Skin tags, also called acrochordon are small skin growths that are usually found in areas where folds of skin rub against each other, such as the neck, armpits, and groin. They are made of collagen fibers, nerve cells, and small blood vessels that become wrapped up in layers of skin. These growths hang from the body on a small piece of tissue called a stalk. The color of the end of a stalk can be the color of your skin or a few shades lighter or darker.
Skin tags don’t usually appear with any symptoms. In fact, you may not feel them at all. They can become painful if they are irritated or become torn or twisted. If you scratch or rub them, they may become irritated and bleed. Skin tags are common in people who are 60 or older.
The cause of skin tags is unclear, but there some common factors among people who have them.
One of the theories about the formation of skin tags is friction. These growths usually appear in areas where skin rubs together, and that results in chafing and irritation. A number of physical features and conditions have also been associated with a higher incidence of skin tags, including:
There’s no way to prevent skin tags, but there are ways to remove them and potentially ways to reduce your risk of developing them. People who are genetically predisposed to skin tags can’t change that. However, people who are obese may be able to reduce their risk of getting skin tags by losing weight and minimizing skin folds.
There is no evidence to support the success of home remedies like tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar, but small skin tags can sometimes be removed at home with a simple ligation technique (closing off a blood vessel using a ligature or clip). If you tie a small piece of string or dental floss around the skin tag, it will fall off on its own once the blood supply has been stopped.
Other methods of skin tag removal include:
- Electrocautery: The skin tag is burned off with a specialized device by a healthcare provider.
- Cryotherapy: Home freezing kits are available, or your healthcare provider can perform cryotherapy with fewer applications.
- Excision: The skin tag is cut from your body by your healthcare provider using scissors or a scalpel.
If you see a healthcare provider or another healthcare provider for skin tag removal, it’s usually considered a cosmetic procedure and may not be covered by your medical insurance.
A Word From Verywell
No one really knows what causes skin tags, but people who have certain medical conditions or physical traits do seem more prone to developing them. While your skin tags may bother you, remember that they aren’t harmful in most cases and are not contagious. If your skin tag has a tendency to be irritated or caught on clothing or jewelry, removal is fairly simple. Talk to your healthcare provider about removal techniques.