Skin tags are also called acrochordons. They are typically harmless, benign growths. This means they are not cancerous.
You can have skin tags removed. There often is no medical reason to do this, though.
Skin tags can be annoying. This may make you wonder if it’s okay to remove them on your own. Doctors do not recommend doing this. There are risks and potential complications with do-it-yourself removal.
It is best to let a dermatologist examine and remove your skin tags. This way it can be done safely. Your dermatologist can also make sure your skin tag isn’t actually a more serious type of growth.
This article looks at skin tags and the reasons you might want to remove them. It also compares at-home removal to removal by a doctor.
Reasons to Remove Skin Tags
Skin tags don’t usually cause discomfort, but they may still bother you. You may want to remove them for a number of reasons, including:
- They can get caught on clothing or jewelry
- They may sometimes bleed
- They might look unsightly
Insurance Coverage for Skin Tag Removal
Unless your skin tags are harming your physical or mental health, removing them isn’t usually covered by insurance. This is because the procedure is considered cosmetic. You will usually have to pay out-of-pocket to have them removed.
See a dermatologist before removing your skin tag. It is important to make sure the lesion is not a form of skin cancer.
At-Home Methods and Claims
There are many different at-home methods for skin tag removal. Some people believe these methods are effective, but evidence is mixed.
At-home removal techniques include the following.
There is no scientific evidence that toothpaste can remove skin tags safely or effectively.
Skin tag removal bands
This method is called ligation. The band is wrapped around the stem of the skin tag. This cuts off the blood supply, causing the skin tag’s cells to die.
After this treatment the skin tag can be easily twisted or pulled off.
Ligation is sometimes performed by a dermatologist. It is not recommended for at-home skin tag removal.
Skin tag patch
An over-the-counter (OTC) skin tag patch is applied to the skin tag. When you remove the patch, the skin tag is supposed to come off.
Experts say this is not very effective. It may also cause skin irritation.
Skin tag removal cream
This cream contains tea tree oil and salicylic acid. These ingredients may irritate the skin.
Skin tag cream can cause a type of dermatitis or skin inflammation called contact dermatitis. This type of dermatitis is caused by direct contact with an irritant.
OTC freezing kits contain chemicals that lower the temperature of the skin tag. The low temperature destroys the unwanted skin tissue.
Unfortunately, these OTC kits don’t lower the temperature enough. It may take several applications before they work.
Dermatologists use liquid nitrogen. This creates a much lower temperature and is much more effective.
Apple cider vinegar
This involves soaking a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar. The cotton ball is placed over the skin tag with a small bandage.
This method is said to take two weeks to work. Unfortunately, there isn’t much scientific proof that this is effective.
Tea tree oil
This involves applying tea tree oil to a cotton ball and placing it over the skin tag. The cotton ball is secured with a small bandage. The tea tree oil is reapplied several times a day until the skin tag falls off.
This method is said to take up to several weeks to work. How long it takes depends on the size and location of the tag.
Experts warn some people have allergic skin reactions to tea tree oil.
Do Not Cut or Clip a Skin Tag Off at Home
Don’t use nail clippers or a sharp instrument to cut skin tags. Larger tags may bleed and could become infected. In a doctor’s office, instruments are sterilized. The skin is also sanitized to lower the chance of infection.
Risks of at-Home Removal
At-home skin tag removal has risks, such as:
- Excessive bleeding
If you are sure you want to remove your skin tags, speak with a dermatologist first. Make sure you know what the safest options are.
Removing your skin tags at home comes with some risk. This includes infection, scarring, and excessive bleeding.
Dermatological Skin Tag Removal
Skin tags can be safely removed by a doctor. Professional skin tag removal may involve the following.
Excision with scalpel or scissors
The doctor uses a sterile technique to cut the skin tag off. Generally, only smaller skin tags are removed this way.
The blade used is much sharper than clippers or scissors used at home. A chemical compound may be applied afterwards to reduce bleeding.
Cauterization or burning
Cauterization is when the skin tag is burned off at its base. This is done with an electrical probe or needle that produces an electric current.
This method also seals the wound to prevent infection and bleeding.
Cryosurgery or freezing
In cryosurgery, the skin tag is frozen with liquid nitrogen. It takes approximately 10 days for the tag to fall off afterwards.
Liquid nitrogen can cause a burning sensation when it’s applied.
A dermatologist may remove your skin tag with surgical scissors or a scalpel. Cauterization and cryosurgery are other potential methods.
Skin Tag Removal Aftercare
How you care for your skin after a skin tag is removed depends on the method that was used. You may be told to keep the area clean and dry. If so, wash it gently once or twice a day and pat dry.
If the skin tag was excised, you may be told to keep a bandage on it for several days. In some cases, you may be told to leave the wound uncovered instead. Your doctor may also suggest applying an antibiotic ointment.
Larger wounds may need stitches. Your doctor will tell you how to care for your stitches and wound. You’ll usually need the keep the stitched area clean and covered for the first 24 to 48 hours.
If your skin tag was removed by cryosurgery or cauterization and the area rubs against your clothing, you may need to bandage it.
Avoid products that can slow healing, such as:
- Skin cleansers
- Antibacterial soap
Skin tags are usually harmless, benign growths. There is often no medical reason to remove them.
You may find them uncomfortable or unattractive, though. You may be tempted to remove them at home. Doing this can be risky. You may have bleeding, infection, and scarring.
It is best to get skin tags professionally removed. This will minimize the risks and ensure that the growth is not a more serious problem such as skin cancer.
A dermatologist will typically remove a skin tag with a scalpel or scissors, cauterization, or cryosurgery.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does skin tag removal cost?
Skin tag removal typically costs around $100. Health insurance usually does not cover skin tag removal unless the lesion affects a person’s physical or mental health.
Is natural skin tag removal effective?
There are many home remedies for removing skin tags that are claimed to be effective. This includes applying apple cider vinegar or tea tree oil. There is insufficient scientific evidence to support these methods.
What causes skin tag growth?
The cause is unknown. Skin tags often form in areas where there is skin-to-skin friction, like the armpits, groin or thighs, and under the breasts. Research shows that diabetes, human papillomavirus (HPV), and genetics may play a role in their growth in some people.