Woman smiling in the mirror examining her face for skin tags

What are skin tags? Q&A with a dermatologist

Have you ever taken off a piece of jewelry or clothing and noticed what looks like an extra piece of skin? If your answer is yes, do not worry. You probably have a harmless growth known as a skin tag.

Nearly half of all people will develop these benign growths at some point in their life. Skin tags may be irritating and odd-looking, but they are not dangerous. Here’s what Summit Health dermatologist Hee Jin Koh, MD, says you need to know about these growths that stick out or hang on the skin.

What is a skin tag?

Skin tags, also known as acrochorda, are one of the most common conditions that bring patients to the dermatologist. These soft growths are made up of loose collagen fibers that become lodged inside thicker areas of the skin.

Generally, skin tags form within the folds of the neck, armpits, breasts, groin, and eyelids. They are most common in older adults, women, people with diabetes, and individuals who are overweight or pregnant.

What does a skin tag look like?

Skin tags look like small out-pouchings of skin that usually have a thin stalk attached to the body. They are soft and usually flesh-colored or brown. Skin tags are generally harmless, but they can be bothersome if there is repeated friction on the skin from clothing or jewelry.

If I have one skin tag, will I keep getting them?

Dermatologists are not sure exactly why skin tags occur. If you develop one skin tag, you are likely to get more with age. Several skin tags may develop in one location on your body. There is no way to prevent them, but you can reduce your risk by avoiding associated conditions like obesity.

Are skin tags cancerous? Can I remove one myself?

Skin tags are not cancerous. The growths can be left alone if they are not irritating or bothersome to you cosmetically. If you detect any changes — in size, shape, or color — make an appointment with a dermatologist right away.

How can skin tags be removed?

Skin tags can be taken off by a dermatologist. The most common way to remove skin tags is with a surgical scissor. Your dermatologist will numb the area, so you do not feel any discomfort. Other methods include shaving, cauterizing, or freezing the growth. The area will heal in a few weeks.

Can skin tags be removed at home?

You may see some home remedies for removing skin tags if you search online. You should never try and cut a skin tag yourself. If the growth is not properly cauterized or frozen by a physician, it can put you at serious risk for bleeding, infection, and scarring.

Summit Health dermatologists can diagnose and treat skin tags. If you suspect you may have a skin tag, have the growth evaluated to ensure it is not a more serious problem like skin cancer and discuss your options for removal.

Anything else I should know?

Skin tag removal is considered a cosmetic procedure by insurance companies. We recommend that patients assume skin tag removal will not be covered by insurance and inquire about cost of removal prior to scheduling an appointment.

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