How to Remove Skin Tags Safely and Effectively, According to Experts

It's easier than you'd imagine.

Close-up of a shirtless person resting their hand on their shoulder/back
Photo: Getty Images

Tag — you're it. Decidedly less fun than the game you played during recess, skin tags are one of those issues that most people have to tackle at some point. And while they aren't painful or cause for a health concern, the raised and mole-like appearance can be unpleasant, depending on where they form.

If you've ever considered removing a skin tag, look no further. Here, we spoke to three skin experts to weigh in on all things skin tag-related, including permanent removal.

Keep scrolling for our complete guide to getting rid of skin tags safely and effectively.

What are skin tags?

"Skin tags are very common, harmless soft flesh-colored growths made up of normal skin, and often have a short stem or stalk," explains Peter Young, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Massachusetts and medical director of Facet. They are typically found on the neck, chest, and underarms, but can also occur on the eyelids, groin, or anywhere there is friction on the skin, adds Kerry Benjamin, a California-based aesthetician and CEO and founder of StackedSkincare.

While the root cause of skin tags is ultimately unknown, they do seem to have certain triggers, such as friction and rapid weight loss or gain, says David Colbert, M.D., a New York-based board-certified dermatologist. Since friction is a big contributor to skin tags, Dr. Young notes that people with skinfolds tend to have them. He also adds that skin tags tend to be genetic, and the older you become, the more likely you are to develop them. And according to Benjamin and Dr. Colbert, those with diabetes tend to develop skin tags, too.

VIDEO: What's the Difference Between a Dermatologist and Esthetician?

How to Prevent Skin Tags

While not all causes of skin tags are under our control, some are. For instance, if your skin tags are triggered by chronic friction, you may be able to keep them at bay if you reduce that friction. Investing in anti-chafing products or removing jewelry that constantly rubs against your skin are ways you can try to help prevent skin tags from forming in the first place.

How to Get Rid of Skin Tags

While it is possible for skin tags to go away without any intervention, it's not always likely. That would require that the tissue dies from a lack of blood supply and subsequently falls off on its own. And although you may be tempted to take matters into your own hands, do not try to DIY skin tag removal.

There are several popular at-home methods circulating online, but Benjamin warns that these can be dangerous. "[They] will cause more irritation, bleeding, and possibly infection," she says. As such, she recommends either leaving your skin tag alone or going to a doctor for removal. According to Dr. Young, there are several ways to remove skin tags, all of which need to be done under the supervision of a dermatologist:

  • Cryotherapy: This removal method involves a doctor freezing your skin tag off with liquid nitrogen, says Dr. Young. However, because side effects may include hyperpigmentation, it is often not recommended for those with darker skin tones.
  • Electrosurgery: On the opposite side of the spectrum, Dr. Young adds that your dermatologist can burn off your tag using a cautery device (aka a device that uses heat to destroy tissue). There is a possibility that you may experience irritation, skin discoloration, or scarring post-procedure. And in case your tag does not fall off, you may need to set up a follow-up appointment.
  • Surgical removal: Using surgical scissors or a scalpel blade, your derm can completely remove your skin tag by carefully cutting it off, explains Dr. Young. Depending on the size of the tag, they may need to use local anesthesia. Note that there is a risk of minor bleeding, which is why this method should only be performed by a professional and never at home.

When to See a Professional

Although you might not find skin tags aesthetically pleasing, they're essentially harmless and don't need to be removed (hence, why electing to get rid of tags is usually considered a cosmetic procedure). Skin tags should not be painful so if they are causing you discomfort, see a dermatologist right away. If they conclude that your tag is benign but you still want it removed, they will best be able to determine which removal method is right for you.

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  1. Skin tagsNHS. 2019.

  2. Andrews MD. Cryosurgery for common skin conditionsafp. 2004;69(10):2365-2372.

  3. Skin tagsNHS. 2019.

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