How to Safely Remove a Skin Tag, According to the Skincare Pros

Ipsy posted "How to Safely Remove a Skin Tag, According to the Skincare Pros" featuring Visha Skincare founder, Dr. Purvisha Patel's expert commentary on what a skin tag is, causes, prevention, removal and more.

If you’ve ever had a small flap of tissue sitting somewhere on your skin, you’ve probably headed over to Google wondering what the heck it is. If it’s skin-colored and not painful, you probably figured out that it’s a skin tag. Though they can be unsightly, they’re not usually harmful unless they affect you emotionally, of course. But skin tags are incredibly common and no fault of your own. You also don’t have to live with them.

There’s a ton of advice on the Internet skin tag removal, as well as numerous products promising to be safe and effective. But some of these treatments aren’t safe to do at home, while others just don’t work as well as promised. Not only do we want to save you time and money, we don’t want anyone getting injured here. To get to the bottom of skin tags and find out how to remove them safely, we enlisted board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare, Purvisha Patel, MD.

First: What is a skin tag?

“A skin tag is a benign—non-cancerous—redundant growth of the skin that sticks out from the surface,” explains Dr. Patel. It can resemble a little flesh-colored balloon that is barely hanging on to the skin. It’s basically a noncancerous skin growth. Of course, to make sure you’re dealing with a skin tag and not something harmful, it’s best to check with your doctor or a dermatologist who can advise you whether it needs further treatment. If it is a skin tag, it’s really up to you and your comfort if you want to remove it for cosmetic reasons.

What causes skin tags?

As with many skin conditions, there is both a genetic and lifestyle cause for skin tags. Skin that is rubbed often is more likely to get skin tags, and this tends to happen more often with overweight people. They are common around the eyes, armpits and groin areas, all of which are prone to skin rubbing. But anyone can get a skin tag, regardless of age and size. Especially if there is type 2 diabetes in the family. “There is a genetic predisposition and they occur more often in those who have a family history of diabetes,” explains Dr. Patel. “Insulin-like growth factor is higher in those that are predisposed to diabetes, and this looks like a human growth factor to the skin cells, making skin tags more common.”

How can you prevent skin tags?

While there’s not a lot you can do about genetics, and sometimes things just happen without a specific reason, there are a few things you can do to prevent skin tags from forming in the first place. We’re all about prevention, when possible. “Staying a healthy body weight so there is less skin to skin friction, maintaining a good diet and exercise program and preventing skin on skin friction helps prevent skin tags from forming,” says Dr. Patel.

Skin tags are also more common in older people and realistically, most people will get at least one skin tag in their life. When you get your usual skin cancer screening with a dermatologist, chat with them about any skin growths you find before attempting a DIY at-home treatment. If you do get the all clear, there are some home remedies that help with skin tag removal.

Can you remove a skin tag at home?

“Removing small tags at home can be done safely if done correctly and in a sterile manner,” says Dr. Patel. “These are generally the very small ones. Tags that have a base greater than ½ mm are more prone to bleed and should be removed by a dermatologist.” Consulting with a board certified dermatologist is best when tackling skin tags, and then they can discuss what methods would be best for you. Some home remedies work but the problem is, they’re not proven and don’t work for everyone.

Home remedies for removing skin tags 

  1. Use apple cider vinegar. “The skin of a tag has a very small blood supply,” says Dr. Patel. “Apple cider vinegar can, but not always, desiccate the skin—take the water out of the skin—when applied on a daily basis.” This creates a scab that will fall off—ideally. There is always a risk when doing home skin tag removal. “They are not consistent in the results and there is a risk of skin infection if the skin barrier gets broken and bacteria sets in,” adds Dr. Patel.

  2. Try tea tree oil. Tea tree oil works the same as ACV in that it should dry out a small skin tag. When in doubt, check with your health care professional to see if they think your skin tag is small enough to safely remove it this way.

  3. Apply vitamin E oil. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that fights wrinkles and helps keep the skin healthy. By applying liquid vitamin E on a skin tag and the surrounding area, sometimes the growth will dry up and fall off within a couple of weeks. Again, these aren’t perfect treatments and don’t work for everyone. If it’s small enough, some have had success.

How dermatologists remove...

A small skin tag:

Getting a small skin tag removed in the dermatology office is pretty easy and a lot safer than trying to remove it at home. Dermatologists remove small tags by destruction. “This can be done with liquid nitrogen if they are very small,” says Dr. Patel. “This freezes the tissue and the redundant skin blisters and falls off.” If the skin tag is especially close to the surface of the skin, they can also be snipped off (carefully!) with sharp scissors. Don’t worry—your doctor will make sure it doesn’t hurt.

A large skin tag:

Removal of a large skin tag is a little more difficult because they have a bigger blood supply. They are anesthetized at the base with lidocaine, and then removed with either a blade or a scissors,” explains Dr. Patel. “The bleeding is controlled easily in the office, and wound care is given.” It sounds icky but you won’t have any lasting pain and with the right at-home treatments, not even a scar either.

How much does skin tag removal cost? 

The cost of a skin tag varies depending on location, size and number to be removed, according to Dr. Patel. Removal in a dermatologist office can vary from $100 to $500 depending on these factors. It also depends on where you live and how expensive health care is in your area. Sometimes if your skin tag is itchy or physically bothersome, your insurance company will cover the cost of removal. Unfortunately, it often won’t for cosmetic reasons. If you have many bothersome skin tags, speak to your dermatologist about payment plans or more affordable options. Don’t let skin tags keep you up at night but if they bother you, there are enough options that you don’t have to live with them.

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