- Skin Tags: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options
- A Common Condition: Skin Tag Causes and Risk Factors
- Skin Tag Treatment Options: Simple Surgical Procedures
- Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline
- What are skin tags?
- Causes of skin tags
- Skin tag symptoms
- Skin tags treatment
- More information
- What Are Skin Tags (And How Do You Get Rid of Them)?
- What are skin tags, exactly?
- What causes skin tags?
- How do I get rid of a skin tag?
- Can I get rid of a skin tag at home?
- Skin Tags: Cosmetic Annoyance or Metabolic Flag?
- Cancerous skin tags
- Skin tag removal
- When Should You Worry About Skin Tags, Moles, and Birthmarks?
Skin Tags: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options
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).
No one knows what causes skin tags, but they are more common with pregnancy and weight gain, says Baxt. There is no way to prevent skin tags other than staying a normal weight, she adds. They are also more common among people with diabetes and a family history of skin tags, according to the AOCD. One theory is that the friction created by skin rubbing against skin, a side effect of being overweight, causes skin tags in certain people, which would explain why skin tags often grow in body folds, according to the AOCD. In rare cases, skin tags could be a symptom of nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (NBCCS), which is a complex genetic disorder in which individuals are predisposed to developing a type of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders. Skin-tag-like basal cell carcinoma in childhood may represent a marker for NBCCS, according to an evaluation published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
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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Skin tags are common, especially as a person ages. They don’t cause any harm, but if you have a skin tag that is bothering you, you should talk to your doctor about having it removed.
Skin tags are small growths on the skin that look a bit like warts. They are connected to the skin by a small, thin stalk.
They are usually less than 2mm in size, but they can grow much larger. They feel soft, and can be smooth and round, wrinkly and uneven, or look like a grain of rice. They can be flesh coloured or darker, sometimes dark blue.
Skin tags are small growths on the skin and are usually less than 2mm in size.
Skin tags are made of collagen (a type of protein) and blood vessels surrounded by skin. They are usually found in the folds of the skin, for example, in the armpits, groin, thighs, eyelids, neck or under the breasts.
Skin tags occur when extra cells grow in the top layers of the skin. They tend to develop when the skin rubs against itself, so are more common in people who are overweight and therefore have folds of skin.
They grow both in men and women and are more common in older people and people living with type 2 diabetes. Pregnant women are also more likely to develop skin tags, although they usually disappear after the baby is born.
Skin tag symptoms
Most skin tags are painless and don’t cause any symptoms. But if they rub on clothing or jewellery they may get sore and bleed.
Skin tags look different from warts and other benign skin lesions because of the small stalk that attaches them to the skin. Warts tend to be flat, while skin tags hang off the skin.
If you ever notice a new spot or growth on your skin, you should always see your doctor to confirm what it is.
Skin tags can drop off by themselves over time.
If you decide to have a skin tag removed – for example, because it is bothering you or you don’t like its appearance – talk to your doctor.
Skin tags can be removed by:
- freezing them with liquid nitrogen
- cutting them with scissors or a scalpel
- burning them with electrical energy
- tying them off with surgical thread to stop the blood flow
It’s not a good idea to try to remove skin tags by yourself since they can bleed heavily or get infected. If you have a very small skin tag, you could ask your doctor how to remove it at home.
You can buy solutions from a pharmacy or online to freeze off skin tags, in the same way as you remove a wart at home. There are also many suggestions online for removing them naturally – for example, by using tea tree oil or apple cider vinegar. There is no scientific proof that these methods work. It’s always best to ask your doctor first.
Find out more here about removing benign skin lesions.
You can find a dermatologist on the Australian College of Dermatologists website.
What Are Skin Tags (And How Do You Get Rid of Them)?
If you’ve ever found an extraneous nub of tissue protruding from your skin—especially around your neck, armpits, or groin—you’re not alone. Known to doctors as acrochordons, skin tags are growths, most often found in the folds of your skin, like in your armpits. While it can be alarming to see any kind of growth on your skin, skin tags are completely harmless, and very common. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, they occur in as much as half the adult population. Here’s what you should know about skin tags—including how to remove them.
Technically, a skin tag is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor made up of collagen fibers, capillaries, and lymphatic vessels. They’re usually flesh colored, about the size of a grain of rice, and look like a little flap of skin connected to the body by a small stalk of tissue called a peduncle. While they’re most commonly found in the folds of your skin around your armpits, groin, neck, and sometimes eyelids, they can appear elsewhere on the body, too. They tend to affect middle-aged people more than young people, but they can happen to anyone.
Scientists don’t really know what causes skin tags. The friction of skin rubbing on skin may play a role, which would explain why they tend to form in the folds of your armpits and neck. There may be a genetic component, too—if your parents are prone to skin tags, you probably are as well. Recent studies have also linked a higher incidence of skin tags to conditions like obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance. Hormonal changes seem to play a role, too, since many women develop skin tags during pregnancy. Studies of biopsied skin tags have found that some low-risk forms of the human papilloma virus (HPV) are often present in the tissue. However, the tags themselves are harmless (and not contagious), and they don’t need to be treated.
How do I get rid of a skin tag?
Just because skin tags are common doesn’t mean they aren’t bothersome. If your skin tags irk you, either because they rub against clothing, or get caught in jewelry, or itch, or just because you don’t like the way they look, you may want to have them removed. If you do want to get rid of them, you have a few different options.
First off, most dermatologists recommend getting your skin tags checked out by a professional. It’s possible to misdiagnose them, and you don’t want to ignore a more serious medical issue. Your doctor can confirm that your lesions are, in fact, skin tags, and that they aren’t a sign of something like insulin resistance.
From there, there are a few different ways to remove skin tags. A doctor might cut it off with a scalpel, freeze it with liquid nitrogen (much like they would a wart), or cauterize it with an electric device.
Can I get rid of a skin tag at home?
Since skin tags aren’t harmful to your health, health insurance plans typically don’t cover removal services in a doctor’s office. It’s considered a cosmetic procedure, unless the skin tag is particularly irritating or prone to bleeding, and can cost hundreds of dollars out of pocket.
So it’s no surprise that people would rather remove their skin tags without visiting a medical facility. Many dermatologists strongly recommend having a licensed doctor remove your skin tags rather than trying to excise them at home, cautioning that improper removal can result in infection and scarring. But some medical authorities say it’s OK to remove small tags at home.
The UK’s NHS notes that if you have a small skin tag, it may be possible to remove it yourself with sterile (we repeat: sterile) scissors, though that seems like a pretty risky proposition to us. The health authority warns that you should never try to remove a large skin tag yourself because of the risk of bleeding. (Also, please do not attempt to remove a skin tag on your eyelids or other sensitive areas at home.)
The Claritag at-home skin tag removal device
There are a few at-home devices that are designed to be idiot-proof methods of removing skin tags. Mental Floss tested out Claritag’s “squeeze and freeze” skin tag removal device, which works very similarly to an at-home wart removal kit. Available from Walmart and Amazon for $50 for 10 treatments, the dermatologist-developed gadget is much cheaper than a visit to the doctor. The easy-to-set up, tweezer-like device encloses your hanging skin tag with foam pads soaked in a liquid cooling agent, freezing the extraneous tissue. The treatment itself takes only a few seconds, and is designed to remove your skin tag within two weeks. (It simply falls off as the area underneath it heals.)
Other devices, like TagBand ($12.50 on Amazon), use a rubber band to cut off the blood supply to the skin tag, achieving the same result: The skin tag dies and falls off within a week or so.
However, while some websites recommend using essential oils like tea tree oil to treat skin tags, there’s no scientific evidence to show that those remedies work. That means you should probably stay away from the patch- and gel-based removal treatments that tout their natural ingredients.
If you have a large number of skin tags, have particularly large ones, or have them on your face, eyes, or groin, though, you’re out of luck—you should go see a doctor to get them removed.
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Skin Tags: Cosmetic Annoyance or Metabolic Flag?
Skin tags—soft, benign, fleshy and pendunculated protrusions—come in many variations. Most patients report skin tags as just unsightly, but for some patients, skin tags are annoying and physically irritating.
Although usually small, they can become large, increasing risk that the patient will inadvertently snag the skin tag and rip it off. Skin tags are usually present on the head and neck, but particularly irritating skin tags can also grow in the groin and anal areas. Previously considered a cosmetic problem, new research indicates that skin tags may have medical significance.
It’s unclear how or why skin tags develop but they are increasingly common with age (60% of individuals aged 69 years or older have multiple skin tags). Friction seems to precipitate skin tags, and viral infection may be a cofactor. Some researchers suggest skin tags develop pursuant to hyperinsulinemia, as insulin is a growth-stimulating hormone. Microscopically, skin tags have fibrovascular cores that induce mild chronic inflammation. Medical terms used to describe skin tags include soft words, acrochorda, cutaneous tags, skin fibroma, and fibroepithelialpolyps.
Researchers have recently found associations between skin tags and a number of clinical conditions. Patients who have multiple skin tags are at elevated risk for acromegaly, colonic polyps, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, hypertension, lipid disorders, and acanthosis nigricans.
Skin tags are also linked to metabolic syndrome (MetS). New information suggests that skin tags may indicate insulin resistance. This is of concern because MetS and insulin resistance both increase cardiovascular mortality risk.
Other research has associated skin tags with elevated leptin, C-reactive protein, and fasting insulin levels.
Many skin tags harbor human papilloma virus (HPV). Researchers found HPV 6 and HPV 11 DNA in 71% of the skin tags that they biopsied (N = 35). However, HPV 6 and 11 are low-risk viruses. HPV may be a contributing factor in the development of skin tags.
Acanthosis nigricans manifests as areas of dark, velvety discoloration in body creases and folds such as the armpits, groin, and neck, sometimes causing skin to become thickened. This condition occurs most often in people who are obese or who have diabetes. It’s also considered a red flag for future diabetes in children, and may predict cancer, especially cancer of the stomach or liver.
Much research on skin tags is preliminary and some is conflicting. The clinical implications from recent research: retail health care clinicians should have a high index of suspicion when patients present with multiple skin tags. Metabolic screening is prudent, and patients may need early intervention to prevent or address MetS, counseling on lifestyle modifications, or prescription medications to lower lipids and elevated glucose levels.
What to Do?
Patients may complain skin tags cause itching or pain. Patients may be reluctant to remove skin tags, believing that removing one skin tag causes more to grow. This is urban legend. Retail health care providers should encourage patients to have irritating skin tags removed. Options include the following:
· Strangling the skin tag by tying it close to the skin with dental floss or string
· Freezing it with liquid nitrogen
· Using electric cautery
· Snipping the tag with scissors with anesthetic (large tags) or without anesthetic (small tags).
Physical removal of skin tags can sometimes cause minor bleeding.
Askar H, Darwish N, Abdelgaber S, Eldomiaty A. Human papilloma virus and skin tags. Egypt J Med Microbiol. 2016;25(4):113-118.
Hui ES, Yip BH, Tsang KW, et al. Association between multiple skin tags and metabolic syndrome: A multicentre cross-sectional study in primary care. Diabetes Metab. 2016;42(2):126-129.
Maluki AH, Abdullah AA. Metabolic associations with skin tags. Int J Dern Clin Res.
Shenoy C, Shenoy MM, Krishna S, et al. Skin tags are not merely cosmetic: A study on its association with metabolic syndrome. Int J Health & Allied Sci. 2016;5;50-52. 2016;2(1):3-11.
Acrochordons, also called skin tags, are very common benign skin growths. It is estimated that almost half of adults have at least one of these harmless growths. They occur more commonly in obese or diabetic individuals and in people with a family history of skin tags. Acrochordons affect men and women with equal frequency.
Acrochordons can appear as early as the second decade. Typically after age seventy people do not develop new acrochordons. They tend to grow in areas where there are skin folds, such as the underarms, neck, eyelids, and groin. They are skin colored or brown ovoid growths attached to a fleshy stalk. Usually they are small, between 2-5 mm, but can grow to be several centimeters. Acrochordons are not painful but can be bothersome. People frequently complain skin tags get caught on clothing or jewelry.
The cause of acrochordons is unknown, however there are several theories. Irritation or friction to the skin, as occurs with skin rubbing on skin in body folds, may play a role in their formation. Acrochordons are found more commonly in people who are overweight or have diabetes. This may be due to body habitus (more skin folds), but some people think insulin resistance may somehow contribute to the development of these harmless tumors. A study of 49 patients with acrochordons showed that the human papilloma virus (HPV) was present in a high percentage of growths, suggesting the virus plays a role in development. It is also possible that acrochordons are genetic or simply due to normal aging and loss of elastic tissue. There is a genetic disorder called Birt-Hogg-Dube Syndrome that is characterized by numerous skin tags along with other skin and systemic findings.
Acrochordons are harmless and do not require removal. Typical skin tags can be removed for comfort or cosmetic purposes either by scissor excision, electrocautery (burning), or cryosurgery (freezing). Skin tags with long, narrow stalks can become twisted, cutting off the blood supply and abruptly turning the tag dark brown or black. If a skin tag appears that it is changing or becomes painful, it should be examined by a dermatologist to exclude other, potentially harmful diagnoses.
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The medical information provided in this site is for educational purposes only and is the property of the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice and shall not create a physician – patient relationship. If you have a specific question or concern about a skin lesion or disease, please consult a dermatologist. Any use, re-creation, dissemination, forwarding or copying of this information is strictly prohibited unless expressed written permission is given by the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.
You’re putting on your favorite necklace and it gets caught on a tiny, rogue flap of skin that’s popped up right at your neckline. Sound familiar?
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Most of the time, common skin flaws like skin tags or skin cysts are nothing more than unsightly and annoying, but occasionally there can be more to them. It’s important to know when to have a doctor take a look.
Skin tags are flesh-colored skin growths that usually develop on areas of the body where skin rubs together, such as the neck, armpit or groin.
“They don’t discriminate — they affect people of all ages and body types and can occur anywhere, including the face,” says dermatologist Pamela Ng, MD.
Most of the time, skin tags are just an annoyance. “If it’s truly a skin tag, then it’s of no concern,” Dr. Ng says. “However, when skin tags are twisted, irritated, or bleeding, this might be a good reason to see a doctor.”
Don’t try this at home
It can be tempting to try to slice or pull off a skin tag that’s shown up in an inconvenient spot. Over-the-counter devices, patches and topical remedies also claim to get rid of them quickly.
But Dr. Ng warns against such do-it-yourself treatment, which can lead to bleeding and infection.
She prefers to remove skin tags in-office by numbing the area and snipping off the tag. “I like the method of snipping best because it’s clean and the skin tags are gone by the time the patient leaves,” she says.
Other possible options include
- Freezing, which will cause the tag to fall off after about 10-14 days, she says. However, freezing can cause greater inflammation to the surrounding skin.
- Electrodessication, which is a surgical method of drying out tissue by touching it with a needle-like electrode that passes electric current into the tissue.
One thing to keep in mind, Dr. Ng says, is that skin tag removal is considered “cosmetic” by most insurance companies and usually is not covered.
Skin cysts: When in doubt, have them checked out
Skin cysts — called epidermoid cysts — are different from skin tags. They’re small nodules that form under the skin and fill with keratin, a structural protein found in the skin. Cysts can develop on various parts of the body, including the scalp.
Usually they’re nothing to worry about and don’t need to be removed unless they’re bothering you. But if one becomes inflamed, infected, or painful, Dr. Ng recommends getting it checked out by a doctor, as there are various tumors that can occur as lumps underneath the skin.
The don’t-try-it-at-home advice holds true for removing skin cysts, too.
“Trying to take care of it on your own means you’re self-diagnosing,” she says. “You might be treating something inappropriate, like a skin cancer or a mole. Let a doctor diagnose it before you try anything at home.”
A doctor can make the cyst smaller and less inflamed or painful by injecting it with a steroid, which is sometimes mixed with an antibiotic. “I prefer this because it can decrease the swelling and pain without creating a scar or wound,” Dr. Ng says.
Sometimes, cysts have to be opened up and drained. This will leave a scar and the cyst can come back. Finally, cysts can be cut out surgically, but that will also be trading a bump for a scar.
If there’s ever any question about what’s going on with your skin, there’s no harm in having your doctor take a look, Dr. Ng says: “It’s best to have it evaluated by a physician if you are not sure what it is.”
Medically reviewed by Nicole R. LeBoeuf, MD, MPH
A skin tag is a narrow stalk of hanging skin that bulges at the end. Skin tags are usually flesh-colored and can develop anywhere on the body, but are most often found in areas where the skin rubs together, such as the neck and armpit.
Skin cancer is a disease in which malignant, or cancerous, cells form in the tissues of the skin. Although skin tags are tumors of the skin that consist of fibers and ducts, nerve cells, fat cells, and a covering epidermis, they are benign, or noncancerous.
It is extremely rare that a skin tag becomes precancerous or cancerous – however, if your skin tag, as with any skin lesions, changes color or shape, it is recommended that you contact your dermatologist.
Up to 46 percent of the population in the United States has skin tags, according to the National Institutes of Health. They are most common among men and women past middle age, overweight people, diabetics, and pregnant women. Some people appear to inherit an increased susceptibility to skin tags. Risk factors associated with skin cancer, such as exposure to sunlight or a lighter natural skin color, are not associated with skin tags.
Skin tag removal
Because skin tags are harmless and painless, most people don’t need treatment for them. However, doctors can remove the skin tags by freezing them with liquid nitrogen, performing electrocautery, or numbing and cutting off the skin tags if the patient is self-conscious about them.
While skin tags are not cancerous, it is important to keep an eye on any growths or changes in the skin. Most doctors recommend doing your own skin check at least once a month, ideally after a shower or bath and in a well-lit room, as well as having a full skin exam by a physician at least once a year.
Learn more about skin cancer from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Since removing skin tags at home isn’t recommended, visit your doctor if you want them removed. Your doctor may use several different methods to remove a skin tag. These include:
- Freezing it off. A small dollop or spray of liquid nitrogen applied directly to your skin tag will encourage the skin tag to fall off. It may hurt a little as the skin around it can form a small blister, which will heal on its own.
- Cutting it off. Your doctor may use a scalpel or special scissors to clip the skin tag off. If your doctor is concerned about pain, a local anesthetic may be applied beforehand.
- Burning it off. Burning is a removal technique that’s unlikely to leave any scars or marks. A wire heated with an electric current becomes hot and is then used to burn through the small stem that attaches the skin tag to your skin. As the heat passes through the stem it’ll also cauterize it, so there’s minimal or no bleeding.
If you have more than one skin tag, it’s a smart idea to have your doctor remove them all at once, especially if you’re trying to get your insurance to pay for the procedure. Even if your insurance doesn’t cover it, having skin tags removed may be cheaper than you expect. In many cases, it can cost as little as $100 to have them removed, although if you have a lot of skin tags, it may cost more. Your total price will depend on your insurance, deductible, and the doctor you choose.
When Should You Worry About Skin Tags, Moles, and Birthmarks?
Sometimes the skin can do unexpected things, right?
As if we don’t have enough to deal with in our modern lives, these surprise, quirky little “skin issues” can pop up demanding our attention.
Kind of like UFO’s, I think of these as USO’s – Unidentified Skin Objects.
In case you’re dealing with skin tags, moles, or birthmarks and finding them harder to ignore lately, I feel you!
And I want you to know that’s sort of a good thing. Why?
Because research is showing how critical it is to detect skin cancer early by monitoring your skin for any changes or any new USO’s that pop up.
Know the marks and moles on your body, and watch for changes, beauties.
Ultimately, I find that the more we know about our skin and its changes, the less likely those changes are to trigger undue fears and worries about our health.
In the interest of worry-free summer days, I’ll tackle the issue head-on today and give you the lowdown on what causes birthmarks, moles, and skin tags, how to safely remove them, or how to cover them up on the days when you want them gone.
I’ll also address how to stay safe and answer the most common questions I hear:
- Why do they happen?
- Who is susceptible?
- Should I be worried?
- What does it mean when they show up?
Let’s give it a go!
What are they?
Skin tags are also known as fibromas, polyps, or papillomas.
They’re non-dangerous types of tumors or growths on the skin that usually form in a place where constant friction occurs, such as in the folds of the body.
Common areas include the eyelids, underarms, neck, and breast area (think of where your underwire meets your skin).
Skin tags are irregular areas of skin, raised on a peduncle or stalk, and at times may be darker in color than the surrounding skin.
They can contain nerve and fat cells, and they vary in size.
What causes them?
Some people are more susceptible to skin tags, and that includes those affected by diabetes.
The research suggests that skin tags may be related to an excess of insulin in the blood.
This is not the only possible cause, however, as skin tags may also happen during pregnancy or in people who suffer from obesity.
You may also have a genetic predisposition to developing them.
As I mentioned above, they can simply be caused by friction (like your clothes rubbing against your skin, or from shaving a certain area repeatedly).
If you have skin tags, though, it’s no need for panic.
According to the National Institute of Health, over 45% of the population does, too!
So, they’re extremely common.
Warning signs to look out for
For the most part, skin tags are harmless, but an increased presence of them could signal an underlying health issue such as insulin resistance.
To understand the connection, you must understand how they develop.
A skin tag can be caused by increased cell turnover in the skin.
Increased cell turnover can be caused by inflammation in the body.
Inflammation in the body can be caused by the body’s inability to regulate blood sugar levels, which occurs when prediabetes or diabetes is present.
Of course, other issues can cause inflammation, but skin tags can be an important red flag at a time when, according to the CDC, over 30 million people have diabetes, and 1 in 4 of them don’t realize they have it.
If a skin tag becomes irritated or inflamed, appears red or changes color, that would be an indication to have it checked.
You’ll want to rule out skin cancer in that case.
So, here’s the long and short of it:
Are skin tags always a warning sign?
Can they be a sign of a health issue?
Possibly, and if you have any concerns about them, it’s well worth checking in with your doctor and having them looked at (and possible checking blood-sugar levels as well).
When it comes to the body’s little warning signs, I like to (try to) be thankful for them and take them seriously.
Ultimately, you know your body better than anyone.
What are they?
Birthmarks – marks on the skin that we’re born with – come in two types: pigmented or vascular.
Pigmented birthmarks have two main variations:
- Café au lait spots, which are so named because they resemble a coffee stain, appear light brown on light skin and dark brown to black on dark skin.
- Mongolian spots, which resemble a bruise and appear bluish-gray in color.
Vascular birthmarks have several variations:
- Salmon patches are named after their reddish-pink color and are common in newborns. Around 35% of newborns have these patches on the face or head at birth, and they often fade within a few months.
- Hemangiomas are vascular lesions that may be flat or raised and appear strawberry-like. They can be superficial or deep, sometimes require treatment, but normally shrink and disappear as a child grows.
- Port wine stains are pink to dark-red patches often found on the face and made up of capillaries. These birthmarks can grow and darken over time and may be treated with laser therapy.
A mole, which we’ll cover in detail below, can be a mark we’re born with at birth, but it’s in a category of its own.
Above is an example of a port wine stain.
What causes them?
Pigmented birthmarks are caused by an abundance of melanin, a protective substance.
These birthmarks usually fade over time and may disappear entirely around adolescence, though not always.
Vascular birthmarks are caused by stretched blood vessels or blood vessels that clump together or otherwise form differently.
These often occur on the faces of babies and fade away in the first year of life.
However, vascular birthmarks can vary greatly in size and can be permanent.
Since birthmarks are present in babies, they will usually be thoroughly examined in the baby’s first days and weeks of life and most pose no threat or problem.
As we grow older, they need to be treated like any other area of skin and monitored for changes.
We’ll cover the risks related to moles below, but for most pigmented or vascular birthmarks, there is no increased risk of skin cancer involved.
What are they?
Moles are another type of growth on the skin made up of clusters of pigmented cells.
As such, they are normally darker in color than the surrounding skin.
They differ from freckles in that freckles are an area of increased pigment, but not a growth.
What causes them?
Moles form when cells called melanocytes grow together in a cluster.
Melanocytes are specialized skin cells that produce melanin.
Normally, they transfer the protective pigment to adjacent epidermal cells and are spread out to do their job.
Melanocytes have many fascinating functions, and the melanin they produce serves to protect our DNA from UV radiation.
An important job, right?
Any mole or freckle with a diameter larger than a pencil eraser should be treated as potential skin cancer just to be safe.
This means keeping an eye on it and monitoring for changes using the ABCDE’s of skin-cancer prevention.
Anytime a mole (or any area of skin) shows one of the ABCDE’s listed below, it’s time to have it checked by a dermatologist:
This is one of the most common questions I hear in my practice related to skin tags, moles, and other USO’s: Should I have it removed?
And my answer is always the same – let a qualified dermatologist answer that question.
My best advice is to seek the objective medical opinion of a trusted dermatologist, and then go from there.
If you decide based on good medical advice to have one of these removed, you’ll have several options.
Notice that one of those options is not and should never be to try and remove it yourself.
(See home remedies that some have tried below.)
Cutting away at your skin is never a good idea and can bring so much risk for infection and disease.
I value your health, beauties.
Just. Don’t. Do it.
If you get anything from this post, I hope it’s these two things:
- Information to empower your decisions, and
- We all have these unexpected skin issues, irregularities, and imperfections.
I know I do. And some days I’m more okay with that than others.
Let’s be imperfect together, shall we?
Don’t ever be ashamed of your imperfections or too embarrassed to seek medical advice or intervention when needed.
Sometimes I think we try to handle things ourselves because, at the very heart of it, we feel ashamed.
Social media highlight reels, highly edited images online, and external pressures to measure up can all play into our insecurities.
That’s life. But let’s not let it be life-threatening and keep us from seeking medical help or just setting our minds at ease.
In every issue I’ve covered here today, your dermatologist should be your trusted advisor who stands at the front lines to help you stay healthy.
If you know that removing a skin tag or mole for cosmetic reasons will help you feel your best, that’s okay, as long as you seek the best advice and treat the removal like the medical procedure it is (even if a minor one).
Here are some of the common medical options:
- Cauterization – For skin tags. The dermatologist will apply an electric current and essentially burn the growth. Cauterization will leave a scab that will fall off eventually.
- Cryotherapy – For skin tags. The dermatologist will apply liquid nitrogen to freeze the skin tag. This destroys the targeted cells and may require more than one treatment to remove the growth. The skin tag will fall off in a few days to weeks.
- Laser removal – For skin tags. The dermatologist will use a radiofrequency laser to burn the skin tag off. Typically does not result in scarring.
- Surgery – For Moles. The dermatologist will excise the mole, cutting out all of it down to the subcutaneous level, and sew the skin back together. Requires stitches.
- Shave excision – For Moles. The dermatologist will use a flat scalpel or razor and shave the mole flat. No stitches are required, and it is possible but rare for the mole to come back. Normally produces good cosmetic results.
At the time of removal, your doctor will let you know if a biopsy is warranted.
If they don’t, be sure to ask.
There are a few home-remedy-type options that some people have reported success with.
Please note, however, that I’m purely providing these as an informative stance.
I always recommend seeing your physician to receive safe, proper care.
All of these options involve treating skin tags or moles with substances available over-the-counter with the intention of having them shrink, dry up and fall off, or otherwise disappear.
With all the remedies below, the treatment involves massaging the area with a substance, placing a bandage over it for one to several hours (sometimes overnight), and repeating daily.
The most common home remedies include:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Vitamin E
- Tea tree oil
I can’t report any personal experience with this, as I haven’t tried it.
So, if you’ve had success with any of these, I would be interested to read in the comments!
Of course, another option you have is to use makeup to cover up moles, skin tags, or birthmarks that really bother you.
This I have experience with!
What works for me may not work for you, so the thing to do is experiment with a combination of concealer, powder, and foundation until you’re satisfied with the results.
I’ve found that a good color-correcting primer has also been effective for me, and then experimenting with the right color foundation to disguise the area is key.
Taking good care of your skin is so important, which is why I want to extend a special offer to you.
Right now, you can get 1 of my Clear Collagen Peel-Off Masques if you just pay for shipping.
I’m so glad we’re all imperfectly perfect!
When it comes to these pesky little USO’s that pop up, the most important thing is to stay vigilant and aware of any dangers they might pose.
Know your skin and its topography.
Keep an eye out for changes with a strong focus on the ABCDE’s of skin cancer.
Other than that, my all-time favorite cliché rings true in this case – you do you!
What works for me may not be right for you, but I will always support you in your quest to feel and look your best – safely.
We all know beauty comes from the inside out, so let yours shine!
Any questions about these skin issues I haven’t answered here? Pop them into the comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer.
Last updated by Alana at June 20, 2018.
Wondering how to remove skin tags? You’re not alone. According to dermatologist Laurel Naversen Geraghty, skin tag removal is something patients ask her constantly. “People come to me every day asking ‘what can I do about these skin tags? how can I get rid of them?'”
“Skin tags are these fleshy little bumps that are just annoying as can be. Skin tags can rub against clothing or get caught on jewelry and then they can get really irritated and inflamed. Some people’s skin tags even bleed. Skin tags often form in areas of friction. They’ll appear around the neck, under the arms, on our thighs, even around the eyelids,” says Geraghty. If you want to get rid of skin tags, read on for advice from Geraghty about how to remove skin tags at the dermatologist’s office.
Getting Rid of Skin Tags at the Dermatologist’s Office
Right off the bat, let’s point out that skin tags — while annoying — aren’t a medical emergency. The medical terms a skin tag is acrochordon or fibroepithelial polyp. They’re benign skin lesions composed of normal skin tissue and fat. They can happen to anyone, and they can run in families.
Michelle Nguyen, a dermatologist and the director of Mohs micrographic surgery at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, tells Allure that what we call skin tags are really just benign skin lesions composed of normal skin tissue. New York City dermatologist Joshua Zeichner adds that skin tags, comprised of extra skin and fat, can happen to anyone. There is, however, a genetic component to them, and people whose parents had them are more likely to get them themselves.
Most importantly, “skin tags are not dangerous,” says Nguyen, adding that genetic disposition, obesity, and pregnancy all might cause the development of the skin tags. Diabetes has also been linked to skin tags.
Small Skin Tag Removal
If the skin tag is very small, the first thing Geraghty does is spray the bump with cold liquid nitrogen, a non-toxic substance. It’s sprayed out of a can and is approximately -320 degrees Fahrenheit. “We direct this very cold spray of gas onto the spot for a few seconds, then we take a break and then we do a few seconds more and usually that’s enough to make the skin tag fall off within a few days,” said Geraghty.
As for the discomfort factor: “The treatment stings for a few seconds, and it turns the area red and inflamed. Some people form little blisters or scab over in the few days after it, as the extreme cold has destroyed the skin cells in order to make the skin tag go away. So that’s my go-to if they’re very small, like a tiny, fleshy bump of a skin tag.
Large Skin Tag Removal
“If the skin tags are a little bigger or they have more of a thicker stalk at the bottom, then I like to just do a miniature injection of lidocaine to numb the skin and just snip them right off with some very sharp sterile scissors. It only takes a second to do,” says Geraghty. “Even with that method I usually do a little bit of cautery after to burn the base because these skin tags have their own blood vessel supply. Burning the base also puts a little scab on it.”
Scabs during healing are advantageous because “the skin tag is less likely to regrow and also, the skin tag is less likely to bleed — that’s not what anybody wants.
Does insurance pay for skin tag removal at the doctor’s office?
“A lot of times will not pay for skin tags to be treated unless they’re really bothering people. If somebody is having symptoms they should emphasize that to their doctor,” says Geraghty.