Skin Tags: Learning, Causes, and Treatment to destroy them!

Close up photo of a skin tag. Taken at the Skinologists Chester skin clinic. This is of a client and while you cannot identify them from this image, we refuse the right for anyone for any purpose. Copyright The Skinologsts.

introduction

Welcome to The Skinologists' comprehensive guide to skin tags. In this article, we'll cover how to check if it's a skin tag, understand the differences between tags, warts, and moles, explore the causes, treatment options available, and why our approach at The Skinologists stands out as the safest choice for our clients in Chester and the surrounding areas.

When discussing skin tags, it's helpful to be aware of alternative words or phrases that describe these benign growths. Here are some alternative terms:

  1. Acrochordons: This term is commonly used in medical literature to refer to skin tags. Acrochordons typically appear as soft, flesh-coloured growths protruding from the skin's surface.
  2. Cutaneous papillomas: Cutaneous papillomas are another name for tags. These growths often occur in areas where skin rubs against skin or clothing, such as the neck, underarms, groin, and eyelids.
  3. Soft fibromas: Soft fibromas describe the texture and composition of skin tags. They are soft to the touch and are composed of fibrous tissue.
  4. Fibroepithelial polyps: Fibroepithelial polyps are benign tumours that commonly occur on the skin's surface. They are non-cancerous growths composed of fibrous and epithelial tissue.
  5. Papillomas cutaneous: Papillomas cutaneous is a medical term that refers to skin tags. These growths are characterised by their small size and typically benign nature.
  6. Skin barnacles: Skin barnacles are a colloquial term used to describe tags, often due to their appearance resembling barnacles found on rocks.
  7. Skin tabs: Skin tabs are another informal term for skin tags. They are small, tag-like growths that can vary in size and appearance.
  8. Fibrovascular papules: Fibrovascular papules are growths on the skin's surface composed of fibrous and vascular tissue. These types of tags fall under this category of benign skin growths.

Some other terms used are:

  • Cutaneous tag - we will use this term through this page to mix it up a bit!
  • Fibroma molluscum
  • Fibroma pendulum

These tags can be referred to in layman's terms as:

  • Painless growths that hang from the skin.
  • small flap of skin that hangs off of the surface of one's skin.

Understanding these alternative terms can be helpful when researching or discussing skin tags with a GP or dermatologists. Despite the variety of names, the characteristics and treatment options for Cutaneous tags remain relatively consistent.

Check if it's a Skin Tag

Checking if a growth is a Cutaneous tag involves examining its characteristics and location, they typically have the following features:

  1. Soft and Flexible: These tags are soft to the touch and can often be moved or manipulated with ease.
  2. Flesh-Coloured or Slightly Darker: They usually match the surrounding skin tone or may be slightly darker in colour.
  3. Hanging or Protruding: Skin tabs often appear to be hanging off the skin or have a stalk-like structure.
  4. Painless: cutaneous tags are usually painless unless irritated or snagged.
  5. Common Locations: They tend to occur in areas where skin rubs against skin or clothing, such as the neck, underarms, groin, eyelids, and under the breasts.

To check if a growth is a skin tag, gently feel the growth to assess its texture and mobility. If it meets the characteristics described above and is located in typical Cutaneous tag areas, it is likely to be what you think it is. However, if there are any doubts or concerns about the growth, it's important to consult a GP for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

If you're unsure whether a growth is a cutaneous tag, it's essential to consult a dermatologist or skin specialist for proper evaluation and diagnosis. Please do ensure they carry the right credentials and experience to be checking your skin.

Differences Between Skin Tags, Warts, and Moles

Sometimes clients might mix up or confuse the mark on their skin. It is very easily done if you don't have the right knowledge. Even if you do know what you are looking for, sometimes the mark can look very similar to something else. In cases we have seen it is completely understandable why a client has misidentified, as Fiona has called on her training and experience of seeing different marks over the years.

As a general rule these are the key characteristics:

Skin Tags

  • Soft, flesh-coloured growths
  • Typically found in areas of friction or skin folds
  • Generally harmless and painless unless irritated

Warts

  • Rough, raised growths with a grainy texture
  • Caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Can occur anywhere on the body, including the hands, feet, and genitals

Moles

  • Usually brown or black in colour
  • Can be flat or raised
  • May have a smooth or rough texture
  • Formed by clusters of pigment-producing cells (melanocytes)

If you are uncertain, we would recommend booking in for a consultation to ensure we can correctly identify your skin mark. Each type would be approached differently. And as you may be aware of some of these marks could be cancerous! You can book a skin consultation here. You can also just book a free skin chat if you are unsure about anything too.

Causes of Skin Tags

The exact cause of skin Tags is not fully understood, but several factors may contribute to their development, including:

  • Friction: Areas of the skin where friction occurs, such as the neck, underarms, groin, and eyelids, are more prone to developing Cutaneous tags.
  • Genetics: There may be a genetic predisposition to developing cutaneous tags, as they often run in families.
  • Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as during pregnancy or in individuals with hormonal imbalances, may increase the likelihood of developing skin tags.

Skin tags, those curious little growths that seem to pop up uninvited, often have a unique tale to tell when it comes to their causes.

Friction plays a significant role. Picture this: your skin rubbing against itself or clothing, day after day, creating the perfect environment for skin tags to take root. Areas like the neckline, underarms, and folds of skin are particularly susceptible.

Then there's the genetic angle. If your family tree boasts a few of these tiny flaps, chances are you've inherited the tendency. It's almost like a quirky family tradition! So it may be worth asking some of your relatives.

And let's not forget about hormones. Ah, the joys of hormonal fluctuations—they can create the ideal conditions for skin tags to make an appearance, adding a unique touch to the aging process.

So, the next time you encounter a tag, remember, it's not just a bump—it's a testament to the intricate interplay of genetics, friction, and hormones!

Are Skin Tags Dangerous?

Skin tags, those little skin growths that can appear almost anywhere on the body, often prompt questions about their potential danger. The good news is that in most cases, they are entirely harmless and pose no significant health risks. They're like nature's quirky little accessories, adding a touch of uniqueness to your skin landscape.

However, despite their benign nature, there are instances where cutaneous tags may warrant closer attention. While they typically don't cause any pain or discomfort, if a cutaneous tag becomes irritated, inflamed, or starts bleeding, it's essential to seek medical advice. Sometimes, these symptoms could indicate an underlying issue that requires professional evaluation.

Additionally, if you notice sudden changes in the appearance or size of a tag, it's advisable to consult a dermatologist for further assessment. While it's rare, there's a chance that a cutaneous tag could be something more than just a harmless growth. Keeping an eye on any changes and seeking timely medical advice can help ensure peace of mind and proper management if needed.

In summary, while skin tags are generally harmless and pose no immediate danger, it's essential to stay vigilant and seek medical attention if you notice any concerning changes or symptoms associated with them. After all, when it comes to your skin's health, it's better to be safe than sorry!

Can Skin Tags be Treated on the NHS?

cutaneous tag (revered to as acrochordons in medical literature) removal is considered a cosmetic procedure and is therefore not be available on the NHS and the same for many GPs. Both are now advising patients to seek out private treatment either at skin clinics or dermatologists.

For more information on acrochordons from a medical perspective, you can visit the NHS website's dedicated page: NHS Skin Tags Information.

There still is some key advice though!

See a GP if:

You have a cutaneous tag that:

  • gets bigger
  • becomes painful
  • starts bleeding
  • develops into lots of skin tags

NHS advice is clear on removal too:

Do not remove your own tag

Do not try to remove a skin tag yourself unless a GP recommends it. Risks include infection, bleeding and scarring.

Can skin tags be treated naturally?

Skin barnacles can sometimes be managed or reduced through natural remedies, although complete removal may not always be achieved without medical intervention.

It is important to note that there is only anecdotal evidence supporting the use of these natural ingredients.

Here are some natural approaches that some individuals may find helpful in managing skin tags:

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar: Applying apple cider vinegar to the tag using a cotton ball may help to gradually shrink the tag over time. However, this method may cause skin irritation and should be used with caution.
  2. Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil possesses antiviral and antibacterial properties, and some people find that applying diluted tea tree oil to the tag several times a day can help reduce its size.
  3. Essential Oils: Other essential oils like lavender oil or castor oil are also believed to have skin-soothing properties that may help reduce the appearance of cutaneous tags over time.
  4. Diet and Lifestyle Changes: Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, including regular exercise and adequate hydration, may contribute to overall skin health and potentially reduce the occurrence of tag.
  5. Avoidance of Friction: Since skin tags often develop in areas of friction or skin folds, taking steps to minimise friction, such as wearing loose-fitting clothing, may help prevent the formation of new cutaneous tags.

It's important to note that natural remedies may not work for everyone, and results can vary depending on individual factors and the size and location of the skin tag. Additionally, natural remedies may take much longer to show results compared to medical treatments.

If natural remedies are not effective or if you have concerns about a skin tag, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and treatment recommendations. In some cases, medical intervention, such as cryotherapy, surgical removal, or electrocautery, may be necessary for complete removal of the cutaneous tag. As you can see from the diagram below it is not just the tag on the surface but the affected skin below the surface that natural remedies will struggle to effect.

Clear skin vs skin tag diagram

Comparison diagram showing clear skin vs skin tag. Showing how it penetrates to the epidermis and dermis layers, and is not just as surface blemish. It does not reach the hypodermis.

Frequently Asked Questions About Skin Tags

Here are a list of the most common questions asked about cutaneous tags online. To give you answers to the questions many people are asking online.

What are skin tags a warning for?

While tags themselves aren't considered dangerous, they may indicate certain health conditions or lifestyle factors. For instance, individuals living with obesity or those with skin folds that rub together may be more prone to developing skin tags.

Additionally, people with type 2 diabetes, particularly those experiencing severe insulin resistance, may notice an increase in tag growth. Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during pregnancy, are also thought to contribute to the development of tags.

Can I cut off a skin tag with nail clippers?

Attempting to cut off a cutaneous tag with nail clippers or any other sharp object is generally not recommended and can pose risks. While it may seem like a straightforward solution, DIY removal methods like this can lead to complications and potential harm. The NHS guidance is clear, do no remove your own tag.

cutaneous tags are attached to the skin by a narrow stalk, and cutting them off without proper technique or sterilization can result in infection, bleeding, and scarring. Additionally, using tools like nail clippers may not provide precise control, increasing the risk of injury and damage to the surrounding skin.

The main issue around bleeding is that the cutaneous tag has blood flow in and out. As a result nail clippers or scissors will certainly lead to excessive bleeding. As showcased in the below image.

Skin tag blood flow diagram

Skin tag blood flow diagram showing that blood vessels are present in tags with the infected cells. This can lead to excessive bleeding if cut off at home with something like nail clippers or scissors.

It's important to approach skin tag removal safely and effectively. Consulting with a healthcare professional, such as a dermatologist or GP, is advisable to discuss appropriate treatment options. They can provide guidance on safe removal techniques and ensure that the procedure is carried out in a sterile environment to minimise the risk of complications.

In summary, while it may be tempting to remove a tag at home using nail clippers, it's best to seek professional medical advice for safe and effective removal methods.

When should you worry about skin tags?

In most cases, skin tags are harmless and don't require immediate medical attention. However, there are certain instances where it's advisable to seek medical advice and evaluation for cutaneous tags:

  1. Changes in Appearance: If you notice sudden changes in the appearance or characteristics of a tab, such as rapid growth, irregular shape, or changes in colour, it's essential to have it examined by a healthcare professional. These changes may indicate an underlying issue that requires further investigation.
  2. Pain or Discomfort: While tags are typically painless, if a skin tag becomes painful, tender, or irritated, it may warrant medical attention. Pain or discomfort associated with a skin tab could be a sign of inflammation, infection, or another underlying condition that requires treatment.
  3. Bleeding or Ulceration: If a cutaneous tag starts bleeding spontaneously or becomes ulcerated, it's important to seek medical evaluation promptly. Bleeding or ulceration of a skin tab may indicate trauma, infection, or other complications that need to be addressed by a GP.
  4. Development of Multiple Skin Tags: While single cutaneous tags are common and usually harmless, the sudden appearance of multiple tags, especially in a short period, may be worth investigating further. It could be a sign of an underlying medical condition or hormonal imbalance that requires attention.
  5. Location and Functional Concerns: Cutaneous tags located in areas that cause functional impairment, such as interfering with clothing or jewellery, may require removal for practical reasons. Similarly, tags in highly visible or sensitive areas, such as the face or genital area, may prompt individuals to seek removal for cosmetic or comfort purposes.

In summary, while most skin tags are harmless and benign, it's important to be aware of changes or symptoms that may indicate underlying issues. Seeking medical advice and evaluation for concerning cutaneous tags can help ensure proper diagnosis and appropriate management.

Some Treatment Options for Skin Tags

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy involves freezing the tag using liquid nitrogen. This method causes the tag to blister and fall off over time. While cryotherapy is effective, it may cause temporary discomfort and can sometimes result in scarring or pigmentation changes.

Surgical Removal

Surgical removal involves cutting off the cutaneous tag with sterile scissors or a scalpel. While this method provides immediate results, it may lead to scarring and requires local anesthesia.

Topical Treatments

Some over-the-counter topical treatments claim to remove skin tags by causing them to dry out and fall off. However, these treatments may be ineffective and can cause irritation or allergic reactions.

The Skinologists Approach: Advanced Electrolysis / ACP

At The Skinologists, we offer advanced techniques for the safe and effective removal of skin tags. Our primary methods include:

Advanced Electrolysis also know as ACP (Advanced Cosmetic Procedures)

ACP is a non-invasive procedure that utilises a specialised device to deliver a low-level electrical current to the base of the skin tag. This process effectively cuts off the blood supply to the tag, causing it to shrink and eventually fall off. ACP is gentle, minimally invasive, and results in minimal scarring.

skin tag removal before and after photo

Skin tag treatment before and after photo. The top image shows the the skin tag, while the image underneath shows it has completely vanished with no marking on the skin!

ACP is an innovative treatment option for removing skin tag. This technique involves using a fine probe to deliver a precise current to the base of the tag, resulting in its removal without causing damage to the surrounding skin.

ACP is safe, precise, and offers excellent cosmetic results. As you can see in the before and after photo taken at our Chester skin clinic of a client. There is no scarring or visible marks on the skin!

You can read more about our advanced electrolysis treatment including the treatment process, is it safe and will it hurt.

Conclusion

In summary, skin tags are common benign growths that can appear on various areas of the body. While there are several treatment options available, The Skinologists' approach stands out for its safety, effectiveness, and minimal scarring. If you have any questions about cutaneous tags or would like to schedule a consultation, please don't hesitate to contact us. We're here to help you achieve the clear, healthy skin you deserve.

As previously stated please do feel free to book a Free consultation if you want to start on the road to removing skin tags today.