If you’re curious about how to remove skin tags at home, or more importantly, how to cut off skin tags painlessly, you’re not alone. As many as 60% of adults will develop one of the harmless little skin growths in their lifetime.1 Translation: You’re more likely than not to end up with one of these suckers somewhere on your body—common locations include your neck, armpits, groin, or under-boob area. The proper (Latin) name for a skin tag is an acrochordon, if you want to sound really fancy when you bring it up to your doctor (which you should in some cases—more on that later).
Okay, now that we’ve geeked out on medical terminology, let’s get to the juicy stuff: All of your burning skin tag removal questions, answered by top-notch skin doctors. (Because the fact that skin tags are totally normal doesn’t make them any less annoying.)
What causes skin tags, exactly?
“Skin tags are fleshy overgrowths of skin that typically develop along the neck, groin, and the underarms,” Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research at the Mount Sinai Department of Dermatology in New York City, tells SELF. 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 is no one determinable cause of skin tags, there is evidence that skin tag formation is linked to a number of factors, including friction from skin-on-skin rubbing or tight clothing, genetic tendencies, and certain health conditions, Dr. Sunder says. High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol, for example, are all correlated with the presence of skin tags.3
Why am I suddenly getting skin tags?
There’s no direct connection between age and skin tags, Tracy Evans, MD, MPH, 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!) skin tag 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 crop of skin tags, schedule an appointment with an MD, 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 condition or syndrome, 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. “Having a skin tag doesn’t mean that you will 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.”
Can I learn how to prevent skin tags?
Unfortunately, this is one skin condition that you can’t fix with a dedicated skin-care regimen. “There’s nothing you can really do to prevent skin tags,” Dr. Evans says. Although she adds that reducing the amount of friction your skin endures in areas like the underarms and neck (avoiding tight clothes, cushioning belts, or straps that frequently rub in one area, or using an anti-chafing balm) could help. Working with your doctor to get correlated health conditions, if you have one, under control may also help to prevent skin tags, although it’s not guaranteed.