Skin tags: Why they develop, and how to remove them
Skin tags are harmless growths that can appear anywhere on your skin, but often develop on the neck, eyelids, or underarms. They may be the same color as your skin or darker. Some are pink. Others turn red when irritated. You may see one dangling from a stalk, while another is firmly fixed to the skin.
With all this variation, there is one thing that acrochordons (medical name for skin tags) seem to have in common. Many people want to remove them.
You only need to remove a skin tag if it becomes irritated, feels uncomfortable, or affects your eyesight.
If one or more of your skin tags fits this description, contact a board-certified dermatologist because no one understands your skin better.
The following explains how dermatologists remove skin tags. It also answers other questions that patients frequently ask their dermatologist.
Why am I getting skin tags?
These growths can appear anywhere on the skin, but they usually develop where skin has been rubbing against skin, jewelry, or clothing for some time. That’s why they usually occur in one or more of these areas:
Neck creases (or where clothing or jewelry rubs against the neck)
Skin tags are also commonly found on the sides, abdomen, or back.
Because they develop where skin rubs against skin, people who are overweight, pregnant, or have loose skin are more likely to get skin tags.
You also have a higher risk of developing skin tags if you have diabetes, metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, unhealthy blood sugar levels, extra fat around your waist, or unhealthy cholesterol levels), or a blood relative has skin tags.
It’s important to keep in mind that these growths are harmless.
Should I remove a skin tag?
Because they’re harmless, a skin tag only needs to be removed if it:
Becomes irritated or bleeds
Develops on your eyelid and affects your eyesight
Feels painful, especially when the pain comes on suddenly
A skin tag can become irritated if it frequently rubs against jewelry, clothing, or a seat belt. Shaving can also irritate it, especially if you nick the skin tag. A dermatologist can remove these skin tags.
Suddenly developing many skin tags while rare can be a sign that something is going on inside your body.
If this happens, see a board-certified dermatologist, who can make sure you have skin tags and may recommend that you see your primary care doctor.
If you dislike the way a skin tag looks, your dermatologist can also remove it. However, you’ll likely pay the cost. Insurance providers consider removing a skin growth for looks alone a cosmetic treatment. Insurance rarely covers the cost of cosmetic treatments.
How does a dermatologist remove skin tags?
Your dermatologist can quickly and safely remove one or more skin tags during an office visit, and usually without the need for a follow-up appointment.
The treatment that your dermatologist uses will depend on the size of the skin tag, where it appears on your body, and other considerations.
Your dermatologist may use:
Cryosurgery: During this treatment, your dermatologist applies an extremely cold substance like liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy the skin tag. Sometimes, freezing causes a blister or scab. When the blister or scab falls off, so will the skin tag.
When using cryosurgery, your dermatologist may freeze only the bottom of the skin tag and then snip it off with a sterile surgical blade or scissors.
Electrodesiccation: Your dermatologistuses a tiny needle to zap the skin tag, which destroys it.You’ll develop a scab on the treated skin that will heal in one to three weeks.
Snip: Your dermatologist will numb the area, use sterile surgical scissors or a blade to remove the skin tag, and then apply a solution to stop the bleeding.
After treatment, your dermatologist may give you aftercare instructions to follow. This may include removing the bandage, washing the area carefully, and covering it with a new bandage.
Follow your aftercare instructions carefully to prevent problems like an infection.
Products that you can use at-home to remove skin tags are not recommended
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any of these products. Because of the harm these products can cause, the FDA warns people NOT to use them. To find out more, go to 5 reasons to see a dermatologist for mole, skin tag removal.
Does wart remover work on skin tags?
Given that some skin tags look like warts, it’s easy to think wart remover would work well. It doesn’t.
Warts are hard and need strong medication. Skin tags are soft, so using a wart remover on them can damage your skin. You may develop scarring or irritated skin where you apply wart remover.
Seeing a dermatologist can give you peace of mind
Skin tags come in many shapes and sizes, so you may mistake a wart or even a skin cancer for a skin tag. Board-certified dermatologists know the difference between something small and something major. By seeing a dermatologist, you’ll find out what’s going on and that can bring peace of mind.
Related AAD resources
Image 1: Getty Images
Image 2: Used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019;81:1037-57.)
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Farshchian M, Kimyai-Asadi A et al. “Cryosnip for skin tag removal.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2021 May 30:S0190-9622(21)01032-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2021.05.039. Epub ahead of print.
Hirt PA, Castillo DE, et al. “Skin changes in the obese patient.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019 Nov;81(5):1037-57.
Kutzner HH, Kamino H, et al. “Fibrous and fibrohistiocytic proliferations of the skin and tendons.” In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. (fourth edition). Mosby Elsevier, China, 2018: 2068-9.
Schwartz, RA. “Acrochordon.” In:Medscape(Elston DM., Ed.) Last updated 10/26/2022. Last accessed 3/28/2023.
Tucker, R. “Advice on how to treat skin tags.” The Pharm Jour. Published March 1, 2011. Last accessed March 23, 2023.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Products marketed for removing moles and other skin lesions can cause injuries, scarring.” Last updated 8/10/22. Last visited 3/30/23.
Paula Ludmann, MS
Elisa Gallo, MD, FAAD
Laurel Geraghty, MD, FAAD
Shari Lipner, MD, PhD, FAAD
Last updated: 5/1/23