I’ve been dealing with skin tags almost my whole life. I spent years trying to hide them the best I can. Whether it was wearing turtlenecks or strategically facing someone at the right angle to hide as many skin tags as possible from someone else’s line of sight. If you do the same things, I can understand your frustration.
What are skin tags? Skin tags are growths that are connected to the base of your skin by a stalk. They are mostly found around skin folds or areas of friction like your neck, armpits, eyelids and groin. They are noncancerous and most times are painless. Most skin tags don’t require treatment but there are several ways a dermatologist can remove them.
Luckily for me I don’t have to deal with skin tags anymore. It’s a relief not seeing them when I look in the mirror. If you’re wondering how to get rid of skin tags, what causes them or prevent them, you’re at the right place. This article will cover all those topics and tell you about if insurance will cover the removal and costs.
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What Are Skin Tags?
Acrochordons, commonly called a skin tag, is a small ball or flap of tissue that connects to the base of your skin by a stalk. It’s less common, but very small skin tags may appear as raised bumps on the skin. Almost half of adults have at least one skin tag. They are found on men and women but occur more to obese, diabetic people or have a family history (resource).
Typically, they can show up on someone in their 20s and do not normally grow on someone after age 70. Skin tags are mostly skin colored or can be darker in color. Most of them grow to about 2-5 mm, but some can grow to several centimeters. They are smooth to the touch, and most of them appear wrinkled but some can be smooth. Skin tags are made of nerve and fat cells, fibers, ducts and have a covering or epidermis.
What Causes Skin Tags
No one has yet to determine the exact cause of skin tags. People with them show some common traits and studies have made associations with the following conditions and skin tags.
Friction On The Skin
Friction or irritation to the skin is one of the major theories. Such friction occurs when skin rubs on other skin, like in fat folds or armpits. Other friction on the skin can be caused by tight clothing like collars, shirts or underwear. This would explain why most skin tags are found on the neck, armpits, groin areas, thighs, chest, eyelids and around bra straps (resource).
Insulin resistance is when your body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin. Glucose builds up in the blood because it can’t enter the cells as easily. This condition can lead to diabetes. Studies have shown an association between insulin resistance and skin tags (resource). When evaluating 98 cases and 103 controls, the presence of multiple skin tags showed a strong link with insulin resistance regardless of other risk factors.
Many pregnant women, especially during the 2nd trimester, find skin tags showing up particularly on the neck, armpits, breasts and groin area (resource). One reason can be due to the extra weight gain which causes skin folds and more skin friction.
Another cause can be hormonal changes that take place when pregnant. A recent study (resource) found a strong association between the hormone leptin and skin tags. A pregnant woman’s fat tissue produces leptin which may explain the increase in skin tags. Another study (resource) found an association between estrogen levels and skin tags. During pregnancy, women produce high levels of estrogen which can lead to the development of skin tags. There are more studies in my blog post about Skin Tags During Pregnancy, in this same website, which can read by clicking here.
Skin Tag Risk Factors
Skin tags are more common in the following situations:
- People who are overweight or obese.
- Those who have insulin resistance or with diabetes.
- Women who are pregnant due to hormone changes or weight gain and tight clothing.
- People who have hormonal imbalances.
- Family history.
- Those with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV is a viral infection that’s passed between two people making skin to skin contact. Researchers have found HPV in 71% of skin tags they biopsied and determined HPV may be a contributing factor in the development of skin tags (resource).
Are Skin Tags Dangerous?
Most skin tags are not dangerous and don’t lead to cancer (resource). They are not contagious and can be left alone. However, some skin tags can become an annoyance or get irritated because of its location. Some skin tags can get caught on jewelry or get constantly rubbed by clothing. Some of them can get irritated so much they can bleed or lead to an infection. If that happens, you may want to have it removed. Which leads me to the next part of my article, skin tag removal.
Skin Tag Prevention
It’s impossible to prevent skin tags 100% but there are things you can do or change that will help prevent you from getting as many.
Avoid skin friction by clothing and jewelry: Wear loose clothing especially around the collar and underwear lines. A Dermatologist once noted a pattern of skin tags along a patient’s bra straps that were extra tight. Avoid repetitive movements that causes clothing to rub on the skin. An example would be lifting your arms overhead a lot which will cause repeated rubbing up and down. Don’t wear tight jewelry or watches which can cause an excessive rubbing.
Reduce skin friction from other skin: If you have extra body fat try to keep skin folds as dry as possible. In addition, apply baby powder to skin folds like your underarms.
Diet: By improving your diet, you can reduce weight and reduce the amount of skin folds around your body. Avoid saturated fats and eat skinless chicken, wild caught fish and organic, lean beef. Also, avoid foods with extra added sugars. This will help keep body fat down and help your insulin resistance.
Stay active: Exercise or perform some physical activity at least 20-30 minutes every day. This will help keep body fat levels lower and reduce fat folds.
Dermatologist Skin Tag Removal
Cryotherapy is when a doctor sprays liquid nitrogen on the skin tag to freeze it (resource). The extreme cold from the liquid nitrogen destroys the tissue causing the skin tag to fall off, usually in one week. The very simple process doesn’t require any anesthesia or any preparation, other than removing some makeup or clothing from the skin tag area.
The liquid nitrogen gets applied using a spray gun, and you may feel a few seconds of discomfort. Depending on the size of the skin tag the process may need to be repeated. During your consultation and immediately following your treatment, you’ll be given an idea of what to expect.
You may experience some redness or slight swelling at the skin tag which usually goes away really soon and doesn’t last more than a few days. Any other side effects are very rare and usually you can move on to your regular activities right away.
Cauterization is a method that burns off the skin tag (resource). An electric current that flows through a cautery device burns the skin tag where it attaches to the base of your skin. First, an anesthetic is applied to the skin tag to numb the area. If the skin tag is small enough, the dermatologist may not use an anesthetic. Second, the skin tag will be held and pulled away from the skin. Third, where the stalk attaches to the skin is cauterized, burning the skin tag off and also stopping the bleeding. Lastly, a topical cream is applied to the area and covered with a bandage.
Skin tag cautery is a quick process and is typically less expensive than cryotherapy. Normally one visit is enough, and the healing process may form a scab and slight scarring. Some slight pain and discomfort may last for a few days.
Removing The Skin Tag Surgically
If the skin tag is fairly large, the dermatologist may decide to cut it off instead of using cryotherapy or cauterization (resource). First, they will numb your skin tag and area with an injection. Once it’s numb, they will lift it up from the base of your skin and either cut it off with a scalpel or snip it off with surgical scissors. Immediately after cutting it off, I’ve seen some dermatologists burn the wound to stop the bleeding and let it form a scab. If not, they’ll cover the wound and bandage it.
Home Remedies For Skin Tag Removal
Removing a skin tag at home is not normally recommended. There is a risk of bleeding, infection, scarring or some other problem. A dermatologist is always the best way to go and is recommended. Some people don’t have affordable health coverage, and I can understand the costs involved when removing a skin tag. For financial reasons and ease, some people choose to remove a skin tag on their own at home. The following are some common home removal methods.
There are various freeze skin tag sprayers sold over-the-counter or online. Some of these are just medical freeze sprays that only get to about 60 degrees below zero. I have found these ineffective, compared to cryotherapy where the freezing temperature is over 300 degrees below zero. If you buy a spray make sure its specifically for skin tags and cold enough to do the job right.
There are other skin tag devices such as the tagband removal system. This device is basically a few pieces of plastic and some tiny rubber bands. The device is placed over a skin tag and pulled away leaving the band wrapped around the base of the skin tag. This cuts off the blood supply to the skin tag causing it to eventually die and fall off. This device works some of the time. When it doesn’t work, it’s usually because the wrong size device was used (they come in 2 sizes depending on the size of your skin tag). A lot of people have complained about the bands breaking and falling off.
There is a cheaper alternative to the tagband you can do with items you probably already have at home. I call it the tying off method. If you’re interested, I explain it in full detail in my free e-book. You can download it instantly by clicking right here.
Another over-the-counter removal method is chemical liquids. It works by applying a chemical solution to your skin tag. The skin tag will usually die and fall off after about a week. I have found that these require multiple applications or have not worked at all, especially if the skin tag is larger than smaller. In addition, this is difficult to do if the skin tag is small and I have found it easy to irritate the surrounding skin.
There is another natural method that can be ordered online. I have found this to be highly effective. If you want to read my review, you can check out my blog post on it right here.
Cutting Off Your Skin Tag
I don’t agree with this method at home. It involves risks like infection and uncontrolled bleeding. Skin tags contains blood vessels making them prone to infection if non-sterile equipment is used. If a skin tag has a wide base where it connects to the base of your skin, there will be a good amount of bleeding that may require a stitch or two. Not only will it bleed a long time, there will probably be some scarring. That’s something you don’t want especially if the skin tag is in a visible location.
Other Removal Methods
The following are methods taught in videos or on some websites. Personally, I have tried these but they haven’t worked. They involve using products or food you probably have at home. I’ve tried them to conduct research and because they seem easy and too good to be true. They all take a lot of time to try out and some of them I wouldn’t suggest for skin tags around your eyes where removal is difficult even for doctors (resource).
Apple Cider Vinegar: This method says to apply cotton soaked with apple cider vinegar to your skin tag and cover it with a bandage. After 10 to 15 minutes remove the bandage and repeat this process daily until the skin tag falls off.
Tea Tree Oil: Similar to the apple cider vinegar, apply a few drops of tea tree oil on a cotton ball and apply it to your skin tag and place a bandage over it. Keep it on for about 10 minutes and remove it. Repeat this process a few times a day for about 2-3 weeks until the skin tag falls off.
Castor Oil and Baking Soda: Mix the castor oil and baking soda together to form a paste. Apply the paste over the skin tag and cover it with a piece of plastic wrap and a bandage. Keep it on for about 15 minutes and repeat daily until the skin tag falls off.
Overnight home remedies: These remedies claim to remove your skin tag overnight. These are also ineffective for me but at least they only involved one night of experimentation instead of weeks!
- Toothpaste: Apply toothpaste to your skin tag by itself or mix it together with castor oil and baking soda. Cover it and remove the bandage the next day.
- Crushed garlic: Apply crushed garlic over your skin tag and cover it with a large bandage. Remove the bandage the next day and miraculously your skin tag is supposed to fall off.
- Banana skin: Cut a small piece of banana skin to a square shaped size big enough to cover your skin tag. Place it over your tag and secure it with a bandage. Like the others, your tag is supposed to fall off the next day.
Insurance coverage And Skin Tag Removal
There are many reasons people don’t remove their skin tags. One of them is the cost or insurance coverage. Without insurance a skin tag can cost anywhere from $100-$400 to remove depending on its size, location and removal method the Dermatologist recommends to use. The average skin tag costs approximately $150 to have it removed, but I know someone who recently paid $420 to have their tags removed. And just because you have insurance, it doesn’t always mean that it covers the removal.
If you want a skin tag removed for cosmetic purposes only, typically the insurance will not cover the procedure. If your skin tag is symptomatic, meaning that it causes some kind of problem like irritation or discomfort, insurance is likely to cover the cost. So, if you had a skin tag that wasn’t causing a problem before but now it is, your new skin tag annoyance may save you money to have it removed.
What Different Skin Tags Look Like
Skin tags can look different, and many times people get them confused with warts or moles. When I first got skin tags, they all seemed to be the same color as my skin. After some time, later ones had a darker color, and others changed their color which concerned me.
The average skin tag is about 2 mm but can grow smaller or larger. Typically, it is a round shape or flap of skin. Most of them hang by a thin stalk (peduncle) that attaches it to the base of your skin (resource). Most skin tags are flesh colored. The reason why some turn dark in color is because their blood flow has been interrupted in some way. This is similar to what happens when using the tying off method discussed in my free e-book or the tagband removal system.
So if your skin tag has turned color, there is no need to be alarmed like with a mole. A mole that has turned color can become cancerous, so a visit to the doctor is a must (resource). If you’re unsure what you have, go to the doctor anyway. It’s always better safe than sorry.
People normally get moles, warts and skin tags confused. Compared to skin tags, moles are bumps either flat or slightly raised. They have pigment and sometimes have hair growing out of them. I have never seen or heard of a skin tag with hair. Warts are hard bumps that lie deep in the skin and don’t hang off the skin like a skin tag (resource). In addition, warts can be contagious, unlike skin tags. If you have warts, moles or skin tags, the 1st related article listed just below, is a removal method that removes all three of them.
If you found this skin tag article interesting, check out these related skin tag articles found in this same website: