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Expert Q&A

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What are skin tags and can I remove them myself?

Asked by Wallace Roberts, Spanaway, Washington

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Why do people get skin tags and how can they be removed with home remedies? Can I just cut it off with a pair of scissors or nail clippers if they are sterilized?

Expert Bio Picture

Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert answer

Thank you for your question. Skin tags are small growths (usually just a few millimeters) of flesh that typically appear on the neck, underarms, eyelids, skin folds and other areas that may be frequently rubbed or irritated. They occur commonly starting in middle age, and may be associated with pregnancy, obesity, diabetes, and other health conditions. Sometimes they may actually be cancerous skin lesions, which should be checked by a dermatologist.

Most of the time, skin tags will turn into a scab and fall off on their own. However, some people prefer to have them removed, either for cosmetic reasons or because the tags may rub against clothing or otherwise be bothersome. There are over-the-counter preparations designed to remove skin tags, moles, warts and the like. Clear nail polish applied to the skin tag has also been used as a home remedy, but is not a scientifically proven treatment. In addition, people have been known to numb their tags with ice before cutting them off with clean scissors or nail clippers. Keep in mind that the area may rarely but potentially develop serious bleeding and/or an infection, so home surgical removal is not something to be taken lightly.

Your physician may recommend removing the skin tag using a ligation technique (tying the base of the tag with suturing thread, for example, to cut off the circulation and allow the tag to dry up and fall off), cryotherapy to freeze it off, electrical cauterization, or surgical removal with scissors or a scalpel. When done in a doctor's office, a numbing cream or injection may be applied, and care is taken to avoid bleeding and infections.

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