Skin tags are common, especially as a person ages. They don’t cause any harm, but if you have a skin tag that is bothering you, you should talk to your doctor about having it removed.
What are skin tags?
Skin tags are small growths on the skin that look a bit like warts. They are connected to the skin by a small, thin stalk.
They are usually less than 2mm in size, but they can grow much larger. They feel soft, and can be smooth and round, wrinkly and uneven, or look like a grain of rice. They can be flesh coloured or darker, sometimes dark blue.
Skin tags are made of collagen (a type of protein) and blood vessels surrounded by skin. They are usually found in the folds of the skin, for example, in the armpits, groin, thighs, eyelids, neck or under the breasts.
Causes of skin tags
Skin tags occur when extra cells grow in the top layers of the skin. They tend to develop when the skin rubs against itself, so are more common in people who are overweight and therefore have folds of skin.
They grow both in men and women and are more common in older people and people living with type 2 diabetes. Pregnant women are also more likely to develop skin tags, although they usually disappear after the baby is born.
Skin tag symptoms
Most skin tags are painless and don’t cause any symptoms. But if they rub on clothing or jewellery they may get sore and bleed.
Skin tags look different from warts and other benign skin lesions because of the small stalk that attaches them to the skin. Warts tend to be flat, while skin tags hang off the skin.
If you ever notice a new spot or growth on your skin, you should always see your doctor to confirm what it is.
Skin tags treatment
Skin tags can drop off by themselves over time.
If you decide to have a skin tag removed – for example, because it is bothering you or you don’t like its appearance – talk to your doctor.
Skin tags can be removed by:
- freezing them with liquid nitrogen
- cutting them with scissors or a scalpel
- burning them with electrical energy
- tying them off with surgical thread to stop the blood flow
It’s not a good idea to try to remove skin tags by yourself since they can bleed heavily or get infected. If you have a very small skin tag, you could ask your doctor how to remove it at home.
You can buy solutions from a pharmacy or online to freeze off skin tags, in the same way as you remove a wart at home. There are also many suggestions online for removing them naturally – for example, by using tea tree oil or apple cider vinegar. There is no scientific proof that these methods work. It’s always best to ask your doctor first.
Find out more here about removing benign skin lesions.
You can find a dermatologist on the Australian College of Dermatologists website.
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Last reviewed: January 2019