Skin tags: What are they and how best to get rid of them

May 06, 2024
While anyone can develop skin tags, they're more common in older adults. Source: Getty Images.

Skins tags are super common, especially in older people, yet many people don’t know why skin tags form or how they can be treated.

Skin tags can appear anywhere on your body, though they’re commonly found on the neck, armpits, around the groin, or under the breasts. They can also vary in colour and size. It’s not clear what causes them, but friction may play a role, since they usually show up in skin folds.

While anyone can develop skin tags, they’re more common in older adults and people who are overweight or have diabetes. Studies suggest they may also be genetic.

Although they don’t typically cause pain or discomfort, they can be embarrassing – particularly if they form in highly visible areas of the body such as the face or neck. There are plenty of ways to get rid of skin tags, but unfortunately, not all treatments work the same.

Dr Zlatko Kopecki, from the University of Australia, told Starts at 60 that one form of treatment to be weary of is home remedies.

“There are a number of home remedies suggested for skin tags, and while safe, most of them are not very effective,” he said.  “All of these remedies work on the principle of drying the skin tag so it falls off.”

Common home remedies include tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar or even tying a piece of string around a tag until it falls off.

“Some even suggest garlic, although I wouldn’t try that,” Kopecki added.

Similar to home remedies, there are also a number of over-the-counter products available.

“My advice would be to see a GP,” Kopecki said. “As incorrect use can cause inflammation or a burning sensation to surrounding skin, while incorrect removal can lead to bleeding and creation of a wound.”

There are a number of ways a skin tag can be removed by a professional, including cauterization, where heat is used to remove the growth from the body.

Surgery is another option, where the skin tag is simply snipped at the base. Depending on the size of the skin tag and where it’s located, this might not be an option.

However, the most common and effective way is cryosurgery, which can be performed by a GP. This process uses extreme cold, usually from liquid nitrogen, to freeze the skin tag off.

If concerned about a skin tag, it’s always recommended to chat to a GP before undertaking home remedies or over-the-counter products. This will ensure the correct treatment option is offered to prevent the possibility of unnecessary injury.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up