Everything to know about skin tags: What they are, how to remove them and more

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  • 21.06.2021

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You’re thinking exactly what everyone’s thinking: what the heck are skin tags? Upon first read, the term gives the impression of sticker labels attached to our skin. In a way, you’ve pretty much got the idea. Skin tags are small pieces of soft, hanging skin that tend to appear when we get older. These growths are noncancerous, and they usually crop up on skin folds such as your armpits, groin, thighs, and eyelids. You’ve probably seen them on elderly folk — you just never knew the name for it.

Unfortunately, it is an affliction that is striking more individuals as of late, no matter one’s age. Is it a cause for concern? Should you attempt to, uh, cauterise it with your pore vacuum? Lucky for you, we’re here to answer all your burning questions. Here’s what you got to know.

What are skin tags, exactly?

Skin tags are connected to your skin by a peduncle — a small, thin stalk — that generally don’t cause any discomfort. They may look like warts, but they’re actually made of loose collagen fibres and blood vessels surrounded by skin. Skin tags can vary in size, where some are as tiny as a grain of rice, while others may grow up to 5cm wide. In terms of colour, they may appear dark blue because of hyperpigmentation or are simply flesh coloured. They may also turn black if they are twisted. And, they also can develop where they become smooth and round, or uneven and wrinkly. Both men and women are prone to it. In short: skin tags come in all shapes and sizes.

How are skin tags developed in the first place?

For some, skin tags grow for no conceivable reason at all. But they may also develop due to changing hormone levels or due to a newly-developed resistance to insulin. This means that pregnant women and diabetics are more susceptible to this condition. Heck, it can even be caused by skin irritation or the when skin rubs against itself, which explains why they appear on skin folds. This means that they tend to affect those who are deemed obese more, as individuals with many skin layers experience an uptick in chafing. Another possible link might be HPV, or perhaps some virus strains which are known to cause cervical cancer. In one study, 88 percent of participants with skin tags had these viruses.

Do you need to remove skin tags?

Deep breath: skin tags are benign and require no medical intervention. However, you may consider removing them if they are impacting your self-esteem, or if they bother you when they catch onto clothes and accessories (which can lead to painful bleeding). Do note that skin tag removal is considered cosmetic surgery, though, so you’ll have to book an appointment privately. And no, it might be tempting but please don’t try to yank them off. It’ll only make your skin bleed and expose you to infection. Sometimes, you may not even need to do anything — skin tags are known to fall off naturally when the tissue is twisted and denied of blood supply.

How are they removed?

Skin tags can be taken away through a number of procedures:

  • Excision: Cutting the skin tag off with a scalpel or scissors

  • Cryotherapy: The skin tag is frozen off with nitrogen

  • Electrosurgery: Burning it off with electrolysis

  • Ligation: Interrupting blood supply to the skin tag

Do note that you should only trust a dermatologist or specialist to perform these surgeries. Though the procedures don’t normally need anaesthesia, doctors may choose to use it when removing large or numerous skin tags.

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