Clipping Skin Tags: How to Remove Them Safely

Why you should see a provider instead of cutting skin tags off yourself

Though they don't have to be removed for health reasons, many people want skin tags clipped for cosmetic reasons or because they are irritating. They might even be tempted to cut a skin tag off with nail clippers or scissors. However, clipping a skin tag is best done by a healthcare provider.

They can ensure that skin tags are removed safely and virtually painlessly, that bleeding is stopped afterward, and that the area is properly cleaned to prevent infection when the removal is done.

This article covers the methods professional use to clip skin tags, as well as do-it-yourself removal strategies you may hear about.

What Are Skin Tags?

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Skin Tags
 DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Skin tags (acrochordon) are small pieces of skin usually located on the neck and in the armpit area. However, they can also be elsewhere on the body, including the back, trunk, abdomen, and various skin folds. It's also possible to get genital and anal skin tags.

Skin tags are either dark or flesh-colored and no larger than 5 millimeters. Skin tags are usually painless but can become irritated if they catch on clothing or jewelry. Skin tags come in three forms:

  • Small bumps about 1 millimeter or 2 millimeters in width and height
  • Thread-like lesions about 2 millimeters in length
  • Bag-like (pedunculated) lesions that occur on the lower back

Nobody knows why skin tags form, but hormones, growth factors, and infection may all play a part. They do not serve any purpose.

Although skin tags can be confused with warts, neurofibromas, or nevi (moles), most physicians are quick to identify these unsightly little skin stickers.

Skin tags are very rarely cancerous, and the vast majority require no biopsy.

Skin tags are very common. People who are overweight are particularly susceptible to the formation of skin tags. They're also age-related. Skin tags increase in frequency through your 50s, and as many as 59% of people in their 70s have them.​ Skin tags may accompany type 2 diabetes as well.

Why It's Not Safe to Clip a Skin Tag Yourself

Whenever you cut your skin, you risk damaging the tissue and creating a route for infection to get in.

It's unlikely that anyone has sterile environment, the proper tools, and the know-how to remove a skin tag safely at home.

Healthcare practitioners, of course, do. And seeing one to have a skin tag clipped has the added benefit of being examined. What you think could be a skin tag could, in fact, be another skin condition—even skin cancer.

And if you're overweight, have skin tags, and haven't seen a doctor in some time, your provider may not only remove your skin tags but test (and, if necessary, treat) you for diabetes.

How Professionals Remove Skin Tags

Providers can remove skin tags in a few ways:

  • Clipping: Small skin tags can be snipped off with a pair of iris scissors (no lidocaine or local anesthesia needed).
  • Shave excision: Larger skin tags can be shaved off after the application of local anesthesia.
  • Cryotherapy: Skin tags can be frozen off as well. A physician dips the tip of a pair of forceps into liquid nitrogen and grabs the lesion until it turns white. Because of how quick it is, this option works well for those with a lot of skin tags.
  • Electrodesiccation: This involves the use of an electrical current to dry out the skin tag. It can be used for skin tags that are too small to be grabbed with forceps.
  • Skin patch: This is a more experimental means of removal. It was found 65% effective in one case study.

A skin tag might bleed when it's removed. To stop bleeding from a skin tag, a provider can use a cotton tip applicator that contains aluminum chloride.

They will also ensure that the area is properly cleaned before and after to prevent infection.

At-Home Skin Tag Removal Methods

Instead of cutting off a skin tag yourself, there are some home remedies that some people have used in an attempt to make skin tags go away.

You can ask your provider if it would be safe to try these methods at home, just know that there's no guarantee they'll work.

  • Patches: Pharmacies and big box stores often carry over-the-counter products that claim to remove skin tags. Skin tag removal patches are made with ingredients that tend to dry out skin or exfoliate dead skin. Some patches don't have any of these ingredients and work by applying pressure instead.
  • Bands: Similar to a patch that puts pressure on a skin tag, bands wrap around the tag and cut off its blood supply. If it's not getting blood, the tissue will die. When this happens, the tag may fall off.
  • Creams: Some of the ingredients in patches also come in creams, ointments, or serums. The products may also be used to remove warts. If you're sensitive to the ingredients in these products, even if they're meant to be used on the skin, it can cause irritation.
  • Freezing: You can get OTC kits to "freeze off" warts and skin tags. Most of these products use different strengths of salicylic acid.
  • Oils: More "natural" approaches to skin tag removal use tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, vitamin E, and even iodine to dry the tag out in hopes it will fall off. There hasn't been much research evidence that these methods will work. These methods are also not necessarily safer than OTC products. For example, while it's less common, skin tags can form on your eyelids. However, many essential oils are not safe to use near your eyes.
  • Food: Another way to try to remove a skin tag without medicine is putting antioxidant-rich foods like garlic or a banana peel on the skin tag, covering it with a bandage, and letting it sit overnight.

Summary

Although you may figure that removing skin tags is as simple as grabbing a pair of scissors from the cupboard drawer, it isn't.

First, the removal of skin tags should be performed by a trained healthcare professional who can do so in a sterile environment. Second, skin tags often accompany diabetes, a much more serious problem that requires medical evaluation.

A Word From Verywell

Many insurers refuse to cover the cost of skin tag removal because the procedure is done for aesthetic reasons. There are some exceptions, however, such as if a skin tag has become infected.

If you are enrolled in a plan, be sure to speak with your insurance company before scheduling an appointment to have skin tags taken off.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can cutting skin tags cause cancer?

    Skin tags are made of harmless tissue, so cutting a skin tag or otherwise removing it will not cause cancer. However, it's possible to mistake a potentially cancerous skin lesion (like a mole) for a simple skin tag. That's why you should have a provider look at any skin mark or blemish that is concerning.

  • Do skin tags grow back?

    After your provider removes a skin tag, it won't grow back. However, that doesn't mean another one won't grow in its place. Certain parts of your body might be more sensitive and more likely to get skin tags than others.

  • What if a skin tag turns black?

    Skin tags can vary in color from being the same shade as your skin to a darker shade. If a skin tag turns black, brown, or purple it could mean that it isn't getting a good supply of blood. If you notice a color change, it's best to have your provider look.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Harvard Medicine. Skin tag removal: Optional but effective.

  2. Dana-Farber. Skin Tags: What You Should Know.

  3. Penn Medicine. The Skinny on Skin Tags: 6 Questions and Answers.

  4. Jennifer Baron, MD. What's the Difference Between a Mole and a Skin Tag and How Do I Get Rid of Them?.

Additional Reading