How to Remove Skin Tags

Closed up the Skin Tags or Acrochordon on neck man on white background

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Skin tags are small growths on the surface of the skin that tend to develop with age. Also known as acrochordons, they usually are benign. They result from the rubbing of skin against skin and so most often crop up in skin folds—under the arms, on the neck, in the groin or anus, and under the breasts. People with diabetes and obesity may be more at risk of developing skin tags over time. 

Most skin tags are harmless, but can be bothersome. Some get caught on clothing or jewelry and cause irritation. Others are unsightly. If you have a skin tag you'd like to remove, there are ways to do it safely.

Before You Remove Skin Tags

Before you attempt to remove a skin tag, make sure that what you're dealing with is, indeed, a skin tag. Skin tags should not hurt or change dramatically in shape, size, or color. If what you're dealing with is painful or changes in appearance, see your doctor. They can diagnose a skin tag simply by looking at it; the exam is quick and painless.

Make Sure It's Not Cancer

The American Academy of Dermatology Association strongly recommends seeing a doctor before removing a skin tag on the chance that it may be something more serious—in particular skin cancer. If you were to remove a cancerous skin tag, in doing so you could leave behind cancer cells that could then multiply and spread. 

If your doctor is concerned what appears to be a skin tag is cancer, they can order a skin biopsy.

DIY Methods

A quick Internet search will yield a variety of do-it-yourself suggestions for removing skin tags, including:

  • Applying tea tree oil daily
  • Applying an over-the-counter skin tag removal cream
  • Tying a clean string around the skin tag
  • Freezing the skin tag with a kit from the pharmacy
  • Using an over-the-counter skin tag device to cut it 

Talk with your doctor before trying any of them even if you've already determined what you have is a skin tag. They can guide you toward the best DIY method for you, especially if your skin tag is in a sensitive area like the eyelid or groin.

Medical Procedures

A doctor can remove a skin tag in any of a number of simple outpatient procedures in their office. may need to be repeated depending on the size of the skin tag. 

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy involves freezing off a skin tag. Using a swab, your doctor will apply cold liquid nitrogen on the tag to dissolve it. You may be left with a blister that will heal after a few days. 

Cutting

For a small skin tag, your doctor may recommend simply snipping it off with surgical scissors or a scalpel. Skin tags that are only slightly raised can also be shaved down. A larger tag removed in this way may require stitches, but usually a bandage will be all that's needed to protect the area until it heals.. 

Diathermy/Electrosurgery

For this procedure sounds, your doctor will use a wire with an electric current to burn off the skin tag. Depending on the size of the tag, you may need more than one treatment to completely remove it. 

Ligation

Your doctor will tie a piece of surgical thread around the skin tag to cut off blood flow. You will leave the thread in place until the tag falls off on its own, likely within a week. 

Whichever procedure your doctor chooses, they will first use a topical anesthetic to numb the skin tag and surrounding area to dull as much sensation as possible.

Complications Related to Skin Tag Removal

While most skin tag removals are quick and routine, they still pose potential risks, especially when performed at home. First, there is a risk of infection. Any time the skin is cut, infection can occur. If you have your skin tags removed in a doctor’s office, this risk goes down because of their standard cleaning procedures. 

There is also a risk of bleeding. In the case of a large tag, the bleeding could be considerable. The potential for bleeding will play a significant role in the method a doctor chooses to use to remove a skin tag. Often cauterization is the best option for a skin tag that's likely to bleed. Your doctor can apply medication to the site to stop the bleeding if needed. 

You may notice blistering or irritation after having your skin tags removed. There is also a risk of scarring and change in the color of the surrounding skin. 

A Word From Verywell

It’s helpful to remember that most skin tags are harmless and don’t require any treatments at all. However, if you prefer to be skin tag-free, you have plenty of options. Whether it’s because of skin irritation or preference, removing your skin tags is a quick and simple procedure with the help of your dermatologist. 

Even though there are countless home remedies out there, always talk with your doctor first. They can perform a quick exam to make sure that growth really is a skin tag and not something more serious.  

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Article Sources
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  1. MedlinePlus. Cutaneous skin tag. July 11, 2019.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology. 5 reasons to see a dermatologist for mole, skin tag removal.

  3. Medical News Today. How to get rid of skin tags: 8 natural home remedies. Jan 4, 2020.

  4. UW School of Medicine and Public Health. Removing moles and skin tags.