With skin cancer becoming more and more prevalent, checking your skin regularly for new growths or changes in existing moles or freckles is crucial. Skin tags can be annoying if they start popping up, but if you have them, you’re not alone.
While these lesions are harmless, they can be unsightly, and it can be tempting to try to remove them yourself. So what are skin tags, and what can you do to remove them?
What Are Skin Tags?
Skin tags, according to medical professionals, are simply caused by an overabundance of skin cells growing in a single spot. They’re the most common type of skin lesion and tend to form on places like eyelids, necks, armpits and groins. They might be unsightly, but they aren’t dangerous—unless they’re removed improperly.
While nearly everyone will develop a skin tag or two sometime in their lives, individuals who are of middle age and those who are obese are more likely to develop them than those who do not fall into these demographic categories.
Most doctors recommend skin tag removal only if the tags cause discomfort or are cosmetically unappealing, such as those that form on the eyelids.
Skin Tag Removal
How can you get those unsightly skin tags removed? Is it something you can do at home on your own, or do you need the assistance of a medical professional?
You may not even need to have them removed. These skin tags will often fall off on their own after a time, though if they don’t, you might want to make an appointment with your doctor to see if they need to be removed. Persistent skin tags—those that don’t fall off on their own—should be addressed by other means.
You’ll find plenty of DIY solutions for removing skin tags if you do a quick search on Google or any other search engine. They may be effective, but they’re not necessarily safe. Removing your own skin tags without at least seeking the advice of a medical professional could leave you susceptible to infection and scarring. Professional skin tag removal may leave small scars, but they’re infinitely smaller than what you would experience if you tried to remove them yourself and contract an infection.
The variety of different ways to remove skin tags includes:
- Freezing: With this method, liquid nitrogen is used to freeze off the skin tag. Often, a local anesthetic is injected before the treatment. This treatment is similar to how warts are removed. It destroys the tissue in the skin tag and causes it to die and fall off.
- Snipping: For larger skin tags, a dermatologist will inject a local anesthetic and simply snip off the skin tag where it attaches to the rest of the skin. It will bleed due to the fact that skin tags have their own blood supply. Therefore, it will need to be bandaged or cauterized.
- Electrosurgery: Electrosurgery allows dermatologists to remove skin tags and other types of skin lesions by using an electrical current to cut the tissue and cauterize it at the same time. The process is similar to snipping but uses a tool that allows physicians to do both at the same time.
Do-it-yourself skin tag removal techniques—such as treating the skin with apple cider vinegar or tea tree oil—really don’t work, so don’t waste your time with them. Your best bet is to talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your skin tags.
Nearly everyone will develop a skin tag or two at some point in their life. It’s nothing to worry about—the growths are almost always benign and can be removed during a simple office visit. It’s still a good idea to visit your doctor anytime you have a new growth or change in your skin though, just to be safe. Even benign growths should be checked just to make sure that they’re nothing to worry about.
Don’t try to take care of skin tags on your own—it might work, but chances are much higher that you’ll end up with an infection or a nasty scar, even if you take precautions. Take care of your skin—it is your largest organ, after all.
Photo by Chris Slupski
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