Skin Tags: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

Skin tags are extra pieces of skin that stick out beyond the surface of the body. They are harmless and more of a cosmetic issue than anything else, but understanding what they are, and aren’t, can be reassuring. And though what causes skin tags isn’t always known, skin tag treatment is pretty straightforward — they are easily removed.

How to Identify a Skin Tag: What They Look Like

Skin tags can be as small as 1 millimeter and as large as 1 centimeter, occasionally even larger, says Rebecca Baxt, MD, a dermatologist in Paramus, New Jersey. Skin tags, also called acrochordons, are mostly flesh-colored growths, although some may be darker in color, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD). They can be right on the skin's surface or seem to sprout from a thin stalk of skin and hang off the body.

They are common on the neck, under the arms, in the groin, and on the eyelids, says Dr. Baxt, as they tend to grow in parts of the body with folds, but they can appear elsewhere as well. Once formed, they typically don’t get any bigger. You may have just one or two, or you may have many; they might be in isolated spots or in a group with many skin tags. They are usually asymptomatic, and they are diagnosed by visual inspection. However, since it can be difficult to self-diagnose skin tags, it’s important to see a dermatologist if anything is growing, changing, bleeding, itchy, crusty, flaky, or changing color on your skin, says Baxt.

A Common Condition: Skin Tag Causes and Risk Factors

Skin tags are very common. It is estimated that almost half of adults have at least one skin tag, according to the AOCD. They are common as people age, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

Skin Tag Treatment Options: Simple Surgical Procedures

Sometimes skin tags fall off on their own as they get pulled and irritated, according to the AAFP. The only way to get rid of skin tags is to have a dermatologist remove them with a minor surgical procedure, says Baxt.

Depending on where your skin tags are located, you might not choose any skin tag treatment — out of sight can lead to out of mind. However, you might want to seek skin tag treatment for cosmetic reasons if, for instance, you have one on an eyelid and it detracts from your appearance. Another reason to have skin tags removed is if they are in an area that gets a lot of friction, even just from wearing clothes or jewelry, causing irritation and bleeding.

Options for treatment include cryosurgery to remove skin tags by freezing the skin or electrocautery to burn off the skin tags or destroy the tissue with heat. If the skin tags are hanging, cutting them off with medical scissors is another option. These are simple surgical procedures that cause minimal discomfort, minimal recovery time, and minimal scarring, says Baxt. However, in rare cases, skin tags can grow back, and new ones can form.

While not at all dangerous, skin tags can be a nuisance or cosmetic woe. But it’s also perfectly fine to ignore them. One word of caution: As with any changes on your skin, if the appearance of a skin tag changes, have your doctor or dermatologist take a look at it.

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