People have used all kinds of crazy methods to try removing skin tags on their own, says Dr. Rossi. He’s heard of people tying strings around them, burning them, trying to pick them off with their fingers, and even slamming books against them. “It’s wild what people will do,” he says. Check out more terrible skin-care advice dermatologists wish you’d stop following.
First, the good news: Skin tags are benign and cause no symptoms. These harmless growths of skin can be right on the skin surface or seem to sprout from a thin stalk of skin and hang off the body. Also called cutaneous tags, soft fibromas, acrochordons, and fibroepithelial polyps, skin tags are mostly flesh-colored growths, although some may be darker in color.
While they can turn up anywhere, skin tags tend to appear where there is frequent friction, such as the neck, breasts, groin, and underarms. Ultimately, there is no evidence that skin tags will lead to any serious skin condition: They’re mostly an aesthetic annoyance. Regardless, most dermatologists encourage you to have them checked out—and removed, if you want. The only link to danger is from one study from the Indian Journal of Dermatology, which suggested that skin tags may be a sign of underlying heart issues. You could get your heart checked out, but the one research connection shouldn’t concern anyone too much.
Skin tags can happen on any part of the body but are most commonly found on the neck, under arms, under the breasts and in the groin area. Why these areas? “It is thought that they are related to chronic friction, which is why they are more common in overweight or obese persons,” said Sorensen. “Higher levels of growth factors (like during pregnancy), insulin resistance (more common in people with diabetes) and possibly a genetic component also could all play a part as well.”
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.
Avoid using mole removal creams. These creams are often sold online, marketed as a cheap, noninvasive alternative to surgical removal. In fact, mole removal creams can end up leaving deep pockets in your skin, since they go beyond the mole and dig into the skin underneath, causing irreparable damage. The small scar left behind by surgical removal is minimal in comparison.
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.
According to Live Science, a skin tag is basically just a skin growth that can be smooth or irregular. It may attach to the skin by a stalk. But Katy Burris, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University and board-certified dermatologist practicing at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, puts it simply: “A skin tag is a soft growth of normal skin that appears like a small tag. They tend to appear in areas of high friction, where skin may rub clothing or other skin.”