Skin Tags (Acrochordons)

Overview

What are skin tags?

Skin tags (acrochordons) are small, noncancerous growths that tend to be the same color as your skin. They often look like a cluster of skin tissue extending out from a tiny stem. They’re sometimes darker and may resemble a raised mole. Most skin tags are between 1-5 mm, but some can grow as large as a few centimeters.

Are skin tags common?

Yes, acrochordons are common. Researchers estimate that half of all adults will have at least one skin tag in their lifetime.

How do skin tags affect my body?

Skin tags do not affect your health. But they can be unsightly. If they are in areas like your face and neck, they can make you self-conscious. A skin tag removal procedure from a healthcare provider can help.

What else is important for me to know?

On some occasions, a growth that looks like a skin tag may be something else, like a wart, skin disease or skin cancer. You should see a dermatologist or other experienced healthcare provider to get an accurate diagnosis.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes skin tags?

Acrochordons occur when the body produces extra cells in the skin’s top layers. They tend to form in skin folds and areas where natural movement causes the skin to rub against itself. Skin tags often grow in these areas:

  • Armpits.
  • Eyelids.
  • Groin or thighs.
  • Neck.
  • Under the breasts.
  • Genitals.

What are my chances of developing skin tags?

The likelihood of developing skin tags increases with age. You may also be at risk if you:

  • Have a family history of skin tags.
  • Live with health issues such as diabetes, obesity or skin disorders, like Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome.
  • Experience high levels of growth factors, which can happen during pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of acrochordons?

Skin tags typically do not cause symptoms. In some cases, friction from a skin tag rubbing against your skin, clothes or jewelry can cause discomfort or bleeding.

Diagnosis and Tests

How are skin tags diagnosed?

Healthcare providers diagnose skin tags after a brief evaluation. They will ask about your health history, paying careful attention to conditions that raise your risk for skin tags. A quick exam helps rule out growths that may look like skin tags.

What other conditions might look like skin tags?

These conditions include:

  • Moles.
  • Warts, including genital warts.
  • Skin cancer.
  • Skin diseases like seborrheic keratosis, which causes wart-like spots.

Will I need any tests?

No tests are necessary to confirm a skin tag diagnosis. If your healthcare provider suspects something else, they may take a sample (biopsy) and send it to the lab for testing.

Management and Treatment

Do acrochordons need treatment?

If you aren’t bothered by the way the skin tag looks and it doesn’t hurt, then your skin tag may not need treatment. In fact, most skin tags don’t need treatment. Some may fall off on their own.

When should I consider skin tag removal?

You may wish to talk to your healthcare provider about skin tag removal if:

  • The skin tag becomes irritated or bleeds easily.
  • Its appearance bothers you.

Are at-home skin tag removal products safe?

There are many over-the-counter skin tag removal products. But at-home treatments are not safe. They come with a higher risk of complications, which include:

  • Scars.
  • Excessive bleeding.
  • Infection.
  • Incomplete skin tag removal, which means it’s likely to come back.
  • Incorrectly using a tag remover on something that is not a skin tag, such as skin cancer.
  • Damage to healthy nearby skin.

Can I see any healthcare provider for skin tag removal?

A dermatologist is the most qualified to remove skin tags. They have the skills and training to treat delicate problems, like skin tags on your eyelids. They also excel in minimizing scarring, which is important for skin tags on your neck. And dermatologists can accurately diagnose growths that are not skin tags.

How will my healthcare provider remove the skin tag?

There are many methods for skin tag removal. Treatment usually takes place during an in-office procedure and may include using:

  • A sharp instrument such as a scalpel to shave or cut it off.
  • Extremely cold gas (liquid nitrogen) to freeze it.
  • Heat (cauterization) to burn it off or to stop bleeding.

Does skin tag removal hurt?

Skin tag removal procedures can cause mild discomfort. You receive medication to help you stay as comfortable as possible.

What will the area look like after the skin tag is removed?

The treatment area will likely scab over in the days following the procedure. After the scab falls off, you may notice slight imperfections in the skin. But they will hardly be noticeable to others.

Prevention

What can I do to prevent future skin tags?

Steps you can take include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Avoiding jewelry and clothing that may rub against your skin.

Outlook / Prognosis

Can skin tags come back after treatment?

If a healthcare provider removes the entire skin tag, it’s not likely to grow back. But it’s possible to develop new ones.

What is the outlook for people with skin tags?

Skin tags are noncancerous and do not raise your risk of other health issues.

Living With

What is life like with skin tags?

Life with skin tags is not any different. Most of them do not need treatment, and they do not affect your health. If they become bothersome, talk to your healthcare provider.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Skin tags are common, and there’s a good chance you’ll experience one in your lifetime. Although they can be unsightly, skin tags are noncancerous and shouldn’t be cause for concern. If their appearance bothers you or they rub against skin, jewelry or clothing, you can have them removed. Seeking skin tag removal from an experienced healthcare provider lowers the risk of complications and minimizes scarring.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/01/2021.

References

  • American College of Osteopathic Dermatology. . Accessed 1/22/21.Skin Tags (https://www.aocd.org/page/SkinTags)
  • National Health Service (United Kingdom). . Accessed 1/22/21Skin Tags (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/skin-tags/)
  • Health Direct (Australian Government Department of Health). . Accessed 1/22/21.Skin Tags (https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/skin-tags)
  • National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Stat Pearls. . Accessed 1/22/21.Skin Tags (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547724/)

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