Skin tag removal?

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?

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,

While they may be an eye sore to the beholder, "skin tags," or acrochordons, are actually quite common. These benign, or noncancerous, overgrowths of skin form when the body produces extra cells within the skin's top layers. These tags tend to appear in areas where skin folds or where skin rubs up against itself due to natural movement (i.e., armpits, groin, thighs, etc.). While some people are more prone to developing skin tags than others, such as those who are overweight, have diabetes, or are middle-aged or older, it's possible for anyone to develop these overgrowths at anytime. Additionally, even though most skin tags don't necessarily need to be treated, they can be removed by a medical provider and there are steps one can take to help prevent skin tags from forming. Read on to learn more!

Generally, skin tags are painless and don't change or grow over time. However, they can be irritated by clothing or anything that might rub against them, in which case removal could provide relief. To remove a skin tag, you'll want to visit a health care provider, as they can remove these tags by freezing them using a method known as cryotherapy, heating them through a process called cauterization, or cutting them off by using or scissors a scalpel. It's crucial to leave the snipping, burning, or freezing to a professional, as do-it-yourself procedures could lead to infection, increased chance of new tags appearing, scarring, or excessive bleeding. Furthermore, it's a good idea to have any bumps, tags, or spots examined by a medical professional before they are removed as other growths such as moles, keratoses, and hemangiomas can look like skin tags. While skin tags can be removed successfully, there is a slight chance that new tags will appear. To help prevent these new tags from forming, avoid wearing any jewelry or clothing that may rub against your skin and try to maintain a weight that meets your body's needs through regular physical activity and a balanced diet.

On the flipside, if you aren't too excited about the thought of having removal procedures (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're 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.  

Hope this information helps!

Last updated Mar 04, 2022
Originally published Sep 01, 1993

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