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
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 natural 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 [they] 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.
Tell your doctor if the skin tag is painful, itchy, bleeding or constantly catching on clothes or jewelry. Any of this can help the case if you're fighting for your health insurance to foot the bill. And if insurance does pay for it they will pay for up to 14 symptomatic skin tags at one time, explains Geraghty. "For people who come in with quite a few skin tags, it’s good to just get them all done on the same day just from an insurance standpoint."
How Much Does it Cost to Get Rid of Skin Tags at the Dermatologist's Office?
The cost of skin tag removal costs between $100 and $500, depending on your location, insurance, deductibles, the number of skin tags to be removed, and the physician you select.
Don't Try to Get Rid of Skin Tags at Home
Doctors do not recommend that you snip off you skin tag yourself. "I see patients come into my office and you know they’re in pain because they've tried to clip the skin tags off themselves," says Geraghty. "Maybe part of it was left behind so it’s just having a hard time healing, or they’ve tried to do that trick where they try to tie dental floss or thread around it to strangulate the skin tag and end up killing part of the tissue but not the other, which is still hanging on. These patients will end up with a sore, red, inflamed, tender bump."
"Infection is a risk, traumatizing the skin is a risk, bleeding is a risk," says Geraghty. More likely than not you'll end up hurting yourself and end up having to go to the dermatologist anyway."When people come to me in situations like these, I will just numb the area up, snip it off and burn the base. It's a quick, easy way to just get them off so their skin can focus on healing. If the lesion is sort of half-dead and half-alive (after self-surgery gone awry), there's going to be a lot of pain and continued inflammation without the bump even going away."
DIY Skin Tag Removal Methods On the Internet
As far as other DIY methods for skin tag removal at home, such as applying apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, tea tree oil, etc., Geraghty notes that there's no compelling evidence to show that those therapies are effective. "You can't make tissue disappear by putting a little vinegar on it. It just doesn’t work... You really need that to physically be removed."If you want to try it I don’t think it’ll probably harm the skin tags, however. The worst that can happen is you’ll probably get a little red or itchy and inflamed there. So, while I don’t think it’s going to hurt, I don’t think it’s going to help," says Geraghty. She added that you could cause skin irritation and redness with these treatments, without getting results or getting rid of the skin tag.
The internet, of course, is full of interesting suggestions, including tying the stalk of a skin tag with dental floss or thread in an attempt to strangulate it and make it fall off. This, too, is a recipe for traumatizing your skin. Don't fall for sites hocking skin tag removal products. The right way to remove a skin tag is at the dermatologist's office. If you've been Googling "how to remove skin tags at home," you might as well stop.
What Increases the Risk of Getting Skin Tags?
Skin tags can happen to anyone, but they're more likely to happen to adults than children. Men and women are affected by skin tags at equal rates. That being said, there are a few factors that can be linked to the development of skin tags.
Obesity and the friction caused by skin tags are major players in developing skin tags. In overweight people, skin is more likely to rub against itself and that friction stimulates skin tag growth. You know the spots: under the arms, between the thighs, along the neck where our necklaces rest and rub.
Factors associated with pregnancy are setup for skin tags. The body is in a general state of growth during pregnancy and all kinds of skin lesions grow during this time. That state of growth, coupled with heavier-than-normal body weight and possible gestational diabetes (which may be correlated to skin tags), and increased friction in areas of rubbing, like the inner thighs or underarms, can all lead to skin tags during pregnancy.
"The mother can grow all kinds of things on her skin during pregnancy. Moles on the abdomen can change, skin tags can form or become enlarged. It’s just part of the normal, physiologic changes that women go through in pregnancy," says Geraghty.
Skin tags have been linked to diabetes. "We know that diabetics are more prone to them. More research is needed to know exactly why that is scientifically, but there’s some correlation that we observed with diabetes," says Geraghty. Though doctors don't fully understand *why* , the body's resistance to insulin might have something to do with it. So, if you have diabetes, you may be at an increased risk of developing skin tags.
How Do You Prevent Skin Tags?
Reducing skin friction — like, not wearing necklaces that can rub on the skin — can help keep new tags from developing, says Nguyen, who adds that removed skin tags don’t typically grow back, though new ones may grow in the same general area where tags have previously popped up. A healthy diet and lifestyle can help keep blood sugar level low, which may also help prevent skin tags from forming.
Skin Conditions that Look Like Skin Tags But Aren't
If you’re worried that something on your skin isn’t a skin tag but something else, you should have a dermatologist check it out. Common skin conditions that aren’t skin tags but look like skin tags are seborrheic keratoses and neurofibromas.
Seborrheic keratoses are extremely common on the neck. Like skin tags, these often form in areas of high friction. "On women, the chest, neck, underarm area, and even under the bra line are common sites for these lesions to form, though they can form anywhere on the skin," explains Geraghty.
"Neurofibromas are just little skin-colored, fleshy papules. These little bumps are very common," says Geraghty. "Some people hear 'neurofibroma' and they may think of the genetic syndrome called neurofibromatosis." Neurofibromas can be seen in neurofibromatosis (a genetic condition), but most people have neurofibromas without having the genetic syndrome neurofibromatosis. "Neurofibroma lesions can happen even without that syndrome and typically that’s the case." Like skin tags, neurofibromas are benign.
Early on, skin tags may be as small as a flattened pinhead-sized bump. While most tags typically are small (2 mm-5 mm in diameter) at approximately one-third to one-half the size of a pencil eraser, some skin tags may become as large as a big grape (1 cm in diameter) or a fig (5 cm in diameter)
Skin tags are common, acquired benign skin-colored growths that resemble a small, soft balloon suspended on a slender stalk. Skin tags are harmless growths that can vary in number from one to hundreds. Males and females are equally prone to developing skin tags. Obesity seems to be associated with skin tag development. Although some skin tags may fall off spontaneously, most persist once formed. The medical name for skin tag is *acrochordon* . Some people call them "skin tabs."