Skin tags are soft, small, skin-colored growth that may be mistaken for warts. They are considered as benign (non-cancerous) tumors of the skin. Sizes vary from a few millimeters (2 mm) up to 5cm in diameter. They usually occur on the eyelids, armpits, neck, around the groin, upper chest or under the breasts.
Other terms for skin tags are: acrochordon, cutaneous papilloma, cutaneous tag, fibroepithelial polyp, fibroma molluscum, fibroma pendulum, soft fibroma, and Templeton skin tags.
Almost everyone will have a skin tag at some point in their lives. While they may be irritating and unattractive to look at, they are harmless.
Skin Tags Signs and Symptoms
Skin tags are composed of loose collagen fibers (type of protein found in the body) and blood vessels covered by thicker bits of skin. Their appearance may vary from:
- Smooth to irregularly-shaped
- Flesh-colored to brown
- Small and flattened (2 mm) to bigger in size (5 cm)
- One up to hundreds of skin tags all over a person’s body
Skin tags normally occur on creases and folds of the skin, or other areas where skin regularly rubs against skin or articles of clothing. Common areas are the: eyelids, armpits, under the breasts, groin area, upper chest and neck.
Skin Tags Causes and Risk Factors
People who have a higher tendency to develop skin tags are:
- Older people (middle aged and up)
- Obese and overweight people mainly due to excess folds of skin
- Those with Type 2 Diabetes
- Pregnant women due to hormonal changes
- People with high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and suffering from inflammation in the body
- Those with close family members who also have skin tags
- People who suffer from the human papilloma virus (HPV)
- Those who use steroids excessively
Skin tags also occur in some people for no apparent reason.
Diagnosing Skin Tags
Skin tags may be annoying, but they cause no pain or discomfort or any other symptoms.
Dermatologists diagnose skin tags merely by physical examination of the skin.
Skin tags are differentiated from warts in the following ways:
- Warts are contagious, while skin tags are not. Warts can be transmitted via skin-to-skin contact, or when you touch an object or surface that had been touched by an infected person.
- Warts are flatter and may appear in clumps, with pink or white hues; while skin tags dangle or hang from the surface of the skin.
In case there are uncertainties or abnormal appearance of the skin tags, a biopsy or pathological examination may be done on a sample skin tissue. Examples are skin tags that bleed, become bigger or display other colors like pink, red, brown or black.
Treatment Options for Skin Tags
As skin tags are harmless, removing them are usually done for cosmetics or aesthetic purposes. Treatments are generally safe and do not cause additional skin tags to develop.
- Topical – Some over-the-counter (OTC) non-prescription creams and ointments are available for the treatment of skin tags. The same topical medication that works against warts can help remove skin tags too. These solutions freeze the skin tags, causing them to fall off on their own after around 1 week.
Specially-formulated oils, especially those that contain tea tree oils, are also used to treat skin tags.
- Surgical – A dermatologist or medical practitioner may perform these simple procedures for the removal of skin tags:
- Cauterization: skin tags are burned off with the use of heat (electrolysis)
- Cryosurgery: liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the skin tags
- Ligation: blood flow to the skin tag is cut off, causing them to “die” and fall off.
- Excision: skin tags are cut out using scissors or a scalpel
- Home Remedies – There are various known home remedies for skin tags. They are generally safe and easy to administer.
Here are some examples:
- Tea tree oil (topical application: twice a day)
- Acid from apple cider vinegar or lemon (leaving a soaked cotton ball on top of the skin tags)
- Onion juice (topical application)
- Baking soda and castor oil paste (leave overnight as a “mask”)
- Pineapple juice or aloe vera juice (topical application)
- Cut garlic (can be placed directly on top of the skin tags)
- Banana peel (tape a refrigerated banana peel to the skin- the inside should be facing the skin tags)
- Vitamin E capsule (cut the capsule and apply the oil directly to the skin tags)
- Raw ginger (rub it against the skin tags)
- Fenugreek (drink liquid where seeds are soaked overnight)
- Essential oils such as oregano oil, frankincense oil, lavender oil, rosemary oil and sweet basil oil (remember that essential oils must never be taken internally)
- Dandelion stem juice (topical application)
- Vegetable juice made from a combination of cauliflower, potatoes and garlic (topical application)
- Sticking duct tape to skin tags can also cause them to disengage from the skin
Skin Tags Prevention
Take these 6 simple steps to improve your overall health can help prevent skin tags from forming:
- Cut down your sugar intake. Sugar, especially refined sugar, is closely associated with skin problems such as acne and skin tags.
- Consume more fruits and vegetables. Raw, plant-based diet reduces inflammation in the body.
- Minimize intake of saturated fats. These are the “bad fats” and include meat such as fatty beef, pork and chicken with skin on; dairy such as whole milk, cream, butter, cheese and ice cream. Decrease saturated fat from animal oils and increase unsaturated fat, like fish oils.
- Lose weight. People who are obese and overweight are at much higher risk of developing skin tags due to extra folds in the skin.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothes. Letting your skin breath by wearing lighter fabrics such as cotton, can minimize the occurrence of skin tags.
- Improve your digestion. An unhealthy gut manifests itself on the skin, in the form of acne, skin tags, eczema, etc. Load up on good bacteria- Take a probiotic capsule or consume more fermented food, yogurt and kefir beverages.
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