Skin Tags… What Are They and Why Do I Have Them? Cynthia Abbott, MD

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

Sometime referred to as skin “tabs”, skin tags are benign growths of excess skin which form in response to rubbing and irritation. Areas of friction such as under the bra, the waistline, underarms, groin, and neck are common sites of skin tags. Tags are raised up and floppy, not flat, and may enlarge or multiply over time.

Genetics, increased weight, and increasing age contribute to the formation of skin tags but they can happen to anyone. Occasionally pigmented moles that are raised can be mistaken for skin tags and need to be checked and biopsied. Other benign growths which appear with aging called seborrheic keratoses are often mistakenly called skin tags but these “SKs” are flat, rough and not always in areas of friction.

Skin tags can be painful and may get caught in clothes or jewelry. They may bleed and can become infected or turn black. True skin tags are never dangerous but they are frequently annoying!

Standard removal procedure for skin tags is to clip them with sterile scissors. They have a single loop blood vessel so they will bleed when clipped and a method of stopping the bleeding should be available, especially if the “owner” is on aspirin or other blood thinner. Sometimes smaller ones will respond to freezing with liquid nitrogen. More will appear unless the source of the friction is reduced. Not sleeping in necklaces helps prevent their formation around the neck.

Most skin tags are cosmetic and can be left alone if not painful. Your health insurance may or may not pay for removal but the cost will typically be applied to your deductible. At home remedies include tying them off with dental floss and letting them drop off and some over-the-counter potions. Having never attempted these methods, we can’t speak to their safety or efficacy, so try them at your own risk!