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What are skin tags, and what can you do about them?

Spoiler: With the right treatment, they can be removed.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Sep 20, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
Skin Tags on Neck
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Sep 20, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Here at Curology, we currently focus on the diagnosis and treatment of acne, rosacea, and anti-aging concerns. We do not treat many of the conditions mentioned in this article. This article is for information purposes.

Skin tags are a common skin condition you might notice on your body in places where you have skin folds, such as your neck and eyelids. These small, fleshy growths are generally harmless, but they can be bothersome and may cause discomfort. 

The good news is, with the right care and treatment, they can be effectively removed and you can enjoy smooth skin again. Allow our dermatology providers to explain all.

What do skin tags look like? 

Skin tags typically look like skin-hued, brown, or occasionally red protrusions on your skin's surface. These growths are small, ranging from 1 to 5 millimeters, but can sometimes reach sizes of 1 to 2 centimeters.¹

Common places where skin tags are found include areas where you have skin folds, such as your neck, eyelids, and groin region. Skin tags look a little like warts, but tend to have a smooth and soft texture, as opposed to warts which are usually hard.² Skin tags are also often knobbly and hang off your skin, while warts are more likely to be slightly raised or flat.

What causes skin tags? 

If you think you have a skin tag, you might be worried about what it implies. Is this a sign of something wrong with your body? What causes these growths? Are they more common in certain skin types as opposed to others?

According to research, skin tags are not caused by bacteria like acne, but they can be associated with a variety of factors, including underlying health conditions, irritation, aging, and hormonal imbalances.³

Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.

Underlying health conditions

Research shows that skin tags may sometimes be associated with the following underlying health conditions:⁴

  • Type 2 Diabetes.

  • Metabolic Syndrome.

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

  • Obesity

However, just because you have a skin tag, doesn't necessarily mean you have one of these conditions. Skin tags can also be caused for external reasons such as irritation.⁵

Irritation

Irritation, particularly in the form of friction, can contribute to causing skin tags. Skin tags often appear in areas of your body where skin surfaces rub against each other or where clothing frequently comes into contact with your skin. This constant friction can lead to irritation and the formation of these benign growths. People who are obese may have more chances of developing skin tags because they have more skin folds and increased skin-to-skin friction.⁶

Aging

Aside from underlying health conditions and irritation, research shows that the occurrence of skin tags can also increase with age. Although the exact reason for this association is not entirely clear, it might be related to changes in your skin's structure and function over time. 

As your skin ages, it becomes thinner, less elastic, and more prone to damage, which could potentially contribute to the formation of skin tags.⁷

Hormonal imbalance

Fluctuations in hormone levels can also impact your susceptibility to forming these benign growths. For instance, elevated levels of estrogen and progesterone may play a role. Additionally, elevated levels of the human growth hormone in acromegaly may also lead to skin tags.⁸

Skin tags aren't dangerous but they can be bothersome or aesthetically displeasing. Now that you know some possible causes of them, let’s dive into the various methods for effectively and safely removing them.

Treatments for skin tags 

Using the right blend of custom skincare products tends to be a great way to clear your skin if you have acne or other related skin conditions. However, skin tags shouldn't be treated at home. If your skin tags are significantly bothering you, then you should make an appointment with your medical provider to have them removed. 

Your provider may freeze your skin tags off in a similar fashion to how warts are removed, or they may also remove them surgically.

Freezing

Skin tags can be effectively removed through a process called cryotherapy, which involves freezing the skin tag with liquid nitrogen. In this procedure, your healthcare provider will apply a small amount of liquid nitrogen directly to your skin tag using a spray device or a cotton-tipped applicator. The extremely cold temperature of liquid nitrogen causes the cells within your skin tag to freeze, ultimately leading to the destruction of its tissue.⁹

Repeat treatments may be necessary to achieve the complete removal of your skin tag using this method.

Surgical removal

Surgical removal is another effective method for eliminating skin tags, with the advantage of completely removing the growth in most cases. There are two primary techniques employed for surgical removal: snip excision and radio cautery.

Snip Excision

In snip excision, a local anesthetic is first injected to numb the area surrounding your skin tag. Then, a pair of scissors or a blade is used to remove it. Although this technique is generally effective, it does carry a risk of minor bleeding.¹⁰

Radio Cautery

Radio cautery is an advanced technique used in soft tissue surgery and is often preferred by specialists due to its ease of use and precision.¹¹ This method involves the use of radio waves to remove lesions, including skin tags.¹²

Both surgical removal techniques have their advantages and are considered effective methods for removing skin tags. It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine which approach is best suited to your individual needs.

Are skin tags dangerous? 

In most cases, skin tags are not dangerous and are considered benign growths. Many people choose to have them removed for cosmetic reasons. However, it’s essential to monitor your skin tags and consult with a doctor if you notice any changes or feel that something might be wrong.

While skin tags themselves are generally harmless, they can sometimes be indicative of an underlying medical condition, as they have been associated with certain diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.¹³ If you suspect that your skin tags may be related to more serious health issues, it’s crucial to seek medical advice for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Why you should see a medical provider for skin tag removal

If you want to remove a skin tag from your skin, it’s best to see a medical provider. A healthcare provider can accurately diagnose your skin growth and differentiate skin tags from other types of growths, such as moles, warts, or even malignant lesions. This ensures that you receive the appropriate treatment based on an accurate diagnosis.

Additionally, medical providers are trained in various safe and effective skin tag removal techniques, such as cryotherapy, snip excision, and radio cautery. They can assess your specific situation and recommend the most suitable method for your needs, taking into account factors like size, location, and number of skin tags.

A medical provider can also identify any potential associations between skin tags and underlying health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease. This early detection can be crucial in addressing and managing these conditions in a timely manner.

Get expert advice and personalized skincare with Curology

Curology offers a unique approach to achieving clear skin by providing expert advice and personalized skincare products tailored to your individual needs. Though we don’t treat skin tags, we offer a range of custom skin products to help you obtain clear skin.

By taking our skin quiz, you can start your skincare journey as our experts evaluate your specific requirements and develop a personalized treatment plan designed just for you.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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Our customized formulas contain a mix of prescription-strength and over-the-counter active ingredients to address your skin concerns, Plus, your personalized skincare products will be conveniently delivered to your doorstep, making it easy to incorporate them into your daily routine. 

By consistently following your personalized skincare plan, you can work towards achieving healthier, more radiant skin. Get started today!*

FAQs

Do skin tags ever go away?

You can choose to have a skin tag removed by freezing or through cosmetic surgery. However, they will not go away without treatment, so if you want to get rid of your skin tags, you need to see a dermatology provider.

Can I cut off a skin tag with nail clippers?

Cutting off a skin tag with nail clippers is not recommended. Doing so can cause pain, infection, excessive bleeding, or scarring. Instead, consult a healthcare provider for safe and effective skin tag removal methods to avoid complications and ensure optimal results.

Are skin tags a symptom of anything?

Skin tags are typically benign and not a cause for concern. However, they can be associated with certain health conditions. 

Some diseases and factors linked to skin tags include:

  • Abnormal lipid profiles.

  • Type 2 diabetes.

  • Cardiovascular disease.

  • Obesity.

  • Genetic factors.

Although skin tags can be related to these conditions, their presence does not necessarily indicate a serious health problem. It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider for a proper evaluation if you suspect an underlying medical issue.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Pandey, A. and Sonthalia, S. Skin Tags. StatPearls. (2022, August 1).

  2. Ludmann, P. Skin Tags: Why They Develop, and How to Remove Them. American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2023, May 1).

  3. Pandey, A. and Sonthalia, S. Skin Tags. StatPearls. Ibid.

  4. Pandey, A. and Sonthalia, S. Skin Tags. StatPearls. Ibid.

  5. Pandey, A. and Sonthalia, S. Skin Tags. StatPearls. Ibid.

  6. Pandey, A. and Sonthalia, S. Skin Tags. StatPearls. Ibid.

  7. Pandey, A. and Sonthalia, S. Skin Tags. StatPearls. Ibid.

  8. Pandey, A. and Sonthalia, S. Skin Tags. StatPearls. Ibid.

  9. Taylor, J.E. and Osmun, W.E. Just a pinch: Technique for skin tag removal in sensitive areasCan Fam Physician. (December 2016).

  10. Ludmann, P. Skin Tags: Why They Develop, and How to Remove Them. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Ibid.

  11. Pandey, A. and Sonthalia, S. Skin Tags. StatPearls. Ibid.

  12. Kim, D.H., et al. 27.12 MHz Radiofrequency Ablation for Benign Cutaneous Lesions. Biomed Res Int. (2016, April 5).

  13. Pandey, A. and Sonthalia, S. Skin Tags. StatPearls. Ibid.

Meredith Hartle is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Curology. She earned her medical degree at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO.

*Subject to medical consultation. Results may vary. Subscription required. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Meredith Hartle, DO

Meredith Hartle, DO

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