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.
Skin tags have been linked to diabetes. "We know that diabetics are more prone to them. More research is needed to know exactly why that is scientifically, but there’s some correlation that we observed with diabetes," says Geraghty. Though doctors don't fully understand why, the body's resistance to insulin might have something to do with it. So, if you have diabetes, you may be at an increased risk of developing skin tags.
Simply soak a sterile cotton ball with apple cider vinegar and secure it in place over the skin tag with a bandage for 20 minutes. Remove and check for any irritation on the skin. If no irritation is evident, you will want to do the 20-minute treatment during the day and then before bed. Apply the soaked cotton ball and secure it, and leave it on overnight.
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
Hormone elevations, such as those seen during pregnancy, may cause an increase in the formation of skin tags, as skin tags are more frequent in pregnant women. Tags are essentially harmless and do not have to be treated unless they are bothersome. Skin tags that are bothersome may be easily removed during or after pregnancy, typically by a dermatologist.
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.
Most importantly, don’t take it upon yourself to decide that a growth is benign. At your dermatologist’s office, you’ll have a better shot at getting a solid read on what you have—and whether it’s an issue. And if you want it removed, most doctors will perform removal by freezing with liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery), cautery with an electric current (electrosurgery), or cutting with medical scissors (snip excision).
Then, your doctor will clean the surface of your skin, usually with an alcohol pad, and inject the area with local anesthesia like lidocaine, Dr. Lipoff says. “This should be the only part with any discomfort,” he adds. “There may be a pinch and a burn.” After that, the anesthesia should kick in, and your mole plus the surrounding area should be nice and numb.
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If you notice a growth on your skin, don't assume it's a skin tag right away. Check with a doctor first, as it can signify a more severe condition. If the growth is confirmed to be a skin tag and you want to remove it manually, sterilize your tools and check for any allergic reactions first, particularly if applying essential oils. If home remedies don't work, you may visit a dermatologist as a last resort.