When Should I Have a Skin Tag Removed?

Boy with skin tags on his neck When Should I Have a Skin Tag Removed?

Skin tags are an unsightly and oftentimes misunderstood skin condition that impacts millions of Americans each year. Learn more about skin tags and your options for when it’s time to have them removed.

What to Know About Skin Tags

What Are Skin Tags?

Skin tags are benign (noncancerous) growths that develop most commonly in areas where the skin has creases or folds. Typically, these areas include the neck, groin, and eyelids. Skin tags are often the same color as surrounding skin, but sometimes they are a bit darker in color. Skin tags are small, stalk-like growths with an oval-shaped bulb that develops at the end. They are generally no more than a few millimeters in length, but can grow to be a centimeter or more. They affect men and women equally.

Skin tags are more common in people who are diabetic or obese, though the specific reason isn’t fully understood. It may be related to a person’s insulin levels or because people who are overweight have more places where their skin is in contact with itself. Friction of the skin against itself or clothing is most likely the cause of skin tags. Other studies link skin tags to the presence of HPV or human papillomavirus, a common skin disease. Skin tags can develop as early as a person’s twenties, but they peak later in life. Skin tags can fall off on their own, but that’s not always the case. Skin tags are not harmful to your health, and they don’t cause discomfort on their own. People may experience discomfort when skin tags get caught on jewelry or in clothes, especially when the growth is larger than average in size.

When Should I Have a Skin Tag Removed?

Now that we know why and how skin tags form, it shouldn’t surprise you that the answer to this question is tricky. The fact of the matter is that in most scenarios, skin tags don’t have to be removed. They pose no threat to your health, but that doesn’t always matter. Skin tags are unsightly and can negatively affect a person’s self esteem. Like we’ve seen, they can sometimes get caught in clothing or jewelry and cause irritation or discomfort. It’s still important to have your dermatologist look at any suspicious growths to confirm that they are skin tags, whether or not you want them removed. A dermatologist can rule out more serious conditions and offer treatment advice. There is usually no health reason to remove a skin tag, but there are plenty of valid reasons for wanting them removed anyway. If you’re fed up with your skin tags, read on to learn how your dermatologist will be removing them.

How Do Dermatologists Remove Skin Tags

Removing skin tags is not a difficult or painful process. There are a few options for removing them, and there are no shortage of websites offering ways to do it at home. Make no mistake, removing skin tags should always be left to the professionals. Over-the-counter kits to freeze off skin tags are available, but you should never use these without first consulting a dermatologist. These products are also advertised to treat warts. Your doctor can offer other, safer methods for removing skin tags. One removal process is similar to how these at-home kits work. It’s called cryosurgery, although it’s not much of a surgical procedure. The skin tag is super-cooled using a probe containing liquid nitrogen. It will then die and fall off on its own. There is minimal discomfort with this, as skin tags don’t have many nerve endings that can trigger pain impulses. Skin tags can also be cauterized off using an electric probe. This process removes and seals the wound, which minimizes bleeding and scarring. Ligation is the process by which blood flow is restricted to the skin tag, usually using a string or some other constricting material. It’s wrapped around the stalk of the skin tag and slowly kills it. After some time, it falls off on its own.

One common misconception around skin tag removal is that it can cause more skin tags to crop up once that one is gone. Thankfully this isn’t true. Skin tags can appear in groups, or more can develop over time in the same area, but that’s unrelated to removing them. Mitigating the underlying cause for your skin tags by losing weight or treating diabetes can help to prevent more skin tags from developing. Because we don’t fully understand why skin tags form, there is no surefire way to prevent them, but your dermatologist can always treat the skin tags you have and recommend possible options for reducing their likelihood of appearing.


Skin tags are unsightly, but ultimately they don’t pose much of a health risk, if any. Removing skin tags for cosmetic reasons is far from vanity, and if you’re interested in treating your existing skin tags, call the pros at Northeast Dermatology Associates today.

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