. But viruses (or bacteria, or anything of the sort) do not cause skin tags to appear. Skin tags, once in place, are usually there to stay.
There are some scenarios in which skin tags can go away by themselves, but it is quite rare for this to happen. Fortunately, there are lots of different ways to get rid of skin tags, both at home or at a clinic. We will discuss these below.
If you choose not to treat your skin tags, they will most likely stay with you for the rest of your life. It is also possible for skin tags to become bigger over time if not treated. Moreover, it is possible for them to irritate the skin. If the skin tag is big enough, or in a particularly awkward place, they can even catch in clothing and cause discomfort.
There are some situations in which a skin tag might go away by itself. Firstly, skin tags can sometimes become twisted through normal day to day activities. This leads to what doctors call a ‘thrombosed skin tag.’
It is possible to tell if your skin tag is twisted as the tissue will be cut off from your blood supply, and will slowly turn black. If this happens to you, you can expect the skin tag to fall off by itself once it has died. Usually, it takes about a week for the skin tag to fall off once it has become thrombosed.
Interestingly, skin tags which develop during pregnancy can also sometimes go away on their own. The reason is that hormonal fluctuations are the cause of pregnancy skin tags; once you have given birth and your hormones have gone back to normal, the skin tags that developed can sometimes drop off. This is quite rare, and scientists still do not fully understand how or why this happens. For the most part, skin tags are permanent, unless you remove them yourself.
Ligation is the medical term for ‘tying off,’ which is one of the most common methods of skin tag removal. It is very simple and usually painless. It is possible to perform ‘ligation’ at home or have your doctor do it for you. To perform this procedure at home, it is possible to find home remedy kits online.
It involves tying something around the skin tag and leaving it there until the skin tag falls off. This is usually a small band or piece of cotton – although some people even use dental floss. The band wraps around the skin tag very tightly, and by doing so, it cuts off blood supply to the growth. This means that the skin tag dies and falls off.
Although the band wraps tightly around the skin tag, it does not hurt. The skin tag may feel more sensitive to start with, and you may feel a throbbing sensation, though this will not last very long. Occasionally, the area around the skin tag may become a bit sore. However, the pain will be bearable, and you always have the option of taking pain medication if necessary.
Ligation is a fast procedure to carry out, especially when using a do-it-yourself kit. Once the band is in place, it usually takes seven to ten days for the skin tag to fall off.
Cauterization is the medical term for the ‘burning off’ method. It may sound a bit scary, but it is one of the quickest ways to get rid of a skin tag, and for this reason, it’s quite a popular method.
It involves burning the skin tag off, with the use of a small tool which gets extremely hot. When the tissue of the skin tag heats up and burns, the cells die, after which it will fall off. Cauterization is a fairly new method but is very effective.
A medical professional will be able to carry out the procedure safely and with precision. However, some people do choose to carry out the procedure themselves at home, using a specially designed cautery pen. The pain is a stinging sensation but does not last that long. This is why a doctor will use a numbing agent, to numb the tissue before it is cauterized.
Once the process is complete, the area will scab over, and it will take around a week or two for the area to heal (depending on the size of the skin tag). There is a risk of scarring, though, especially if the wound does not get time to heal. That is why it is important to leave the scab alone.
Surgical removal, or ‘excision,’ is a simple procedure although it has to be performed carefully. It involves cutting the skin tag off with a sharp instrument such as a scalpel, razor blade, scissors or knife. Most of us with skin tags have considered cutting them off at one point or another, just to get them out of the way.
We do not recommend performing excision at home. Skin tags are a part of your skin, just like a mole. They can, therefore, bleed if they are cut off. However, the pain is usually minimal and doesn’t last that long. If you get the procedure done by a doctor, they usually numb the area with anesthetic beforehand, so that you don’t feel any pain.
Once the skin tag is cut off, some pressure is applied until the blood clots, and bleeding subsides. The skin will heal in around one to two weeks, although this does depend on how big the skin tag was. Like cauterization, excision does pose a risk of scarring, especially if the area is bothered while it’s healing. If the skin tag was small, the scar shouldn’t be very noticeable.
Although you can cut your skin tag off yourself at home, it’s safer to have a medical professional do it for you, as they have the proper equipment.
Cryotherapy, or ‘freezing off,’ is a way of removing skin tags by exposing cells to extreme cold. One of the few chemicals cold enough to freeze skin tags in this way is liquid nitrogen. You can buy kits to freeze your skin tags off at home, or you can visit a doctor and have it done professionally.
Skin cells die when they are exposed to extremely cold temperatures, which is why cryotherapy is so effective. During the procedure, your doctor will either spray the area with liquid nitrogen using a canister with a thin nozzle or will apply it using a cotton swab (Q-Tip). It will feel extremely cold, and it can sometimes produce a stinging sensation. However, the procedure is rapid and is over within minutes.
Usually, only one application is necessary. For larger skin tags sometimes a second application is required. After the cryotherapy, you may find that you develop blisters around the area, and you will likely feel a bit sore. Pain medication can be taken to relieve discomfort while the area heals.
Within two to three weeks after the procedure, your skin tag will fall off. Although this may seem like quite a long time to wait, it is well worth it. Once healed, your skin should look smooth and clear, as if the skin tag was never there. Scarring is extremely rare.
Tea tree oil
Using tea tree oil to treat skin tags is a relatively new method. Tea tree oil is a 100% natural essential oil that comes from the leaves of the tea tree. It is colorless but has a strong smell that some people find unpleasant. Tea tree oil has many different benefits, and can also treat other skin conditions like acne.
It is possible to find tea tree oil available over the counter at various drug stores and supermarkets (and even online). That being said, the strength of tea tree oil can vary. It works by drying out the skin over a long period so that eventually the skin tag runs out of moisture and shrinks or falls off.
Unlike the other methods previously discussed, tea tree oil does not work instantly. It must be applied every day (up to three times a day) using a cotton ball. With regular use, most people start seeing results within three to six weeks. However, if you miss a treatment, results can take longer.
The benefit of using tea tree oil over the other methods is that it is painless. It does not leave a scar, and you can do it yourself at home very quickly. However, unfortunately, it doesn’t work for everyone.
It’s not clear why tea tree oil works for some people and not others, though it may have to do with the size and placement of the skin tag. If you can’t see any signs of improvement after six weeks, it may be a sign that it’s not working for you, and you might be better off trying one of the other methods.
We hope that our guide to skin tag removal methods has been useful for you. Remember, you are not alone – skin tags are a remarkably common skin condition. Since they affect so many people, it is little wonder that there are so many ways of tackling them.
You should have all the information you need to decide how you’re going to go about removing your skin tags. By now, you should know all about skin tags, and the most common methods of removal.