Skin tags are harmless, soft little pieces of skin attached to our natural surface by a little stalk. Skin tags tend to appear in areas where skin rubs against other skin or clothes, like in a crease, but they can appear anywhere. You may see skin tags most obviously on the eyelids, armpits or neck in yourself or others.
Skin tags are found in all ages and at all stages of life but tend to occur more frequently later in life and on people who have certain medical conditions.
What is a skin tag?
You might be surprised to know that a skin tag is medically known as a benign skin tumour. A tumour is understood to be a growth of cells in a cluster, and most tumours – including skin tags – are not associated with any form of cancer and most are completely harmless.
Skin tags aren’t dangerous, but we may remove them for cosmetic or practical reasons. A skin tag may get in the way of clothing, shaving or jewellery. Skin tags look a bit like a wart or mole.
Skin tag fast facts
- Skin tags can fall off by themselves, especially if they are rubbed or clipped off
- You may have skin tags and not notice
- A large skin tag can burst
- Skin tags have irregular surfaces
- Skin tags may grow or stay the same size
- Skin tags aren’t painful
- Skin tags feel soft
- Skin tags are not contagious
Removing skin tags
Because skin tags are harmless, the only time removal is if they cause cosmetic or practical concerns. At ENRICH Clinic, we quickly and painlessly remove skin tags using one of several methods:
- Cauterisation (burnt off with an electric tool)
- Cryosurgery (frozen with liquid nitrogen)
- Ligation (clipping the skin tag like a lamb’s tail, so it falls off over time)
- Excision (cutting the skin tag off with a scalpel)
While you can attempt to remove skin tags at home, it’s usually safer and more efficient to get a professional on the job. Skin tags can bleed a lot or become infected, and a failed job can result in scarring. Your regular doctor or dermatologist can easily remove skin tags in their office without fuss, bleeding or scarring.
There is one exception where even your doctor or dermatologist can’t remove the skin tags, and that is where the skin tag is very close to the eyelid margin. In this case, your skin tag may have to be removed by a specialist eye doctor.
Once a skin tag is gone, there is no reason for more to crop up in its place.
Dr Michael Rich at ENRICH Clinic can guide you on the best course of action for removing your skin tags, including complex cases.
Causes of skin tags
We’re not sure why skin tags develop, but one theory is that collagen clusters and blood vessels become trapped inside a thick piece of skin. Because skin tags are most often found in creases in the skin, rubbing skin may have some impact on their development; however, many skin tags develop in areas that do not rub on other skin.
If your relatives have many skin tags, you are probably destined for the same fate. People living with diabetes, obesity and those who are pregnant also get more skin tags.
There is some evidence that skin tags may be an indicator of impaired carbohydrate metabolism. Skin tags may be a marker for metabolic syndromes, so if you have a lot of skin tags, it could be worth talking over with your doctor.
Is there any cancer risk of skin tags?
Skin tags do not need to be biopsied after removal, as there is no evidence that skin tags are at risk of becoming cancerous – this is extremely rare. If your doctor suspects that your skin tag was something else more nefarious, they may send it off to be tested to be safe.
A more substantial or irregular growth may be sent off for testing, so if your skin tag has been bleeding or has changed colour, size or shape, tell your doctor.
A purple or black skin tag usually means the stalk of the skin tag is twisted, and the skin tag tissue is dying. The skin tag will often then fall off at some point, but if it remains and is still black, see a doctor to have it checked. The process of turning black and falling off is about a week to 10 days.
Does skin tag removal leave a scar?
If you are getting multiple skin tags removed, you will likely develop little scabs as the small wounds heal. These minor wounds don’t mean lots of scars, since the smaller the wound, the less collagen is required to fill the gap, which is what creates a pale scar.
The stalk is quite small in diameter compared with the bulb of the skin tag, so the actual connecting surface area is relatively small, and thus there is little to no scarring left. Scarring may occur after removal of a skin tag, but it is usually minimal and not visible to the naked eye. All scars fade over time.
Will removal of a skin tag mean that more appear?
There is no evidence to say that removing a skin tag will cause more skin tags to appear. Once the skin tag is gone, you can expect it to stay gone for good. You may develop other skin tags on other areas of your body or even the same area, but this isn’t because you removed the other one.
We can help remove your skin tags
Contact us for a quick, expert appointment to remove your skin tags