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Skin Tags

Written by: Becki Murray

Updated by: Alice Hart-Davis

Last Updated: 15 January 2024

Skin tags are small growths made of loose collagen fibres and blood vessels encapsulated in skin. Skin tags typically occur in parts of the body where your skin rubs against either other skin or your clothing.  Skin tags are very common and are benign, not usually causing pain or discomfort, but they can become inflamed if your skin rubs them or your clothing chafes them. Skin tags can also cause inflammation to the skin around them, especially when they occur in high-friction areas such as the armpit.

Many people find skin tags unsightly, especially when they occur in areas of skin that are typically exposed in public.The medical term for skin tag is acrochordon, and you might see the word acrochordonectomy used for removal of skin tags.

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What causes skin tags?

What causes skin tags is not entirely clear, because multiple factors seem to be involved. The following list shows the seven leading factors suspected of causing skin tags:

  • Skin tags frequently occur in parts of the body where your skin experiences friction, either by rubbing against other skin — such as in your armpit or groin — or against clothing or bedclothes.
  • Overweight and obesity. Overweight and obese people typically get more skin tags than lower-weight people, perhaps because they have larger areas of skin folds and more friction in those areas.
  • Getting skin tags tends to run in families, suggesting that your genes may influence your likelihood of getting skin tags.
  • As people age, they tend to get more skin tags. As you age, the collagen in your skin tends to become less organised and more fragmented. These factors may contribute to the formation of skin tags, as may your skin becoming laxer and losing its elasticity with age.
  • Skin damage. Your skin is under constant assault from sun exposure, chemicals in everything from the air to your soap, and contact with the environment.
  • Hormonal changes, including pregnancy. Hormonal changes can contribute to the development of skin tags. In particular, pregnant women often get skin tags.
  • Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Metabolic changes appear to be associated with getting more skin tags. For example, if you have insulin resistance—a metabolic condition in which your body’s cells become less responsive to insulin and so cannot regulate blood sugar levels normally—you are more likely to grow skin tags. If you develop type 2 diabetes, skin tags are even more likely.

Are skin tags contagious?

No, skin tags aren’t contagious. You can safely touch skin tags without spreading them to other parts of your body or from person to person.

Skin Tags

Are skin tags a problem, or can I just ignore them?

Skin tags are considered benign growths, so you don’t usually need to do anything about them if they’re not causing you trouble. Rather than ignoring your skin tags, keep an eye on them for changes, and watch out for these three warning signs:

  • Changes in size or colour. If a skin tag grows larger or changes colour, you should probably have a doctor look at it.
  • If a skin tag bleeds, consult a doctor.
  • If a skin tag causes you pain, get it examined.

How can I get rid of skin tags?

You can take four main approaches to getting rid of skin tags:

  • Wait and hope they drop off. Many skin tags naturally dry out and detach themselves without your intervention. This can happen to skin tags anywhere on the body, but is most likely for skin tags in areas frequently rubbed by skin or cloth. There are two key disadvantages to this approach: first, not all skin tags eventually drop off; and second, even for those skin tags that do, the process can take months or even years.
  • Try home remedies. Various home remedies are available for treating skin tags. See the section ‘What home remedies are there for skin tags?’, further down this page, for details on home remedies.
  • Try over-the-counter treatments. You can also get over-the-counter treatments for skin tags. See the section ‘What over-the-counter treatments can I use on skin tags?’, further down this page, for more information.
  • Have the skin tags professionally removed. This is normally your best approach. See the section ‘How do health professionals remove skin tags?’, further down this page, for information on how health professionals remove skin tags.

What home remedies are there for skin tags?

There are two main home remedies for skin tags:

  • Tying with dental floss, thread, or string. This remedy involves tying the floss, thread, or string around the base of the skin tag to cut off its blood supply and make it drop off several days or weeks later. Tying a skin tag like this is called ligation. It may not be effective for larger skin tags.
  • Applying a substance to shrink the skin tag. Suggested substances include tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, liquid vitamin E, garlic, or even banana peel. For the liquid substances, you apply the liquid to a cotton ball, put the cotton ball on the skin tag, and secure it with a bandage or tape. The garlic you crush, apply directly to the skin tag, and secure with a bandage or tap. The banana peel goes straight on the skin tag, with the peel’s inside to your skin, again bandaged or taped in place.

Before you try either of these approaches, be aware of two things. First, few healthcare professionals recommend them, because they can irritate your skin, cause infection, or even leave scars. Second, and worse, you might be dealing not with a skin tag but with another skin condition that looks like skin tags but is actually different. Such skin conditions include warts, moles, fibromas, basal cell carcinomas, and melanomas. Carcinomas and melanomas are skin cancers that require immediate medical treatment. Moles are sometimes harmless but other times can develop into melanomas. So before trying any home remedies on growths that appear to be skin tags, consult a healthcare professional for a diagnosis and treatment advice.

What over-the-counter treatments can I use on skin tags?

There are four main types of over-the-counter treatments for skin tags:

  • Tag bands or ligation devices. These are small bands that you stretch around the base of the skin tag to cut off its blood flow and make it drop off after several days or weeks. These bands work in the same way as tying with dental floss, thread, or string. Ligation may not be effective on larger skin tags.
  • Topical treatments. These are creams or solutions you apply to dry out the skin tag and make it eventually drop off.
  • Tag patches. These patches are like sticking plasters pre-loaded with topical treatments. They work in the same way but can be easier to apply.
  • Cryotherapy kits. These kits enable you to freeze the base of the skin tag, usually using liquid nitrogen, killing the skin tag and making it drop off, again eventually. This treatment requires dexterity to avoid damaging the surrounding skin.

How do health professionals remove skin tags?

Health professionals use four primary methods to remove skin tags, depending on the nature, size, and location of the skin tags.

  • As with over-the-counter cryotherapy kits, the practitioner applies liquid nitrogen to the base of the skin tag to freeze the tissue and kill the tag. Cryotherapy is quick and usually causes little if any bleeding, but some skin tags may need multiple treatments. Cryotherapy can discolour the skin around the tag temporarily and carries a small risk of scarring.
  • The practitioner ties thread, floss, or a band tightly around the base of the skin tag to cut off its blood supply. The skin tag then drops off after a few days. Professional ligation works in exactly the same way as do-it-yourself ligation, but the practitioner is more likely to tie off the tag at the right point and to work hygienically.
  • The practitioner cuts off the skin tag using surgical scissors or a scalpel. As you would imagine, excision has an immediate effect and works for large skin tags as well as small ones, but the stump of the skin tag may bleed. The scissors or scalpel must be sterilised to reduce the risk of infection and scarring.
  • Cauterisation uses electrolysis to burn off the skin tag, removing it immediately and sealing the wound in the same move. Cauterisation may discolour the skin around the skin tag and may cause scars.

How can I avoid getting skin tags?

There is no guaranteed way to avoid getting skin tags, but you may be fortunate enough never to get them because of your genes and because of environmental and personal health factors.

Steps you can take to decrease the likelihood of you getting skin tags include maintaining a stable and healthy weight; making sure you do not develop insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes; and avoiding excessive skin friction from other skin, from your clothes, or from your bedclothes.


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