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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)
Some common skin tag look-alikes include benign lesions such as seborrheic keratoses, common moles, warts, neurofibromas, and a fatty mole called nevus lipomatosus. While extremely rare, there are a few reports of skin cancers found in skin tags. Skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma may rarely mimic skin tags, as described above.
So you’ve decided that your skin tag is bothering you. As long as the tag is not infected or near a sensitive area, you can treat it yourself at home. Below, you can read about three of the best skin tag removal methods that you can try in the comfort and convenience of your own home. The fourth method is not recommended for home use, though many still attempt to try it despite its dangers.
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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.
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.
The last issue to consider with the cost of mole removal is the charge for pathology. All moles, no matter how benign they may appear, should be sent for pathological study to confirm their histology. Finally, mole removal is basically elective and cosmetic when the mole appears clinically benign;however, if your dermatologist has suspicions or doubts regarding the benignity of the mole, then he is performing a medically indicated excisional biopsy.
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.
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.)
There are a few ways that moles may be removed to create a more attractive appearance. When the growth is superficial and raised, we may perform a shave excision. Comfort is a priority, and we achieve this with the use of local anesthetic before mole removal procedures. The shave technique involves a transverse incision that “shaves” the growth from the skin's surface. In many cases, this results in healing into a barely perceptible scar.
Make a dermatologist appointment. The majority of skin tags are harmless, but it is best to talk with a dermatologist if you notice that the tag is darker than your skin color, large in size, or unusual in shape. If you remove the tag without consulting a professional you could lose valuable time in the event that it is a sign of a larger problem.
Don’t impulsively deem any protruding bump as a skin tag; after all, there is an overwhelming number of things it could be—moles and seborrheic keratoses can closely resemble skin tags. Even worse, it could be something that requires medical treatment such as genital warts (possible indication of a sexually transmitted disease). Some growths could also be an extension of glands on the skin, and they can get infected if you’re poking at them at home. As a rule of thumb, if the tag is pigmented, see a dermatologist to get it evaluated. And here are 11 other skin mysteries you should know about.
While the unpredictability of skin tags might give off the impression that they’re uncontrollable, this isn’t entirely true. Laura Korb Ferris, MD, says that skin tags are more common in overweight or obese people, and are also associated with insulin resistance and diabetes. As such, maintaining a healthy weight may help reduce skin tag trouble. Basically, think of tags as a barometer of your health. If you live a poor lifestyle, eat a lot of saturated fats, consume too much sugar, and maintain an unhealthy BMI, your body could be alerting you there’s a problem.
It is important to stress that any changes in your skin, including moles and skin tags, should be looked at by your physician or dermatologist to rule out skin cancer including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Routinely check your skin for any changes, and photograph areas of concern so you can keep track of any variations easily.
Your mole removal treatment will depend on the technique used for removal. However, it may take a few weeks to notice the full results from treatment. If your mole is being removed by excision, we will use a topical anesthetic to minimize discomfort during your treatment. You may also have some discomfort, swelling, and scarring following your treatment.
"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."
Some doctors said skin tags wouldn’t grow. Some told me they would keep growing. Most of them said they would increase in frequency as a person ages, and sure enough, what did I find over my eyelid the other day — a tiny little skin tag, just where the lid rubs against my brow. For cosmetic reasons, I’d consider getting that one removed, though the thought of liquid nitrogen on that thin skin makes me shudder, as do the aesthetics of a giant Band-Aid on my face for days.