Everybody's skin is different - but sometimes, we encounter things on our bodies that we don't particularly like the look of, or don't feel comfortable with.
And for some people, skin tags are one of their main bodily hang-ups. Which may leave you wondering, how to get rid of skin tags?
What are skin tags?
According to the NHS, skin tags are small, harmless, skin-coloured growths that often protrude or hang off your skin. For some people, they may be tiny, and cause little inconvenience, but for others, skin tags can be up to 5cm. Find out how to tell the difference between a skin tag and a mole, here.
Skin tags are very common and usually of no threat to your health.
There are a variety of reasons explaining why you get skin tags. Generally, they appear as a result of loose collagen fibres – collagen is the protein in the body that keeps your skin tight rather than loose.
Should you remove skin tags? Can they ever be harmful?
In short, no, you don’t have to. There is no need to remove skin tags if they are not bothering you or affecting your mental or physical health, as they are entirely harmless otherwise.
Dr Kathy Taghipour, a dermatologist based at two award-winning clinics in London, explained, “Skin tags are usually a cosmetic problem, but they can sometimes cause discomfort depending on how large they grow and where they are.”
For example, some opt for removal as their skin tag(s) may snag on your clothing or jewellery, which can cause pain and may cause the skin tag to bleed.
According to Dr Aragona Giuseppe, GP and medical advisor at Prescription Doctor, there is very rarely any reason to worry that skin tags could turn into something worrisome. He told w&h, “Skin tags are generally malignant and won’t become cancerous if you choose not to remove it.
“There are some extremely rare cases where a skin tag may become precancerous but this is really quite rare and shouldn’t be something to worry about. If you do notice any changes in your skin tag, it’s best to just get it checked by your GP.”
How to get rid of skin tags
If you decide you want to remove your skin tags, how exactly do you get rid of them?
The best course of action is to see a GP, and seek their advice. However, it’s important to bear in mind that skin tag removal will rarely be conducted via the NHS. Because skin tag removal is generally considered to be a cosmetic surgery, you may well have to pay for the appointment and procedure privately, unless you can prove how the skin tag is affecting your health.
Dr Aragona Giuseppe explained that there are a few medical ways to remove skin tags.
- Surgical removal
Dr Aragona explained, “The first and most common is surgical removal, so having them medically removed using scissors or a scalpel.
“Cryotherapy is also a popular technique where they freeze the tag off using liquid nitrogen. You can also opt for Electrosurgery which is where you have the tag burnt off using high-frequency electrical energy.”
He continued, “The removal will depend on your skin tag and its size. I would suggest always consulting your GP before undergoing any type of removal. Having it surgically removed is the most common and actually the most effective way of removal as it will be completely removed. Freezing or burning skin tags can sometimes cause irritation and the tag may not completely fall off which means a follow up appointment.”
So what about home removal – is it possible, and should it be done? Dr Kathy Taghipour said, “We would not recommend any home treatments as these can result in further pain or discomfort and there is also an increased risk of infection if you attempt to remove them yourself.”
Jana Abelovska, Medical Advisor at Click Pharmacy also explained that skin tag removal patches can be a very effective way of removing skin tags from the body
“They work by essentially shrinking and drying the tag until they naturally fall off,” says Jana. “However, I would advise you consult your GP before you go ahead with this because tags can be different depending on their size, shape and where they are on the body.” Jana advises that if you are keen to go ahead with the patches and you have a smaller skin tag, then as long as you adhere to the instructions, this should make for a safe removal.