Unless you’re a dermatologist, you probably don’t know how to remove skin tags the right way—as in, without hurting yourself or potentially causing other issues like excessive bleeding, scarring, or infection. But you’re definitely not alone if you’re looking to cut one of those suckers loose.
Skin tags—or acrochordons, if you want to be fancy and use the proper (Latin) name—are a super common type of raised growth. In fact, as many as 60% of adults will get at least one in their lifetime.1 They can develop anywhere on the body, but they tend to show up in spots with skin folds—like the neck, armpits, groin, or under-boob area.1
To be clear, these fleshy little protrusions are considered harmless, from a medical perspective, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying. If you have one and you’re not happy with how it looks or feels, you’re not necessarily stuck with it.
We asked dermatologists to walk us through everything you need to know about skin tags—including whether or not it’s worth it to get them removed.
What causes skin tags, exactly?
Like warts, they grow out of your skin on a stalk and contain their own blood supply but little innervation (i.e. nerve supply), Sarmela Sunder, MD, a double-board-certified facial plastic reconstructive surgeon in Beverly Hills, tells SELF.
And they can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The shapes: beady or fingerlike projections and even soft, bag-like fibromas. The sizes: anywhere from one to five millimeters, though skin tags as long as 12.7 millimeters have been recorded.2 While experts concur that there isn’t a singular cause of these fleshy growths, there is evidence that skin tag formation is linked to a number of factors, including friction from skin-on-skin rubbing or tight clothing, genetics, and certain health conditions, Dr. Sunder says. High blood pressure, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol, for example, are all correlated with the presence of skin tags.3
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Why am I suddenly getting skin tags?
There’s no direct connection between age and skin tags, Tracy Evans, MD, board-certified dermatologist and medical director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology in San Francisco, tells SELF. But many conditions that correlate with (not cause!) their formation are likelier to develop in adulthood than in childhood. Research suggests that skin tags can appear as early as your teen years, but are most likely to show up after you turn 40 (and that likelihood levels off again after age 70—who knew?).1
Regardless of your age, if you notice you’re getting a whole new crop of skin tags, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist or primary care provider, especially if you’re experiencing other symptoms that aren’t typical for you: “There are situations where a significant number of skin tags can signal an underlying issue, such as certain autoimmune conditions like Crohn’s disease, certain polyp-causing gastrointestinal syndromes, or a growth-related syndrome known as acromegaly,” Dr. Sunder says.4 “Developing a skin tag doesn’t mean that you have one of these diseases, and having one of these conditions doesn’t mean you will get skin tags, but we sometimes see an overlap in both.”