But what are they exactly, how do we get them, and how can we remove them safely? Read on for the answers…
What are skin tags?They commonly occur due to chaffing, aka friction between the skin and are soft lesions that appear in a range of shapes and sizes, from a tiny grain of rice to the size of a pea, and can be either skin-coloured or pigmented.
You may just get the one or find you develop a number of tags that crop up in the same place. But this is not because they are infectious like warts or verrucas, and because they are not contagious you can’t give them to others – which makes them harmless.
What causes skin tags?There’s really very little research out there on skin tags so our understanding of this skin condition is limited. This is mainly because they are benign in nature, but what we do know is those over 50, those with diabetes, people who are overweight and individuals with high levels of triglycerides (lipids linked to cardiovascular disease) in their blood are more prone to skin tags.
It’s also widely believed that genetics plays a role too, as anecdotal evidence suggests the condition runs in families.
How are skin tags removed?Small skin tags are easy to remove and this can be done by a dermatologist or GP. Cryotherapy is a popular method and uses extreme cold (liquid nitrogen) to 'freeze off' the tag. After treatment, patients should notice the tag fall off within 10 days. However, it isn’t unusual for a blister to form in the area where the nitrogen was applied, which can lead to post-inflammatory pigmentation.
So, to avoid this possibility especially in dark skin tones that are prone to pigmentation, cauterisation is often carried out instead. This occurs by way of an electrosurgical device which essentially burns off the growth and often leaves fewer marks post-removal. If the skin tag is bigger in size, it may need to be removed by a doctor under local anaesthesia, then cauterised or surgically ablated (or 'shaved') off.
In most cases there are no stitches needed and no downtime, and all that remains is a piece of dry skin which tends to drop off one to two weeks later. Both procedures are reported to be uncomfortable but relatively painless and bleeding is uncommon.
It's worth noting that while a GP can perform skin tag removal, the service is not available on the NHS unless it’s causing a problem like catching on clothes etc and bleeding. If not you will have to seek treatment privately, with the average cost being £175 for a single tag removal.
Can you remove skin tags at home?While some people claim to have cut their skin tags off with nail clippers, applied apple cider vinegar every day for two weeks till it dropped off or tied dental floss around it to cut off the blood supply, there are some safer methods that one can use at home.
One such product is the Cryotag Skin Tag Remover. This claims to use the same freezing technique as in-clinic treatments and is an isobutane-based spray that targets the skin tag and not the surrounding skin, promising a result after two weeks. Excilor Skin Tag Treatment is a device that stops the flow of blood to the skin tag, so that it falls off after about six days.
However, medical professionals don’t advise going down the DIY route. "I would err on the side of caution when considering at-home removal. As well as bleeding, removing skin tags can lead to scars if done incorrectly. Scars can take the form of ulcers or dents in the skin or increased pigmentation after removal, however, this can usually be prevented by an experienced doctor," shares EV Expert Dr Ejikeme.
Ejikeme also stresses that it’s important to ensure you are actually dealing with a skin tag, as some skin lesions can mimic the appearance of a skin tag and removing them can cause a host of issues. Plus, there is the potential risk of bleeding and even infection if your environment isn’t sterile.