A mole is a skin abnormality that develops when skin grows in a cluster instead of spreading out. These are usually dark, small patches of skin no larger than the size of an eraser head. Although they are most often harmless, some moles can develop into melanoma skin cancer. If you are concerned about a mole that may be cancerous, please refer to our skin cancer treatment page.
Soft, fleshy growths that hang from the skin are commonly referred to as skin tags. Acrochordons — as they are referred to within the medical community — are not cancerous. They are generally considered a cosmetic concern, not a medical issue. They rarely cause pain or discomfort. But many people find them unsightly and want to know how to remove skin tags. (1)
More than half if not all of the general population has been reported to have skin tags at some time in their lives. Although tags are generally acquired (not present at birth) and may occur in anyone, more often they arise in adulthood. They are much more common in middle age, and they tend to increase in prevalence up to age 60. Children and toddlers may also develop skin tags, particularly in the underarm and neck areas. Skin tags are more common in overweight people.
Let the doctor cut off your tag's blood supply. With this method, called ligation, your doctor will apply a small band to the base of the tag. This will cut off the blood supply to the upper portion of the tag and cause it to die and fall off your skin. The process can take up to a few days and, depending on the size and location of the tag, may be a bit more painful.
And here’s an interesting tidbit to know: “In typical practice, every single mole that is removed is also examined under the microscope, so often we may use the terms ‘mole removal’ and ‘biopsy’ interchangeably,” Jules Lipoff, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Even if a patient is having a mole removed ostensibly for cosmetic reasons, it is prudent to evaluate the pathology regardless,” he explains. “We wouldn’t want to miss something.”
While it is true that skin tags often show up in the armpit or neck creases, the skin-on-skin friction is not what’s to blame. Rather, it’s the creases and skin folds that produce a friendly environment for a virus that may cause some skin tags. According to Ben Johnson, MD, founder of holistic beauty brand Osmosis Skincare, “Viruses are much more commonly spread through contact than people realize, but they don’t find the skin an easy place to survive. Creases improve their chances, and on rare occasions, one makes it into the follicle and infects local skin DNA to create skin tags.”
Have a surgical excision if necessary. If the mole is cancerous, or if it's large and covers a big surface area, it will probably need to be removed using surgical excision. After administering local anesthesia, the dermatologist will make a deeper cut to remove the mole and surrounding tissues, preventing it from growing back. The wound is then closed using sutures designed to leave minimal scarring.
There are no currently medically approved creams for the removal of skin tags. Skin tags are typically removed by physical methods like cutting off or tying off with dental floss. It is not advisable to use unapproved products like Dermasil, wart removers, tea tree oil, nail polish, toothpaste, or hair-removal creams like Neet or Nair. Trial uses of unapproved creams may cause irritation and possible secondary complications.
Insulin resistance, which may lead to type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, may also play a role in the development of skin tags. People with insulin resistance don’t absorb glucose effectively from the bloodstream. According to a 2010 study, the presence of multiple skin tags was associated with insulin resistance, a high body mass index, and high triglycerides.