What Is a Skin Tag?

A Small, Harmless Growth

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

A skin tag (acrochordon) is a small, harmless growth that hangs from the skin's surface by a stalk, or base. Skin tags are usually the color of your skin or slightly darker. They are painless but can become irritated from rubbing against clothing or jewelry.

Skin tags may occur more often as people age. It's estimated that about half of adults will develop one or more skin tags in their lifetime.

Skin tags
Skin tags on armpit. DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

They usually don't need treatment but can be removed if desired or bothersome.

This article reviews the known risk factors for skin tags, where these growths are commonly found, how they're diagnosed, and what treatment options are available.

What They Look Like

A skin tag may be shaped like a small flap of skin or a tiny mushroom with a wider end. Skin tags hang from a stalk called a peduncle.

Skin tags are usually about 1 to 5 millimeters (mm) but can sometimes grow as large as a few centimeters (cm).

They tend to be the color of your flesh or a hint darker.

Where They Are Found

Skin tags can form on any part of the body, but are common in skin folds (where skin rubs against itself).

Common places for skin tags include:

  • Armpits
  • Chest/under breasts
  • Groin or thighs
  • Genitals
  • Neck
  • Eyelids

Causes

Skin tags form when extra cells are produced in the skin's outer layer. They are not cancerous.

The exact causes of skin tags are unclear, but there are known risk factors and associated conditions that can increase their likelihood. These include:

Not only are skin tags harmless, but they will remain so over time.

In the 1980s, there was some speculation that skin tags were more common in people who went on to develop colon polyps or colon cancer. However, subsequent research published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found no association.

Recap

Skin tags are small, harmless flaps of skin or mushroom-like growths that commonly develop in areas where skin rubs against itself, such as the armpits, neck, or groin.

You may be more likely to develop skin tags if you have a family history of them or health conditions such as diabetes or skin disorders.

Diagnosis

It's important to have a dermatologist or other healthcare provider examine your growth to make sure it's a skin tag and not the result of another condition that may require additional monitoring or treatment.

Your provider can diagnose a skin tag just by looking at it. They may also ask about your health history to see if you have risk factors for developing skin tags.

If your physician is uncertain about the growth and suspects another condition, they may take a small sample called a biopsy and send it to a lab for testing. Alternatively, they may ask that you "watch and wait" and come back to report any changes.

Differential Diagnoses

If you think you have a skin tag, make sure you get it looked at by a healthcare provider to make sure it isn't another, potentially more serious condition.

Other conditions that may look similar to skin tags include:

Removal

Many people who develop skin tags simply choose to leave them alone. If, however, you find a skin tag aesthetically undesirable or find that it’s becoming irritated or bleeding due to shaving or rubbing on clothing or jewelry, you can have it removed by a doctor.

Common removal methods include:

  • Cryotherapy: The tag is taken off using a freezing solution.
  • Cauterization: The tag is burned off.
  • Snipping or excision: The tag is cut off with a scalpel or other tool.

Topical medications may be used to numb the area prior to removing the growth.

You may come across home skin tag removal kits. These are not considered safe or very effective.

Trying to remove a skin tag yourself may lead to complications such as excessive bleeding, infection, irritation, scarring, or damage to nearby skin. It's also more likely that the removal will be incomplete, which means the tag is more likely to grow back.

Always consult your healthcare provider if you want a skin tag removed, especially if the tag is large or is in a sensitive spot, such as near your eye or on your eyelid. Dermatologists are skilled at removing skin tags from delicate skin.

Recap

Skin tag removal should always be done by a doctor to ensure the growth is fully gone and to help prevent skin damage and other complications. Methods include freezing, heating, and snipping.

Summary

Skin tags are common, particularly as you age. About half of adults will develop one ore more skin tags.

They are harmless and don't require treatment. However, if you have any irritation or you don't like how they look, you can have them removed by a dermatologist or other healthcare provider. Self-removal is risky and not recommended.

Was this page helpful?
2 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. Cleveland Clinic. Skin tags (acrochordons). May 1, 2021.

  2. Brendler SJ, Watson RD, Katon RM, Parsons ME, Howatt JL. Skin tags are not a risk factor for colorectal polyps. J Clin Gastroenterol. 1989;11(3):299-302. doi:10.1097/00004836-198906000-00011

Additional Reading