They're totally normal and usually harmless, but here's what you need to know if you want to get rid of a skin tag or two
Skin tags are pretty common and something a lot of people worldwide have. Although they’re usually quite harmless, you may have your reasons for wanting to get one removed; perhaps it’s catching on clothing, or you’d just rather it wasn’t there.
What are skin tags?
‘Skin tags are harmless lesions or growths of the skin that can look like they are hanging off the skin surface,’ explains Dr Anjali. ‘ Medical words for skin tags include “achrocordons” and “papillomas”. They can often be found in body folds such as the neck, armpit or groin, and become more common with age.’
According to the NHS, skin tags can vary in size from just a few millimetres to as much as five centimetres wide, and are made up of loose collagen fibres and blood vessels that are surrounded by skin.
‘They are also seen more frequently in patients who are overweight or suffer with conditions such as Type 2 diabetes,’ Dr Anjali adds. ‘The exact cause of skin tags is not known, but factors such as chafing and insulin resistance have been implicated.’
How to remove skin tags
There are several methods of removal, all of which you can discuss more with your doctor or dermatologist. The NHS advises that you make an appointment with a private GP to have a skin tag removed if it’s causing you problems.
‘Common methods of removal by a GP or dermatologist include cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen), excision (with a scalpel blade or scissors), or using diathermy (heat and electricity),’ says Dr Anjali. You can discuss all of these options with your doctor or derm who will advise on the best course of treatment and next steps.
Can you remove skin tags yourself?
There are several self-removal techniques floating around the internet, but our dermatologist advises against the DIY method when it comes to skin tags. ‘It is probably not a good idea to try and remove skin tags at home, due to the potential risk of bleeding and infection,’ she says.
You’ve probably heard the very popular ‘at-home’ method of tying a piece of thread around a skin tag, so that it drops off on its own accord. But Dr Anjali advises this is not the best option because of the lack of sterility and potential for infection.
Note that the purpose of this feature is to inform, not replace one-to-one medical consultations. For advice tailored specifically to you, always discuss your health with your doctor.