A skin tag is a small, soft, flesh-colored growth that hangs off of the skin by a connecting stalk. This acquired benign skin growth typically appears as people age. Men and women are equally prone to developing skin tags.
Also known as “cutaneous tags” or “acrochordons,” skin tags are not typically painful, just visual flaws on the skin. However, in certain situations, these skin growths may be more serious and you may need the help of a dermatologist in San Diego.
Where Skin Tags Occur
Skin tags can develop anywhere on the body, but especially on sites where there are skin creases or folds, or where clothing rubs against the skin. Skin tags typically occur in these locations:
- Base of the neck
- Under the breasts
- Upper Chest
- Groin folds
- Buttock folds
While the exact causes are unknown, skin tags have a genetic predisposition and often develop after pregnancy or weight gain.
Choosing to Remove a Skin Tag
Skin tags are very small and are usually measured in millimeters (typically smaller than 2 mm in size) growing up to half an inch in length. Since they are harmless (they cause no medical complications) and are usually just visually unappealing, skin tag removal is normally done just for aesthetic reasons. For instance, a skin tag on the eyelid can be quite noticeable and may distract from your appearance. However, if the skin tags are located in areas with a lot of friction, are in places where they can get stuck in zippers or clothing, and cause pain, irritation or bleeding, you should opt to have them removed.
Skin Tag Treatments
Skin tag removal should not be done at home. Most people would attempt to get rid of them in their own bathrooms using DIY treatments they’ve found circulating on the Internet, but you should always go to a cosmetic dermatologist for safe removal. At-home remedies such as apple cider application or even OTC medications could have consequences. Without fully understanding what you’re dealing with, you can burn your skin or permanently leave marks.
One important reason to seek medical help is that dermatologists will have sterile instruments. Relying on your tools at home could lead to an infection. Since skin tags have blood vessels in them, they can bleed more than you might expect. Cutting them yourself without any form of anesthetic can be painful. In a hospital setting, local anesthesia and supplies to control bleeding are available.
Another reason to visit an expert is to rule out other skin or health conditions. I recommend getting an accurate diagnosis. As I said in an interview with Elle magazine, “The most important [thing] is to know when the growth is a skin tag and not something else.”
While most skin tags are benign, you really won’t know for sure until you’ve had them checked out. Having your skin tag examined is a good excuse to have your doctor evaluate the rest of your body for any malignant growths. Dermatologists can not only remove your skin tags, but they can also have them studied under a microscope — something you cannot do when attempting unsafe at-home remedies. Larger skin tags are sent to the pathology lab to be checked for melanoma. The chance of malignancy, however, is extremely rare.
Skin tag removal options include:
- Cauterization – the excess skin is burned off or destroyed using heat.
- Cryosurgery – the skin tag is sprayed with liquid nitrogen, which freezes the skin to burn off the skin growth.
- Excision – a scalpel is used to cut off the skin tag.
- Ligation/Strangulating – a string is tied around the growth to cut off the blood supply.
For your comfort, anesthesia, such as lidocaine, will be used during removal.
Skin Tag Outlook
The prognosis for those who develop skin tags is excellent. Skin tags are not a health issue – they are not cancerous and cannot turn into skin cancers. They can be removed easily and quickly, plus multiple skin tags can be treated in just a single appointment. There is also no downtime. Skin tag treatments will only leave a scab that should heal within a week or two (there should not be any scarring). Although the removed skin tag cannot grow back, new skin growths may still form.
Approximately 50 percent of adults, and almost 60 percent of 70-year-olds have skin tags. While it is perfectly fine to ignore skin tags if they don’t bother you, keep in mind that as with any skin irregularities, especially if there is a noticeable change in the appearance or growth of a skin tag, it is a good idea to have your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.
Schedule Your Consultation
A consultation at Cosmetic Laser Dermatology in San Diego is the best way to determine if you could benefit from a skin tag removal procedure. Along with myself, our team of board-certified doctors will be able to address your skincare issues, as well as recommend the best treatment for you and your goals. If you do need removal, our sister practice, West Dermatology is located right next door and can easily remove your skin tag. To learn more about skin tag removal, or if you have other harmless skin conditions that are making you self-conscious, contact us at Cosmetic Laser Dermatology to take a step towards clear and beautiful skin.
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