Skin tags are soft, noncancerous growths that usually form within the skin folds of the neck, armpits, breasts, groin area, and eyelids. These growths are loose collagen fibers that become lodged inside thicker areas of the skin.
Skin tags are also extremely common, affecting almost half of the population, Kemunto Mokaya, MD, tells Healinggeeks. She says they’re also more common among older adults, people with overweight, and people with diabetes.
These skin lesions are usually harmless, but they can be painful when snagged by jewelry or clothing. If these growths are bothersome, relief is available. Here’s a look at a few home remedies, over-the-counter products, and surgical options to get rid of skin tags.
Skin tags don’t usually require treatment or a visit to the doctor. If you choose to remove a tag, it may be possible to do so with products already in your medicine cabinet or kitchen. Most at-home remedies involve drying out the skin tag until it shrinks in size and falls off.
It’s important to note that these home remedies will always take longer to produce results than surgical procedures. Never try to take a shortcut by cutting off a skin tag yourself — this can easily result in infection and bleeding.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil, which has antiviral and antifungal properties, is safe to use on the skin when diluted in a carrier oil.
First, wash the affected area. Then, using a Q-tip or cotton swab, gently massage the oil over the skin tag. Place a bandage over the area overnight. Repeat this treatment for several nights until the tag dries out and falls off.
Don’t toss away your old banana peels, especially if you have a skin tag. The peel of a banana can also help dry out a skin tag. This may be due to the
Place a piece of banana peel over the tag and cover it with a bandage. Do this nightly until the tag falls off.
Apple cider vinegar
Soak a cotton swab in apple cider vinegar and place the cotton swab over the skin tag. Wrap the section in a bandage for 15 to 30 minutes, and then wash the skin. Repeat daily for a couple of weeks.
The acidity of apple cider vinegar breaks down the tissue surrounding the skin tag, causing it to fall off.
Aging may contribute to skin tags. Since vitamin E is an antioxidant that fights wrinkles and keeps the skin healthy, applying liquid vitamin E over a skin tag may cause the growth to vanish in a couple of days.
Simply massage the oil over the tag and surrounding skin until it falls off.
Garlic helps improve the appearance of skin by reducing inflammation. To naturally get rid of a skin tag, apply crushed garlic over the tag, and then cover the area with a bandage overnight.
Wash the area in the morning. Repeat until the skin tag shrinks and disappears.
Along with home remedies, several over-the-counter (OTC) products at grocery and drugstores can safely remove a skin tag.
Freezing kits use cryotherapy (the use of extremely low temperatures) to destroy unwanted skin tissue.
“Benign lesions, like skin tags, require temperatures of −4°F to −58°F to destroy them,” Mokaya said.
She recommends looking for an OTC wart or skin tag removal kit that will reach the lowest temperature when used appropriately. Finally, Mokaya points out that removal creams and cryotherapy can cause irritation and contact dermatitis, but they can still be effective for short-term use.
Other skin conditions like warts and moles can resemble skin tags. Since some moles may be cancerous, it’s best to have your skin tags examined by a doctor. Your dermatologist or family doctor will be able to diagnose skin tags. They’ll likely do this through an in-person visual exam, but telehealth can also be an option.
Most skin tags are noncancerous growths, but if yours is atypical or looks suspicious, your doctor may perform a biopsy as a precaution.
Surgical removal for skin tags is a common outpatient procedure. After numbing the area with a local anesthetic, your doctor may perform one of the following procedures based on the size and location of the skin tag:
- Cauterization. Your doctor uses heat to remove the skin tag.
- Cryosurgery. Your doctor sprays a small amount of liquid nitrogen over the skin tag, which freezes off the growth.
- Electrocautery. You doctor could also burn the skin tag off with a specialized electric current.
- Ligation. Skin tags can sometimes be removed by cutting off the blood flow with surgical thread.
- Surgery. This simply involves your doctor snipping off the skin tag at its base with surgical scissors. The size and location of the skin tag will determine the need for bandages or stitches.
Infections and complications don’t usually occur with skin tag removal. After removal, some people develop a scar, which may slowly disappear over time.
After removing a skin tag at home, apply antibiotic ointment to the affected area and keep it covered with a bandage as you would a cut. This lowers the risk of infection. See your doctor if the area becomes painful or bleeds.
If you have a medical procedure to remove a skin tag, your doctor’s instructions may include keeping the wound dry for at least 48 hours and then gently washing the area with soap and water.
Your doctor may also schedule a follow-up appointment to check the wound and remove any stitches (if they were needed).
It’s unclear exactly what causes skin tags to form. Since they usually show up in skin folds, friction may play a role. We do know that they’re made up of blood vessels and collagen surrounded by an outer layer of skin.
According to a 2010 study, the presence of multiple skin tags was associated with insulin resistance, a high body mass index, and high triglycerides.
Skin tags are also a common side effect of pregnancy. This may be due to pregnancy hormones and weight gain. In rare cases, multiple skin tags can be a sign of a hormone imbalance or an endocrine problem.
There may be a genetic connection as well. It isn’t unusual for multiple family members to have them. But skin tags are not contagious.
Skin tags are usually harmless, so treatment isn’t necessary unless they cause irritation.
Although home remedies and OTC products can be effective, inexpensive solutions, see your doctor if a skin tag doesn’t respond to home treatment, bleeds, or continues to grow.
Several procedures can successfully remove a skin tag with minimal pain and scarring.
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