What is a skin tag?
A skin tag is a harmless growth that hangs from the skin. They usually develop on the neck, armpits, groin, or under the breast, but they can grow elsewhere. Skin tags usually don’t cause pain or discomfort, which means they usually don’t require medical attention.
However, if you have skin tags that are bothering you, there are some medical options. As skin tag removal is considered a cosmetic procedure, these are not available on the NHS, so if you wish to have them professionally removed, you should consult a private practitioner.
Removing small skin tags at home is an option, but you shouldn’t try it without talking to a doctor first.
What does a skin tag look like?
If you have a growth and it ticks the following boxes, it’s probably a skin tag.
Small (usually a few millimeters wide, but can be larger)
Soft and smooth
Hanging from the skin
Pain and discomfort
Skin tags have a fairly unique look and feel, which means they can’t be compared to other types of growths. For example, warts tend to be rough and irregular and do not hang from the skin.
What causes skin tags?
We don’t know exactly what causes skin tags, but we do know that they form in areas where the skin is exposed to friction. We know they are more common in older people, people with type 2 diabetes, obese people and pregnant women.
Is it safe to remove skin tags at home?
It is not recommended to remove skin tags without first talking to a doctor. This is because, depending on the size of the tag, removal can cause significant bleeding and scarring. If you want to remove skin tags at home, talk to your doctor first.
How to remove skin tags
If your doctor has told you that you can remove your skin tags at home, you can visit your local pharmacy to see what treatments are available.
Skin tag treatment
Skin tag removal stickers and tapes
Skin tag removal patches and strips work by cutting off the blood supply to the skin tag, which causes the tag to dry out and fall off – a process called ligation. One thing to keep in mind is that products like Excilor are only suitable for skin that is three to five millimeters thick.
Skin tag freezing kit
Another option is to try an at-home skin freezing kit, but these can be tricky to use and can cause burns and scarring if used incorrectly. If you want to freeze skin tags, it’s best to get it done professionally.
A small skin tag can be tied by simply tying a piece of dental floss or cotton wool to it. However, you shouldn’t try it without talking to your doctor first.
Iodine, apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil
There is some anecdotal evidence that “natural” treatments such as iodine, apple cider vinegar, and tea tree oil work on skin tags, but this has not been scientifically proven. In fact, these types of substances can irritate the skin and cause other unpleasant symptoms.
When to see a specialist about skin tags
In the following cases, you should see a doctor.
Not sure if the growth is a skin tag
Your skin tag is causing you pain or discomfort, e.g. It is stuck on jewelry or watches
You don’t like the way your skin tags look
If your doctor thinks removal is appropriate, you have several other options listed below. Remember that you should have the evacuation done privately, not by an NHS doctor.
Cauterization is the burning of skin tags. It can cause skin irritation and discoloration and may not work the first time.
Cryotherapy involves freezing the skin tag. Like cauterization, it causes skin irritation and discoloration and is not always successful.
An incision is where the skin tag is removed. This type of removal can be more effective than freezing and burning, as it allows the tag to be completely removed, preventing it from recurring. However, it can cause minor bleeding.