Skin tags are small growths on the skin that look a bit like warts. They are connected to the skin by a small, thin stalk.
Skin tags are common, especially as a person ages. They don’t cause any harm, but if you have a skin tag that is bothering you, you should talk to your doctor about having it removed.
They are usually less than 2mm in size, but they can grow much larger. They feel soft, and can be smooth and round, wrinkly and uneven, or look like a grain of rice. They can be flesh coloured or darker, sometimes dark blue.
If you ever notice a new spot or growth on your skin, you should always see your doctor to confirm what it is. Read more about whether you should be checked for skin cancer.
Skin tags are made of collagen (a type of protein) and blood vessels surrounded by skin. They are usually found in the folds of the skin, for example, in the armpits, groin, thighs, eyelids, neck or under the breasts.
What are the symptoms of skin tags?
Most skin tags are painless and don’t cause any symptoms. But if they rub on clothing or jewellery, they may get sore and bleed.
Skin tags look different from warts and other benign skin lesions because of the small stalk that attaches them to the skin. Warts tend to be flat, while skin tags hang off the skin.
What causes skin tags?
Skin tags occur when extra cells grow in the top layers of the skin. They tend to develop when the skin rubs against itself, so are more common in people who are overweight and therefore have folds of skin.
They grow both in men and women and are more common in older people and people living with type 2 diabetes. Pregnant women are also more likely to develop skin tags, although they usually disappear after the baby is born.
How To Remove Skin Tags at Home
While small skin tags will usually rub off on their own, most stay attached to your skin. For the most part, though, they come off pretty easily.
Still, you should always consult your doctor before attempting to remove a skin tag on your own. If the removal isn’t successful, it can lead to burning, scarring, bleeding, irritation, or infection.
1. Bands and patches
A skin tag removal band works by cutting off your supply of blood to the base of your skin tag. The idea is that without that blood, those cells die and your tag falls off in a process called ligation.
The patches contain medication. You leave them on a tag for a few days or weeks. Eventually (and hopefully), your tag falls off.
It’s important to note that skin tag bands and patches do not need approval from the FDA. They may not be as effective as the packaging claims.
Skin tag removal creams are also available OTC and can be effective. You apply the cream to your skin tag at least twice a day for a few weeks. Over time, it should dry out your tag, so it falls off.
Just be sure to read what’s in the bottle/tub. Manufacturers make some of these creams with ingredients like salicylic acid and tea tree oil. Spoiler alert: These could end up irritating your skin.
3. Freezing kits
Skin tag freezing kits are basically an at-home version of cryotherapy. A dermatologist might also perform this procedure to remove skin tags (so you’re in good company).
The at-home kits use freezing spray to get rid of your skin tag. While this may be effective, you have to be careful when you use them.
Be careful not to get the freezing spray on your surrounding skin, which can be tricky. You might also need to use the kit a few times before your skin tag comes off.
4. Tea tree oil
This essential oil might help some skin conditions. But there is no reliable evidence that it will get rid of skin tags.
To use tea tree oil on a skin tag:
- Apply a few drops of the oil to a cotton ball.
- Place it over your skin tag with a bandage.
- Leave it on for at least 10 minutes three times a day.
It might take a few days or weeks before your tag falls off.