I have them. You might have them, too. In fact, according to a study published in the journal Dermotologica — the only one that provides hard numbers on the subject — 46 percent of 750 randomly selected people studied had them. But I was in my early twenties, and I had no idea what was going on. All I knew was that over the course of several months, a few tiny bumps had appeared — on my genitals, mostly in the fold between my thigh and pubic area. From what I could tell, they were skin-colored. They were not moles. Clearly, I had a sexually transmitted disease (STD). I thought they were warts. I Googled, and then I dearly wished I hadn’t.
Except for the cosmetic appearance, skin tags generally cause no physical pain or discomfort. These tiny skin growths generally cause symptoms when they are repeatedly irritated (for example, by the collar or in the groin). Cosmetic reasons are the most common reason for skin tag removal. The following symptoms and signs may necessitate skin tag removal:
My skin tags, of course — like the skin tags of millions of people — were fine. They didn’t irritate or bother me, though some doctors mentioned them getting twisted in necklace or irritated by rubbing on clothing. When that happens, or for cosmetic reasons, skin tags are easily removed. “There are several methods of removal — clip them with sharp scissors; freeze them with liquid nitrogen; or burn them off with heat,” meaning cauterize them, Dr. Besser says. (All of this should be performed by a medical professional, not at home.)
Moles can be removed a number of ways, most commonly by numbing the area and then shaving them off or cutting them out and closing the area with stiches. The method of removal is determined by a number of factors including appearance, size, location, and type of mole. For example, if a mole is just bothersome because it is raised, shaving it flat is usually the best approach. Similarly, if a mole is abnormal appearing and small, it also is typically shaved. Conversely, moles that are growing irritated hairs are usually best treated with complete removal and closure with stiches. Moles can grow back after shaving (and occasionally even after removing and closing area with stiches).
And I was getting them exactly where I was expected to. Michele Farber, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, says they can happen anywhere, but “they are normally on the neck, underarms, [and] underneath the breasts and the groin folds.” Cynthia Abbott, MD, who works with Dermatology Affiliates in Marietta, Georgia, says that while “skin tags are an outgrowth of skin most commonly occurring due to constant rubbing and irritation,” that they “can form anywhere, but the waistline, underarms, groin, neck, and other areas of friction with necklaces and clothes are the most common locations.”
Most people choose to remove them for cosmetic reasons, especially skin tags that surface on the neck, eyelid, or face. In rare cases, a skin tag can get irritated and infected. In that case, skin tag removal is the best course of action to prevent infection from reoccurring. But, what causes them? And once you have them, you need to know how to get rid of skin tags. We’ll explain it all.
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.
While the presence of skin tags can be unsightly and annoying there really aren’t that many reasons to remove them. If they are in locations where they get stuck in clothing or zippers you may want to have them taken off to avoid pain and bleeding. You may also want to have skin tags near the eyes removed. “Some skin tags can become very large and cause problems with vision,” said Sorensen.
If you’re experiencing pain after your mole removal or you notice that your mole is growing back, call your doctor so they can take another look. And if you got the mole removed in order for it to be biopsied, you should have your results within a week so that you can either put the entire thing behind you or move forward with a treatment plan if necessary.
Essential oils contain anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that may help remove skin tags naturally. One solution that's becoming popular is the use of tea tree oil, which is a potent product derived from the Melaleuca alternifolia tree from Australia.19 This plant has been studied extensively, with research pointing out that it can help fight bacteria,20 fungi21 and viruses.22 Furthermore, other experts note that tea tree oil contains anti-inflammatory properties.23,24,25
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.”