Skin Tags: Removal, Causes and Treatments

A skin tag, also known as an acrochordon, cutaneous papilloma, cutaneous tag, fibroepithelial polyp, fibroma molluscum, fibroma pendulum, papilloma colli, soft fibroma, and Templeton skin tag, is a small tag of skin which may have a peduncle (stalk) – they look like a small piece of soft, hanging skin.

Skin tags can appear on any part of the surface of the body (skin), but most typically exist in areas where skin may rub against skin, such as the:

  • Eyelids
  • Axillae (armpits)
  • Under the breasts
  • Groin
  • Upper chest
  • Neck.

What are skin tags?

Skin tags are invariably benign – non cancerous – tumors of the skin which cause no symptoms, unless it is repeatedly rubbed or scratched, as may happen with clothing, jewelry, or when shaving. Very large skin tags may burst under pressure.

Skin tags are benign, asymptomatic skin tumors, often raised from the skin on fleshy peduncles.

Skin tags are composed of a core of fibers and ducts, nerve cells, fat cells, and a covering or epidermis.

Some people are more susceptible to tags, either because of their overweight, partly due to heredity, and often for unknown reasons. People with diabetes and pregnant women tend to be more prone to skin tags. Dermatologists say that skin tags affect males and females equally.Some people may have had skin tags and never noticed them – they would have rubbed or fallen off painlessly. In most cases, however, they do not fall off.

The surface of skin tags may be smooth or irregular in appearance, they are often raised from the surface of the skin on fleshy peduncles (stalks). They are usually flesh-colored or slightly brownish.

Initially they are quite small, flattened like a pinhead bump. Skin tags can range in diameter from 2mm to 1cm; some may even reach 5cm.

As skin tags more commonly occur in skin creases or fold, it is believed they are mainly caused by skin rubbing against skin.

Skin tag removal / treatment

As skin tags are usually harmless, people tend to have them removed for aesthetic or cosmetic reasons.

Sometimes large ones, especially in areas where they may rub against something, such as clothing, jewelry or skin, may be removed because the area becomes frequently irritated. An individual may have a large skin tag removed from his face or under her arms in order to make shaving easier.

The following procedures may be used to remove skin tags:

Skin tags can be excised by dermatologists or similarly trained medical professionals.
  • Cauterization – the skin tag is burned off using electrolysis (heat is used to remove them)
  • Cryosurgery – the skin tag is frozen off using a probe containing liquid nitrogen
  • Ligation – the blood supply to the skin tag is interrupted
  • Excision – the skin tag is removed with a scalpel (it is cut out).