Skin tags are small flesh-coloured, pink or brown growths which appear on the skin, usually due to friction. They present no medical threat, but people often choose to have them removed for cosmetic reasons or due to discomfort. These flaps of skin are very common, particularly on the neck, armpits and groin, and our dermatologists have performed many skin tag removals.
Skin tags are growths composed of lax collagen (a protein found in our skin) fibres and blood vessels that are encased in skin. These growths affect both men and women and are more commonly found in the elderly, overweight or obese, or people with type 2 diabetes. Skin tags can also affect pregnant women and are thought to develop as a result of changing hormone levels during the pregnancy.
Skin tags will often grow in folds of skin where there is increased friction as the skin surfaces rub together. Parts of the body more commonly affected by increased friction are the groin, armpits and neck. This is the reason that skin tags more frequently effect people who are overweight, as there are often more folds of skin due to the increased level of subcutaneous fat. Therefore, overweight patients may be more subject to skin tags on the stomach and back where these skin folds rub together. In some people there is no obvious cause for the skin tag.
Skin tags can not only cause embarrassment and self-consciousness, but also pain. Some skin tags have a stalk-like peduncle which makes them stick up from the skin. These can be especially painful if they get twisted, rubbed hard or caught on clothing. There is also the risk of shaving them accidentally, causing bleeding and scaring. Obese people and those with type 2 diabetes mellitus often have numerous skin tags on their bodies, which can cause widespread discomfort. Fortunately, removal of problematic skin tags can be performed quickly, with minimal pain.
Some people may choose to carry out a skin tag removal procedure themselves at home; however, we strongly advise against this as it can present problems such as bleeding and scarring. Even for small flaps of skin, we recommend seeing a medical professional who can remove the skin tag safely, leaving little evidence behind. Expert treatment is especially important for removing skin tags on the eyelids or genitalia.
At our clinic, we keep up-to-date with all the latest research on the best methods for removal of skin growths, and offer our patients the safest, most minimally invasive techniques. Our expert dermatologists can offer a choice of treatment techniques, including cryotherapy and surgical excision, which will be discussed in your detailed consultation, with a goal of finding the best method for your unique case.
This relatively quick and painless technique uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the skin tag. It is a safe and effective method, usually requiring several sessions, with the frozen skin tags usually dropping off in 7-10 days. Cryotherapy involves grasping the stalks of the skin tags with a haemostat (a type of medical tweezer) that has been dipped in nitrogen and holding them for several seconds, which can cause a mild stinging sensation. Your dermatologist may give you a local anaesthetic f you prefer. Multiple skin tags can be treated at one time using this technique and no dressings need to be applied, although a little swelling and blistering can sometimes occur. However, due to the number of sessions required for cryotherapy of skin tags, at The London Dermatology CentreTM we usually recommend the quicker option of surgical removal.
Shave excision involves removing the skin tag with a scalpel. Sometimes an electrode is used to achieve a neater finish and make the scar less noticeable. In this treatment method, your dermatologist will usually provide a local anaesthetic so that you feel no pain. Surgical excision can be used to remove many skin tags quickly, all in one day, without the need to return for more treatment. This treatment option is suitable for both small and large growths, with the possibility of minimal scarring, as with all skin tag removal options.
In your consultation, a doctor will examine your growth to confirm that it is a skin tag and not a mole or other condition. The dermatologist will then go on to discuss the best skin tag removal option for you, considering the location of the skin tags among other factors. Other important things your doctor will discuss with you when making a decision on when and how to remove your skin tags are:
At our London-based clinic, we have a specialist team of dermatologists who treat skin growths including skin tags. For fast and effective skin tag removal which is safe and presents only minimal scarring, call our clinic today on 0207 467 3720.
Content by Dr Sunil Chopra and Dr Rebecca Perris.