Clinical Derma

Skin Tag


Skin tags, or “acrochordons,” are benign skin growths, often forming where skin rubs together. Causes are not fully understood, but both clinical and non-clinical factors play a role. Clinical factors include friction, hormonal changes (like pregnancy), insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and obesity. Non-clinical factors encompass age, genetics, and sex, with both men and women susceptible, though pregnancy can increase occurrence. Skin tags are typically harmless but can be removed if bothersome or for cosmetic reasons. It’s crucial to have new skin growths evaluated by a dermatologist to confirm they’re benign.


Skin tags, medically known as “acrochordons”, are common benign skin growths that appear as small, soft protrusions. They’re often on a small, narrow stalk and can be flesh-colored or slightly darker. They typically appear in areas where the skin forms creases or rubs together, such as the eyelids, armpits, neck, under the breasts, or in the groin area.

While skin tags are harmless and usually painless, they can be bothersome or cosmetically unattractive, particularly when they’re in highly visible areas or they rub against clothing or jewelry. In such cases, a person may seek medical assistance for removal.

The precise cause of skin tags is not completely understood, but both clinical and non-clinical factors are believed to contribute to their development.

Clinical Factors

  1. Friction: Skin tags often develop in skin folds or areas where skin rubs against skin or clothing. This suggests that friction or skin rubbing may contribute to their formation.
  2. Hormonal Changes: Pregnancy, for example, is a time when skin tags often occur, possibly due to changes in hormones.
  3. Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome, and Diabetes: People with these conditions tend to have a higher incidence of skin tags.
  4. Obesity: Obesity is also associated with skin tag development, possibly due to increased skin folds and friction.

Non-Clinical Factors

  1. Age: Skin tags are more common in middle age and older adults, though they can occur at any age.
  2. Genetics: Some people may be genetically more susceptible to developing skin tags.
  3. Sex: Both men and women can develop skin tags. However, they can occur more often in pregnant women possibly due to hormonal changes.


Symptoms Skin tags typically present as:

  1. Small, soft, skin-colored or slightly darker growths.
  2. Painless and benign (non-cancerous).
  3. Usually between 2mm and 5mm in size, though larger ones can occur.
  4. Often appear on a thin stalk called a peduncle.
  5. Usually found in skin folds such as the neck, armpits, under the breasts, and in the groin area.

While they are generally painless, skin tags can become irritated if they are repeatedly rubbed or scratched, for instance, by clothing, jewelry, or when shaving.

Diagnosis A dermatologist can usually diagnose a skin tag simply by looking at it. However, if there is any doubt about the diagnosis, or if the skin tag looks different from the typical appearance, they might decide to perform a biopsy. This involves taking a small sample of skin and examining it under a microscope to rule out other conditions, such as moles or warts. In some cases, what appears to be a skin tag may be a more serious skin growth.

Prognosis and Impact

Prognosis The prognosis for skin tags is very good. They are benign (non-cancerous) skin growths that do not evolve into malignant conditions. Skin tags don’t typically grow back once they’re removed, although new ones can develop in other areas. If a skin tag is left untreated, it may remain the same size or potentially grow larger, but it won’t spread or become harmful.

Impact The primary impact of skin tags is cosmetic. Some people find them bothersome or unsightly, especially when they’re located in visible areas such as the face or neck. Additionally, they can cause discomfort or irritation if they are frequently rubbed by clothing, jewelry, or body parts.

Skin tags themselves don’t cause health problems, but they can sometimes be associated with underlying metabolic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. As a result, the presence of numerous skin tags may prompt your dermatologist to recommend a check-up for these conditions, particularly if you have other risk factors.

Treatment Options

Here are the common treatment options for skin tags:

  1. Cryotherapy: This involves freezing the skin tag with liquid nitrogen. It’s a quick procedure that can be done in the dermatologist’s office.
  2. Cauterization: The skin tag is burned off using an electrical current passed through a wire that becomes hot with the current.
  3. Ligation: This method involves tying off the skin tag at its narrow base with a thread or suture, to cut off its blood flow.
  4. Excision: The dermatologist numbs the area with a local anesthetic and uses a scalpel or surgical scissors to remove the skin tag.
  5. Over-the-counter treatments: Some products are available that claim to remove skin tags by freezing them, causing them to dry up and fall off. However, these treatments may not be as effective as procedures performed by a doctor.
  6. Natural remedies: Some people choose to use home remedies such as tea tree oil or apple cider vinegar to remove skin tags. However, the effectiveness of these treatments is not scientifically proven and they can sometimes cause skin irritation.

It’s important to note that you should not attempt to remove a skin tag at home without consulting a healthcare professional, especially if it’s large, painful, or in a sensitive area. Incorrect removal can lead to infection, bleeding, or scarring. Always consult a dermatologist or a trained medical professional for skin tag removal.

Risks and Side Effects

Here’s a breakdown for each type of treatment:

  1. Cryotherapy: While generally safe, cryotherapy can cause temporary skin discoloration at the treatment site. Less commonly, it can cause blistering, infection, and scarring. It might not always be effective on larger skin tags.
  2. Cauterization: This procedure can lead to skin discoloration, minor pain or discomfort during the procedure, and a risk of infection or scarring. There can also be a temporary change in skin texture.
  3. Ligation: Ligation is usually safe but can cause minor discomfort or pain. It can also lead to infection, scarring, or skin discoloration.
  4. Excision: This method can cause minor pain or discomfort during the procedure, and carries a small risk of infection, bleeding, or scarring.
  5. Over-the-counter treatments: While these can be effective for small skin tags, they might not work on larger ones. They can cause skin irritation or burns if not used correctly. There’s also a risk of infection if the skin tag removal isn’t clean and hygienic.
  6. Natural remedies: These are generally not recommended by professionals due to lack of scientific evidence and potential risks. They can lead to skin irritation, infection if used improperly, and may not be effective.

FAQ Section

What are skin tags? 

Skin tags, medically known as acrochordons, are small, benign skin growths that appear as soft, skin-colored protrusions. They usually form in areas where the skin rubs together or against clothing.


Are skin tags dangerous? 

No, skin tags are harmless and non-cancerous. However, if you notice any changes in color, size, or shape, it’s best to have them examined by a dermatologist to rule out other skin conditions.


What causes skin tags? 

The exact cause is unknown, but factors like friction, hormonal changes, obesity, aging, and certain metabolic disorders can contribute to their development.


Can I remove a skin tag by myself? 

It’s not recommended to remove skin tags at home due to the risk of infection, bleeding, or scarring. A dermatologist can safely remove them using various methods like cryotherapy, cauterization, ligation, or excision.


Will a skin tag grow back after it’s been removed? 

Once a skin tag is removed, it typically does not grow back. However, new skin tags may form in different areas.


Are skin tags contagious? 

No, skin tags are not contagious. They cannot be transmitted from person to person.


Can skin tags be prevented? 

Because the exact cause of skin tags is not fully understood, there’s no definitive way to prevent them. However, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding friction or irritation to the skin may help.

Are skin tag removal procedures painful? 

Most skin tag removal procedures cause minimal discomfort. Your dermatologist will use a local anesthetic to numb the area and minimize any pain.


Are there any risks or side effects to skin tag removal? 

Risks and side effects can include minor pain or discomfort, skin discoloration, infection, or scarring. However, these risks are relatively low, especially when the procedure is performed by a professional.


Can skin tags be a sign of other health issues? 

Skin tags themselves are harmless, but in some cases, they can be associated with underlying metabolic conditions like obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. If you have multiple skin tags and other risk factors, your dermatologist may recommend a check-up for these conditions.


  1. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Skin Tags. Available at:
  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2021). Skin Tags: Who gets and causes. Available at:
  3. WebMD. (2021). What Are Skin Tags? Available at:
  4. NHS UK. (2021). Skin Tags. Available at:
  5. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. (2021). Skin Tags. Available at:

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