Skin Tags: What Are They and Can You Prevent Them?

Skin tags, also called acrochordon, are small skin growths that are usually found in areas where folds of skin rub against each other, such as the neck, armpits, and groin. They are made of collagen fibers, nerve cells, and small blood vessels that become wrapped up in layers of skin. These growths hang from the body on a small piece of tissue called a stalk. The color of the end of a stalk can be the color of your skin or a few shades lighter or darker.

Skin tags don't usually appear with any symptoms. In fact, you may not feel them at all. They can become painful if they are irritated or become torn or twisted. If you scratch or rub them, they may become irritated and bleed.

Skin tags are common in people who are 60 or older. You can't always keep them from developing, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk.

This article discusses what causes skin tags, ways to help prevent them, and how they're treated.

Skin tags

Jorge Villalba / Getty Images

Causes

The cause of skin tags is unclear, but there are some common factors among people who have them.

One of the theories about the formation of skin tags is friction. These growths usually appear in areas where skin rubs together, and that results in chafing and irritation. A number of physical features and conditions have also been associated with a higher incidence of skin tags, including:

  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • History of getting skin tags

Skin Tags and Hormones

People tend to develop more skin tags as they age. This leads to assumptions that they're associated with menopause and other age-related hormonal changes. However, there's no evidence that skin tags are directly related to hormones.

Circumstances related to aging, though, may increase your likelihood of developing tags. For instance, weight changes can lead to more skin folds where constant friction can cause acrochordons.

How to Prevent Skin Tags

There's no definitive way to prevent skin tags, but you may be able to reduce your risk of developing them. Specifically, people who are overweight may be less likely to have problems if they lose weight and reduce the number of skin folds, which are where tags are most likely to develop.

Of course, if you're genetically predisposed to skin tags, you can't change your DNA. Keeping skin moisturized and avoiding too much friction may help you manage or reduce the likelihood of tags developing or getting irritated.

Skin Tags on Your Eyelids

Your eyelid is one of those places on the body with lots of folds and lots of friction, so it's not uncommon to develop skin tags here as well. There is no way to prevent skin tags from coming out on your eyelid or the areas around your eye. However, these growths should not interfere with your vision and can be safely removed.

Treatment

Skin tags may be removed by several procedures, including:

  • Electrocautery: The skin tag is burned off with a specialized device by a healthcare provider.
  • Cryotherapy: Home freezing kits are available, or your healthcare provider can perform cryotherapy with fewer applications.
  • Excision: The skin tag is cut from your body by your healthcare provider using scissors or a scalpel.

Once removed, a skin tag won't come back in the same place, but if you're prone to them, they may occur in other spots (near or far from the original site).

Continue to see a dermatologist to check growths you suspect are acrochordon. Don't try to take matters into your own hands with at-home remedies. There's no evidence to support the success of cures touted on social media such as tea tree oil or apple cider vinegar.

Can Toothpaste Remove Skin Tags?

No. Despite the many stories that Colgate or other popular toothpastes can help get rid of skin tags, there doesn't seem to be any science to support this claim, just personal stories.

If you have a new growth or skin change, don't assume it's just another harmless skin tag. It's possible to mistake a mole for a skin tag, but a mole could develop into skin cancer and needs to be watched and evaluated by a dermatologist. Trying to remove or self-treat new skin growths may lead to health problems down the road.

If you see a dermatologist or other healthcare provider for skin tag removal, it's usually considered a cosmetic procedure and may not be covered by your medical insurance.

A Word From Verywell

No one really knows what causes skin tags, but people who have certain medical conditions or physical traits do seem more prone to developing them. While your skin tags may bother you, remember that they aren't harmful in most cases and are not contagious. If your skin tag has a tendency to be irritated or caught on clothing or jewelry, removal is fairly simple. Talk to your healthcare provider about removal techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I prevent skin tags under my armpits?

    If you have a family history of skin tags, it's not likely that you can do much to avoid them from coming out, but you can get treatment to remove them. If you think your skin tags are due to excess weight and the presence of skin folds, your best option is to lose weight. This will lower the risk of friction and reduce the likelihood of skin tags developing.

  • Can you cut a skin tag off with nail clippers?

    Do not cut skin tags off. It can lead to excessive bleeding and possible infection. Small skin tags can sometimes be removed at home with a simple ligation technique (closing off a blood vessel using a ligature or clip), but there are risks with this self treatment. It's best to talk to your healthcare provider to have the skin tag checked and to see that it's removed properly.

5 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 Health Blog. Skin Tag Removal: Optional but Effective.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology. Skin Tags.

  3. Tripathy T, Singh BSTP, Kar BR. Association of skin tag with metabolic syndrome and its components: a case-control study from eastern India. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2019;10(3):284-287. doi:10.4103/idoj.IDOJ_238_18

  4. American Family Physician. Common Benign Skin Tumors.

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

By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
 Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.