HomeHealth TopicDermatology

What Are Skin Tags?

Maria Robinson, MD, MBAMandy Armitage, MD
Published on September 23, 2021

Key takeaways:

  • Skin tags are non-cancerous skin growths that are common in adults. 

  • People may choose to remove skin tags for cosmetic reasons or because they cause symptoms. 

  • At-home treatments for skin tags aren’t recommended and can lead to side effects.

Close-up of a skin tag.
Tetiana Mandziuk/iStock via Getty Images Plus

As dermatologists, one of the most common things we’re asked about is skin tags. People ask questions like: What are they? Why do I get them? How do I get rid of them?

Skin tags — also called acrochordons — are common, non-cancerous skin growths. Here, we’ll review everything you need to know about skin tags, including what may cause them, how they can be removed, and if you should treat them at home. 

What exactly are skin tags?

Skin tags are soft growths that hang on a thin piece of tissue called a stalk. They’re usually pretty small — about 2 to 5 mm — but can grow to several centimeters. They’re made of loose collagen tissue and blood vessels (parts of normal skin). Skin tags can be skin-colored or darker. Some people have just one skin tag while others can have dozens or more.

People of any age can get skin tags, but they are much more common in adults. In fact, almost half of adults will have one at some point in their life.  

Common places you get skin tags

Skin tags can happen anywhere on your body. But they’re most common in skin folds, often in areas such as the:

  • Armpits

  • Neck

  • Groin folds

  • Inner thighs

  • Eye area

  • Genitals

  • Area under your breasts

What causes skin tags?

We’re not entirely sure what causes skin tags. There are some theories about why they develop, such as:

Some factors may increase your risk of getting skin tags. Examples include:

When should you be worried about skin tags?

In general, skin tags are harmless and nothing to worry about. They aren’t usually associated with any health problems. But, there are some situations when you may want to be checked out by your provider. These include:

  • If a skin tag changes in size or color quickly  

  • If it bleeds, hurts, or bothers you in any other way

  • If you’re not sure it’s a skin tag (other skin growths, like moles, can look similar)

How do you get rid of skin tags?

Skin tags generally don’t need to be removed. People may choose to remove them for cosmetic reasons, because they cause discomfort, or they get caught on clothes or jewelry. It’s best to see your provider to remove skin tags. 

Here are common ways your healthcare provider may remove skin tags:

  • Cutting, which uses surgical scissors or a blade to cut skin tags off

  • Freezing (called cryotherapy), which uses liquid nitrogen spray to freeze them

  • Burning, which uses an electric current passed through a wire to burn them off  

Do at-home treatments for skin tags work?

Many different at-home skin tag removal products are available, but they may not be effective and can have side effects. In general, providers don’t recommend that you remove skin tags yourself. Some risks of at-home removal include:

  • Bleeding

  • Getting a skin infection

  • Scarring

  • Damaging healthy skin

  • Removing something other than a skin tag

  • Not removing the whole thing

What happens if you accidentally pull off a skin tag?

If a skin tag accidently gets pulled off, it’s usually not a problem. If it bleeds, apply firm pressure for a few minutes until the bleeding stops. Look for signs of infection as it heals, including pain that lasts, spreading redness, or any drainage. If this happens, see your provider.  

The bottom line

Skin tags are common, non-cancerous skin growths. People may choose to remove them for cosmetic reasons or because they get caught in clothing or jewelry. The best way to remove skin tags is to visit your healthcare provider. At-home treatments don’t always work and can cause problems like a skin infection.

References

Akpinar, F., et al. (2012). Association between acrochordons and the components of metabolic syndrome. European Journal of Dermatology.

American Academy of Dermatology Association. (n.d.). 5 reasons to see a dermatologist for mole, skin tag removal.

View All References (8)

American Academy of Dermatology Association. (n.d.). Moles: Overview.

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. (n.d.). Cryosurgery (cryotherapy).

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. (n.d.). Skin tags.

Banik, R., et al. (1987). Skin tags: Localization and frequencies according to sex and age. Dermatologica.

Bustan, R. S., et al. (2017). Specific skin signs as a cutaneous marker of diabetes mellitus and the prediabetic state – a systematic review. Danish Medical Journal.

Cancer.Net. (2020). Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome.

National Health Service. (2019). Skin tags.

Pandey, A., et al. (2021). Skin tags. StatPearls.

GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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