Skin tags (acrochordons) are small, fleshy-colored benign tumors that are sometimes confused with other skin conditions, most notably genital warts. In reality, these tiny growths are easy to identify when you know how to spot the signs.
They’re peduncular, which means that they hang off the skin slightly on a thin stalk. Skin tags are typically found on fleshy areas of the face and body like the neck, armpits, anus, and eyelids. They can appear just about anywhere on the skin of men and women.
You’re here because you’re seeking answers to questions that are of concern to you. We’re going to answer every query you’ve ever had on the subject, from the relatively common to the obscure and unusual. That way, you’ll understand the problem and your mind can be put at rest.
If you’re wondering why skin tags occur, the underlying causes, how you can remove them, if they’re hereditary, and whether they will grow back after removal, this guide is what you need. We aim to help you make sense of a cosmetic skin issue that affects millions of people.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the subject…
Skin Tags Questions & Answers [Q&A]
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
What Are Skin Tags?
They are small pieces of skin that hang off the body from a connecting stalk (known medically as a peduncle). They’re made up of clusters of collagen and blood vessels, which have become trapped between thicker pieces of skin.
What Is the Cause?
The cause of skin tags isn’t 100% clear, but scientists have been able to pinpoint a few risk factors.
These include the following:
- They’re more common in areas where the skin creases, such as the groin. This lends evidence to the theory that they’re caused by friction when the skin rubs against itself.
- They affect some people more than others. If you are obese, you are more likely to develop them than someone of a healthy weight. Logically, this is because overweight individuals are more likely to have a higher number of skin folds.
- The incidence rises with age. Looser-hanging skin, weight gain, and hormonal changes are the likes reasons.
- Pregnant women are also at higher risk due to fast weight gain and hormonal fluctuations. They sometimes go away on their own after giving birth once the hormones start to settle down.
- If you use or have used steroids, you are also at risk. Steroids can cause a buildup of collagen in the body, and when the skin fibers around the collagen start to bond, skin tags are formed.
- It appears that there is a slight hereditary element.
- The HPV virus has also been flagged up as a reason, but clinical trial results are mixed.
- It has also been linked with hyperinsulinemia, which is associated with diabetes.
What Does a Skin Tag Look Like When It Starts?
Early in their development, they may look like a flattened bump on the skin. You can feel it, and it will be slightly raised, but it won’t look like the classic skin tag with a stalk yet.
Most tags will start off very small – usually a maximum of 2-3mm in diameter, and sometimes as small as 1mm across. As time progresses, they tend to increase in size. It is possible to get large skin tags.
What Is Another Name for Skin Tags?
Though ‘skin tag’ is the most popular term, there are many other ways that medical professionals describe this condition.
These include the following:
- Skin polyp
- Fibroepithelial polyp
- Fibrovascular papilloma
- Soft fibroma
- Fibroma molle
- Acrochordon (the plural of which is ‘acrochorda’)
Can They Grow Bigger?
Yes, skin tags can often start off small and grow bigger. Skin polyps often start off very small – sometimes around 2mm in diameter. But over time, they can start to grow. The blood flow to the area fuels its growth, and the consistent friction in the area can provide perfect conditions for the skin tag to get much bigger.
Some people have observed skin tags the size of grapes in areas like their armpits and neck. This can be unsightly and cause embarrassment for the individuals concerned. If you’ve noticed that your skin tag is growing, see a doctor or consider at-home skin tag removal.
Can They Bleed?
Yes, skin tags can bleed. This can occur for many reasons. You might accidentally cut one while you’re shaving. They can tear during simple activities like getting changed or exercising. It’s important to try and avoid the area while shaving and try not to stretch, rub or pull the benign growth unnecessarily.
Irritation can also cause bleeding. For example, if you have a skin tag on your armpit and regularly wear a backpack that rubs against it, this can cause irritation. If it is situated in your groin area and you regularly ride a bike, this could present a problem.
Can They Grow Back?
Many people wonder whether skin tags can grow back in the same place after removal.
Fortunately, if a skin tag has been removed properly in the first place, it’s unlikely it will come back in the position. However, if you are susceptible to them developing, there’s nothing to prevent one forming in a similar area, or somewhere else on your body.
Getting rid of skin tags doesn’t necessarily mean you will never develop one again – it just means you’re highly unlikely to develop one in the same location. They may appear very nearby giving the appearance that has a skin tag has grown back.
Are Skin Tags Dangerous?
Skin tags are not dangerous at all.
They are benign tumors of the skin, and they cause no other harmful side-effects to the body. However, they can be quite unsightly and embarrassing for the individual.
When they’re identified correctly and removed, it’s not because of any imminent danger (it’s not skin cancer), but rather for aesthetic and cosmetic reasons. Check with your family doctor if you’re unsure what you have is a skin tag.
If you’re getting skin tags because you’re overweight or exhibiting pre-diabetes symptoms, these medical issues should be addressed.
Are They a Sign of Diabetes?
Yes, they can be one of the earliest warning signs that you may develop diabetes.
Skin tags around the neck can be a symptom of pre-diabetes – a condition where your body becomes more resistant to the effects of insulin. As your resistance increases, your body must produce more insulin to get the same result, until eventually, the pancreas becomes exhausted. Type 2 diabetes is the result.
They can appear years before a sugar imbalance may even show up in your blood. If you’re starting to experience a lot of skin tags (or clusters), especially in the neck area, see a doctor for some tests.
You should also look at changing your diet, doing more exercise, and losing weight to combat the onset of diabetes.
It’s important to remember that simply removing skin tags won’t halt the progression of diabetes. You need to look at the underlying causes and address those, rather than simply removing the cosmetic manifestations of a condition.
Can You Prevent Skin Tags?
If you want to prevent skin tags from forming in the first place, we need to consider the risk factors. These can include being overweight, hormonal fluctuations, tight clothing, and friction between folds in the skin.
- One of the best ways you can prevent skin tags from occurring is to lose weight. Even losing a few pounds will reduce the number of skin creases you may have. This can also result in less sweat and friction in your skin folds.
- Your clothing also plays an important role in their development. If you constantly wear tight clothing, you could be putting yourself at higher risk of skin tags. Try to stick to looser clothing with breathable materials which don’t cause too much friction.
- If you struggle with friction in places like under your breasts or around the neck, you could try a medicated powder. These can help reduce the irritation in the area and keep it dry, which can be a powerful tool when avoiding skin tags.
Can a Skin Tag Turn Into Cancer?
Any lump or bump on the body can cause people to panic about developing cancer. A strange lump or odd-looking mole is usually one of the first signs of cancer, so it’s natural when you see a skin tag that you might immediately assume the worst.
Fortunately, they are completely benign, and there is currently no evidence to suggest that a skin tag can turn into cancer.
- Important: If you’re worried about a bump or lump on your skin, it’s always recommended that you see a doctor. A correct diagnosis is essential, so you should always look out for jagged lines, changing colors, and sudden increases in size. But if you truly do have skin tags, you likely have nothing to worry about in terms of developing cancer.
Can You Get Them from HPV?
The answer to this question is a little more complicated than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Experts believe that there is some link between the human papillomavirus (HPV) and tags – but only in some cases.
Many people confuse warts with skin tags and vice-versa. Warts are almost entirely caused by HPV, and they require very specific treatment to get rid of. Skin tags, on the other hand, are only associated with HPV some of the time, and even then, there are other risk factors involved.
Having some version of HPV isn’t usually enough to cause skin tags alone – there are often other factors involved, including being overweight and being pre-diabetic.
What Is the Difference Between a Wart and a Skin Tag?
On the surface, warts and skin tags look very similar. However, they are very different skin conditions with different causes.
Warts are almost entirely caused by the human papillomavirus. This virus stimulated increase cell growth which can cause warts to appear. Warts tend to have a much rougher surface than skin tags, and they’re usually flat or slightly raised from the skin. They’re extremely contagious and are treated with topical creams or cryotherapy.
No one is entirely sure of the cause – but doctors know enough to confidently say that they’re not related to warts. Skin tags are usually caused by friction, hormonal changes, and insulin resistance. They hang from a ‘stalk’, so they look like they sit naturally away from the skin. Skin tags can also be treated with cryotherapy.
Are They Contagious?
Not at all! They are not caused by a virus or infection, which means they can’t be spread from person to person. Genital warts, which be confused with skin tags, are highly contagious. If you have a skin tag, there’s no risk of you passing it to another person.
Why Do You Get Them During Pregnancy?
Many pregnant women notice that they develop skin tags while they’re carrying a child.
This happens for many reasons, the first being the hormonal changes that are taking place in the body. Pregnancy does incredible things to an individual, causing side-effects that range from food cravings and mood swings to snoring and excess saliva production. So it’s not a stretch to think that the hormonal changes could also be responsible for skin tag development.
It’s normal for women to put on weight, which can also increase the risk. The underarms, under the breasts, under the stomach, and around the pelvic area can all be at increased risk. The extra friction caused by the excess weight and heightened blood flow around the chest and stomach area make perfect conditions for skin tags to appear.
Why Is My Skin Tag Turning Black?
If you’ve noticed that your skin tag has turned black, you might start to panic that there’s something wrong. The good news is that you don’t need to worry at all.
A skin tag which has turned black overnight or over the course of a few days has had its oxygen supply cut off. This means that it’s in the process of dying, and it will likely fall off on its own in the next few days.
This is called a clotted or thrombosed skin tag. It’s very common after pregnancy when a woman’s body and the hormones within are returning to normal. It’s not as common in other cases, but it has been known to happen.
Can They Be Red in Color?
Skin tags are usually fleshy in color – but in some cases, skin tags can turn red. This happens for many reasons. Redness is usually a sign of irritation. If you’ve been wearing tight clothing, or if there’s been a large amount of friction at the site of the skin tag, that could explain why it’s suddenly turned red.
A skin tag turning red could also be a sign that more blood has been drawn to the area. This could feed the skin tag and cause it to get bigger. While this is harmless, it can still be worrisome for individuals who don’t want their skin tags to show in public.
If your skin tag is going red, it could also be a sign of infection. If you find that the skin tag is hurting as well as being red, you should visit a doctor or dermatologist. They will identify whether you have an infection and offer the best course of treatment to get rid of it.
Can You Pop a Skin Tag?
Many people ask whether skin tags can be popped or burst. This is because a host of other skin complaints like boils and pimples can be popped. These conditions are often filled with pus or bile, and this liquid needs to be drained off before it can heal – so for many people, the idea of popping a skin tag seems to make sense.
However, they are not filled with a substance that needs to be drained. In fact, they’re often filled with blood. Puncturing a skin tag will not speed up healing or drain away any excess fluid – it will only cause pain and pointless bleeding.
There are many other ways you can get rid of a skin tag, but popping one will not have any positive effect.
Can Skin Tags Be Painful?
They aren’t usually painful, and they don’t cause side effects that might cause pain.
But in certain circumstances, you might experience pain as a result of your skin tag. This is often because the skin tag has been caught, nicked or irritated in some way.
If you’ve cut the skin tag while shaving, or if you’ve been wearing clothing that has caused irritation in the area, the skin tag might become tender and painful to the touch. This should fade away within a few hours or days, as long as the friction doesn’t continue.
Are They Hereditary?
There does seem to be some genetic factors in the development of skin tags.
If any of your close family members have skin tags, there’s a likelihood that you are susceptible to them. It doesn’t mean you will develop them, as there are other factors at play, including weight, hormones and insulin resistance. But if your family members have skin tags, you will be at higher risk of developing them.
What Does It Mean When You Have Skin Tags?
Skin tags aren’t usually a sign or a red flag for an underlying illness – though they can be an indicator that you are suffering from hyperinsulinemia or pre-diabetes.
Skin tags are one of the most common skin conditions that adults can suffer from, and they’re usually just a result of increased friction in an area where the skin folds.
You can even treat a skin tag at home, and you won’t need a doctor’s appointment unless the skin tag is somewhere inconvenient (such as an eyelid or around the genitals).
Can Skin Tags Go Away on Their Own?
The only circumstance when skin tags ‘ may’ go away on their own is after pregnancy. They can form during pregnancy as a result of hormone changes within the body.
When estrogen and progesterone levels return to pre-pregnancy levels, the skin tags can drop off of their own accord. But in most situations, skin tags will not go away on their own unless they somehow become twisted and deprived of oxygen.
If you have a skin tag that isn’t the result of pregnancy hormone changes, you’ll need to treat them or live with them.
How Do You Get Rid of a Skin Tag?
There are methods that can be used to get rid of skin tags, both with the help of a doctor and in the comfort of your own home.
Here are some of the most common methods:
- Ligation – this is when you tie off the base of the skin tag with cotton or dental floss to restrict the blood supply and cause it to fall off. We prefer the TagBand because it’s more sterile.
- You can cut off the skin tag with fine sterile scissors if it is small, with a narrow base. This can be painful, and you may prefer a doctor to remove it for you surgically after numbing the area. Surgical removal is likely to cause scarring.
- Burning or freezing a skin tag can be done at home or your local doctor’s office. This can cause irritation and temporary discoloration of the surrounding skin. There’s also a chance the skin tag might not fall off completely.
How Does Tea Tree Oil Work?
Applying natural tea tree oil to the area is a great way to remove a skin tag or a cluster of them.
Tea tree oil dries out skin tags over the course of a few weeks, making it much harder for the skin tag to receive a reliable supply of oxygen. It’s much cheaper and safer than some other options, and it’s 100% natural.
How Do I Get Rid Of Skin Tags under My Arms?
Skin tags are prone to developing under the arms because of the friction and sweat.
You can apply tea tree oil to this area to get rid of skin tags once they develop – they may fall off in a matter of weeks. You can also tie off the skin tag (you may need a friend’s help), or see your doctor about other options for removal in this tricky location.
Can You Just Cut Off a Skin Tag?
Yes, you can, but the area should be cleaned and numbed.
It’s vital that you use sterilized equipment for this task, or you could risk infecting the area and causing more problems for your skin. There may be some blood after you’ve cut the skin tag off. Apply pressure to the area with a clean pad or gauze, and cover with a bandage for the next two days.
Avoid this approach on visible and sensitive areas.
Can You Freeze Off Skin Tags?
Yes – this is one of the options a doctor will recommend if you visit them with your problem. There are also some cryotherapy products available on the market if you feel confident enough to tackle the problem yourself.
How Does a Dermatologist Remove a Skin Tag?
A dermatologist would use any of the conventional methods to remove a skin tag.
They would use their own medical education to make an informed decision about the method of removal. This could be cryotherapy, and they could cut it off with sterile equipment or use the ligation method, which starves the skin tag of blood flow. Cauterization and laser treatment are also used.
Can You Remove Skin Tags with Wart Remover?
It is possible to use wart removers on skin tags.
Wart removers often contain salicylic acid, which helps to break down skin tissues. Over time, the skin tag will reduce in size and disappear completely. Some wart removers are more suited to treating skin tags than others.
How Much Does It Cost to Get Rid of Skin Tags?
This depends entirely on the method of removal you use.
There are some low-cost removal options, like using the TagBand to get rid of your skin tag. You could pay as little as $20 for a DIY skin tag remover, but some work better than others. We’ve tested 20+ products, and only about 5 get acceptable/consistent results.
Treatment costs from a doctor vary, but you should expect to pay hundreds of dollars. They may offer savings if you’re getting many of these small growths removed in the same session. Costs aren’t covered by your health insurance.
How Long Does It Take for a Skin Tag to Fall Off?
If you’ve tied off the skin tag and are waiting for it to fall off after being deprived of oxygen, it’ll likely be gone in about one week. Some will fall off within just 4 or 5 days. Much depends on the size and how well you’ve done the job.
If you use natural methods, not many of them work. The ones that do work, such as tea tree oil, typically take about 3 to 6 weeks. Results vary.
Cutting off a skin tag works instantly, but it’ll result in bleeding and will likely leave a scar.
How Long Does It Take To Heal After Removal?
Many treatments remove the skin tag within days, but it could take a couple of weeks for the scab to fall off or for the pink surrounding skin to return to its normal color. Never disturb the scab/area prematurely.
The general rule is the quicker that you carry out removal, the longer it’ll take to heal. For example, excision is an instant treatment, but the healing process is likely to take several weeks.
You can apply aloe vera to the area to assist with the healing process.
Will I Need Rest After Removal?
You should be free to resume your daily activity immediately. It’s a very basic procedure.
Some people take time off work to heal a visible skin tag, but it’s not necessary.
Can You Shower After Removal?
It’s recommended that you keep the skin tag covered with a bandage for around 24-72 hours after removal.
After this time has passed, you can remove the bandage and clean the area with warm water. You can shower after skin tag removal, but just make sure you’re not too rough with the affected area. Make sure the water you use isn’t too hot or cold.
If you have a scab that is healing, try to clean around the area. You mustn’t dislodge the scab.
Are Skin Tags Linked with PCOS?
It’s estimated that around 1 in 10 women suffers from PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), and many of these women go on to develop skin tags.
PCOS is a condition that many experts believe is linked to insulin resistance. This explains why women that have PCOS might find themselves at higher risk of developing skin tags.
When Should I Feel Concerned?
Skin tags are largely harmless if a little unsightly.
You should only be worried about a skin tag if it’s causing you serious irritation. Skin tags can appear on the face or around the eyes – and if they grow, they can occasionally inhibit your vision or cause you pain when you talk or eat.
Similarly, skin tags can occur in places where they are regularly caught or pulled. If this is the case, and you’re experiencing regularly bleeding or irritation from the skin tag, see a doctor about removal.
Can I Leave Them Alone?
Yes, you can. If you have a skin tag that isn’t usually visible and isn’t causing you any irritation, there’s no reason to remove it. If the skin tag starts to grow and irritate you, this may be a good time to look at removal.
Most people get them removed for cosmetic reasons. There is an argument for removing them before they get any worse.
Are There Any Natural Remedies?
We’ve already touched on tea tree oil as a great way to get rid of a skin tag. It doesn’t work for everyone, but there are a sufficient number of success stories to indicate that it works really well.
Are They a Sign of Poor Health?
Not necessarily. Skin tags can appear in those undergoing hormonal changes, such as women who are pregnant. They can also appear as a result of friction between skin folds. Some people are simply more prone to the characteristics of a typical sufferer.
Skin tags are more likely in those who are overweight or those who suffer from insulin resistance, so they can be a sign of poor health. But this isn’t the case for everyone. You’ll likely already know if lifestyle and dietary changes are required.
Can You Pull Off Skin Tags?
Skin tags can often be quite loose and fleshy, and they can move around quite freely. This leads many people to believe that they can simply be pulled off the surface of the skin.
It’s not recommended that you try to pull off your skin tags. The constant pulling motion required to loosen the skin can cause soreness, and leave you with an infected skin tag. Pulling at it can also make it more visible, which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid.
What If My Skin Tag Won’t Stop Bleeding?
Whether you’ve caught the skin tag on something and ripped the skin, or whether you’ve tried to cut off the skin tag, you might find yourself in a situation where it won’t stop bleeding.
Apply pressure to the area for at least ten minutes. Resist the temptation to keep stopping and checking whether the bleeding has stopped. If it hasn’t stopped bleeding and doesn’t look like it’s clotting from this constant pressure, see a doctor.
Can You Get Skin Tags Around The Anus?
Yes – these are usually called rectal skin tags.
They’re often mistaken for warts or piles (hemorrhoids). Many people treat the issue in the belief that they have piles but then find out that the treatment doesn’t work.
Anal skin tags can be removed in the same way as regular skin tags, but you may prefer to see a doctor who can perform the procedure more effectively in this delicate area. Medical assistance is essential if you have skin tags inside the anus.
Here is some information on anal skin tag recovery and complications.
Does Skin Tag Removal Hurt?
It depends on a variety of factors. If you’re removing a large skin tag, it could be quite painful. This is because it affects more nerve endings and it’s more likely to be blood-filled.
The same goes if you’re removing a skin tag in a sensitive area, like the anus or genitals. Most people experience discomfort during and after removal when removal is carried out in these areas.
The method of removal can also affect the pain levels, as can your tolerance for pain. In most cases, discomfort is very mild and only lasts for a few minutes.
Never attempt to remove a skin tag that’s infected.
Are They Itchy?
Skin tags shouldn’t cause much irritation if left on their own. But if you wear tight clothing or catch them on things, they can become itchy, which can then cause soreness and swelling in the area.
A skin tag itches when healing, but you may also experience itchiness if you have a different skin condition, such as a sexually transmitted disease (STD). You may wish to check this with a doctor if the itchiness is near to the anus or genitals.
A correct diagnosis is essential, but it can be difficult to carry out in some difficult-to-see positions.
Does Removal Cause Scarring?
When you’re removing a growth from the skin, there’s always a risk that there may be some scarring left behind after treatment. If this is a concern, you should avoid certain procedures, such as surgical removal, on visible areas of the face and body.
Avoid prematurely removing scabs and allow them to come off on their own.
We hope this has answered every question you could have about skin tags! This is how to remove skin tags.