What You Need To Know About Skin Tags
What You Need To Know About Skin Tags

What You Need To Know About Skin Tags

More than half of adults will experience skin tags at some point but that doesn’t make them any less irritating. Often found on your neck, under your arms and in areas like your groin, they can sometimes catch, bleed and become sore. To find out about the different types, what causes them and how to get rid of them safely, we asked dermatologist Dr Radmila Lukian to explain all.
By Rebecca Hull

Skin Tags Are Harmless

“Skin tags are completely harmless and aren’t categorised as a medical emergency. Caused by an overgrowth of the upper layer of the skin, which forms a lump and dab, this then grows outwards, creating a stalk that resembles a mushroom shape. While genetics play a part, skin tags can happen to anyone at any time, and are very common. Hormonal changes – particularly during pregnancy – may also contribute to their development. This is because they impact collagen production and elasticity, making tags far more likely. It’s worth noting that they are completely benign and have zero malignant potential. They should resemble a small grain of rice or a pebble and be fleshy in appearance.” 

Their Location Isn’t Limited

“Skin tags mainly appear in body creases like the armpit and groin, but they can occur anywhere. Don’t be surprised if you find some around the eyes, on the neck and chest, and even on your thighs. In areas where the skin rubs, gets pulled around or is prone to friction, some may develop. It’s worth noting they aren’t contagious or infectious – nobody can transmit them.” 

Friction Worsens The Issue

“Usually tags flare up on areas of the skin prone to rubbing and friction – hence why armpits are such a sweet spot. But they can also appear after a virus, with some reports showing a link between them and HPV (human papillomavirus). It’s also worth noting that the older we get, the more likely they are to grow. They’ve also been proven to spring up in response to trauma, pregnancy (skin stretching) and are often associated with diabetes, too. Try reducing skin friction where possible, including removing any jewellery which tends to rub. A healthy diet and lifestyle can also help to keep blood sugar levels low, preventing them from forming.”

Infection Is Possible

“Although unlikely, it’s not unheard of for skin tags to become damaged or infected. The likelihood increases if they rub against clothing or get caught on jewellery which causes them to bleed. Finally, if they start to change in shape or colour or exhibit unusual features, get them checked by a doctor.”

DIY Remedies Aren’t Recommended

“Some pharmacies offer over-the-counter freezing solutions, but this isn’t as safe as seeing a professional, and can end up causing damage and scarring the skin. There’s also zero evidence of apple cider vinegar being a worthy remedy, and its acidity could cause flare-ups for sensitive skin types. Where possible, always consult a dermatologist or aesthetic doctor. Likewise, don’t attempt to remove a skin tag at home. I’ve seen many people take scissors and give it a good go, but this will likely lead to infection and scarring. There’s also no guarantee it won’t return without professional removal.” 

There Are Removal Options

If skin tags are a real concern or feel uncomfortable, they can be removed with a laser. However, this should only be carried out by an experienced, qualified professional to minimise risk of infection and scarring. Never attempt removal yourself. The method of removal your provider chooses will be down to the size and location of your skin tags, as well as your individual preference. Your options include:

Diathermy. This process involves the use of a high-energy current of intense heat, which is designed to destroy skin tags completely. The area is sometimes numbed with a local anaesthetic beforehand, with a fine, hair-thin needle inserted to pass the current through. The heat then destroys the tissue and the skin tag disappears for good.

Radiofrequency. We describe this as the most minimally invasive way to remove skin tags and other so-called ‘lumps and bumps’. It involves the passage of radio waves into the skin, with different types of electrodes used depending on the severity of the condition.

Laser therapy. This treatment cauterises the skin tag, and healing takes place over a week or so, after which there may be a very slight mark visible. That said, scarring from this treatment is usually undetectable. Other more traditional methods include freezing or drying, but this is a much longer-term treatment.”

They May Disappear By Themselves

“The skin tags we notice in adult life are often formed during childhood, and only spotted when they get bigger. If a skin tag is removed by a professional, it’s highly unlikely it will grow back in the same place. Once they’re gone, they’re usually gone for good – especially if it’s on an area like the eyelids or thighs. However, it’s worth saying high-friction areas can sometimes see a cluster of new tags pop up post-removal. To prevent this, keep the area as undisturbed as possible and clean. I also recommend wearing loose-fitting clothing in areas prone to friction. Finally, you may find some skin tags fall off by themselves. Though rare, small ones sometimes disappear without treatment. Larger ones of the other hand will require intervention.”

Keen To Get Yours Removed?

Board-Certified Dermatologists Are The Best People To See. Here Are 5 We Recommend:

For more advice, follow @Dr_Radmila_Lukian on Instagram.

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