Skin tag removal?

Originally Published: September 1, 1993 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: September 5, 2008
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(1) Alice,

Over the past six months, I've been getting lots of "skin tags." I've had one or two under my arms for years but suddenly they're popping up on my neck. They're not discolored, but they're still kind of gross. What ARE these things? What causes them? How can I get rid of them? Are they preventable?

Signed,
Tagged for Life?

(2) Hi Alice!

This is disgusting and embarrassing but I have these things I refer to as "skin tags" on my armpits and I started developing them on my bikini line. Needless to say I stopped shaving my bikini line but they don't go away. Is there anything to do other than minor surgery to get rid of them? Do you even know what I'm talking about? I don't have a problem with shaving cream or razor burn. They are embarrassing.

—Thinking about Spring Break

Dear Tagged for Life and Thinking about Spring Break,

"Skin tags," or acrochordons, are common, benign overgrowths of skin that some people are more prone to than others. Unfortunately, specific causes and prevention measures aren't well understood; however, tags might be more common in those who are overweight, have diabetes, or are middle-aged or older.

Skin tags are generally painless and do not change or grow over time. They can be irritated by clothing or anything that might rub against them, in which case removal could provide relief. A health care provider can remove these tags with scissors, but please leave the snipping to a professional — do-it-yourself surgery could lead to infection, scarring, or excessive bleeding. Other growths like moles, keratoses, and hemangioas can resemble skin tags, so it's a good idea to have any bumps, tags, or spots examined by a health care professional before they are removed. S/he may decide to remove the tags by freezing, using a method known as cyrotherapy, or with an electrical current in a procedure called electrodessication. Columbia students can make an appointment at Primary Care Medical Services to discuss skin tags and get a referral to a dermatologist if necessary; call x4-2284 or log in through Open Communicator.

Skin tags can be removed successfully, but there is a chance that new tags will appear. If you aren't too crazy about the thought of having removal surgery (whether once or repeatedly), you could try focusing your energy, mind, and self-esteem on the parts of your body and personality that you feel more positively about. Although these bumps might be a big annoyance, chances are they are so small that others don't even notice them. Inner beauty — which, unlike skin tags, you DO have control over — often makes a greater and longer-lasting impression than what's seen on the outside.  

Alice