If you’re wondering how to remove skin tags, you’re not alone. According to board-certified dermatologist Laurel Naversen Geraghty, skin-tag removal is something patients ask her constantly. “People come to me every day asking, ‘What can I do about these skin tags? How can I get rid of them?'”
The medical term for a skin tag is acrochordon or fibroepithelial polyp. Bichchau Michelle Nguyen, a board-certified dermatologist and the director of Mohs micrographic surgery at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, tells Allure that what we call skin tags are really just benign skin lesions composed of normal skin tissue.
What, Exactly, Is a Skin Tag?
“Skin tags are extremely common and completely benign fleshy overgrowths of the skin. While not dangerous at all, they are often cosmetically bothersome especially if located in an obvious location like the face or neck,” says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Shari Marchbein, who often electively removes skin tags from her patients for that very reason.
“Anyone can get skin tags but they are much more common in adults and occur more frequently in areas of friction including the armpits, groin folds, inner thighs, and around the neck, as well as on the face, around the eyes, and under the breasts,” Marchbein says.
New York City board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner adds that skin tags, comprised of extra skin and fat, have a genetic component to them, and people whose parents had them are more likely to get them themselves. Nguyen also notes that obesity and pregnancy might contribute to the development of skin tags, as well.
They don’t need to be removed, Marchbein explains, but since they can grow, they can actually twist on themselves at the base of the stalk where they’re attached to the skin, causing redness and pain.
“Skin tags can rub against clothing or get caught on jewelry, and then they can get really irritated and inflamed. Some people’s skin tags even bleed,” Geraghty adds, explaining that they often form in areas of friction like the neck, under the arms, thighs, and even around the eyelids.
What Increases the Risk of Getting Skin Tags?
Skin tags are more likely to happen to adults than children; men and women are affected by skin tags at equal rates. That being said, there are a few factors that can be linked to the development of skin tags.
Obesity and associated skin friction is a major player in developing skin tags. Skin is more likely to rub against itself, and that friction stimulates skin-tag growth.
The body is in a general state of growth during pregnancy, and all kinds of skin lesions grow during this time. That state of growth, coupled with a heavier-than-usual body weight, possible gestational diabetes (which may be correlated to skin tags), and increased friction in areas of rubbing can all lead to skin tags during pregnancy.