Of all the changes that happen to your body during pregnancy, finding new skin tags may be the least expected.

As it turns out, skin tags are a common change during the second trimester of pregnancy. Although there are no exact estimates for how common pregnancy skin tags are, you may find them popping up on your neck, breasts, or even vagina.

In this article, we will discuss what causes skin tags during pregnancy, where new skin tags might show up, and potential treatment options for pregnancy skin tags.

Skin tags are small, benign skin growths that often form in areas with skin folds, such as the neck, armpits, or under breasts.

The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology reports about half of all adults have at least one skin tag. They can begin to develop in children as young as about 10 years old.

There are many theories as to what causes the development of skin tags. Before we explore these causes, let’s discuss where skin tags might commonly form during pregnancy.

Skin tags during pregnancy can appear at any of the common skin tag sites — including on the folds of your neck, armpits, breasts, or vagina.

One of the proposed theories of skin tag formation is increased friction, so they may occur more frequently in areas of weight gain. Since everybody gains weight differently during pregnancy, these areas may vary.

There are no solid statistics that say where or how many skin tags will form during pregnancy.

No matter where your skin tags develop, they usually don’t pose a problem unless they become caught or snagged. This can happen with certain clothes or jewelry and may cause slight irritation or even pain.

According to a small 2007 clinical study, roughly 20 percent of women experience dermatological changes during pregnancy. Of these dermatological changes, around 12 percent will present as skin tags. As mentioned above, there are a handful of possible causes of skin tags during pregnancy.

Pregnancy skin tags may be caused by increased friction due to weight gain. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends gaining anywhere from 11 to 40 pounds, depending on your pre-pregnancy weight.

If this weight gain causes increased friction under the armpits or on the neck, for example, skin tags may form in these areas.

Skin tags during pregnancy may also be caused by hormonal changes. In a small 2019 study, researchers found a high positive correlation between levels of the hormone leptin and the number of skin tags. A prior study from 2010 demonstrated similar results.

Leptin is a hormone that can promote the differentiation and growth of epithelial (skin) cells. Fat tissue from both a pregnant woman and the fetus secrete leptin, which may explain the sudden rise in skin tag growth during pregnancy.

The formation of skin tags during pregnancy may also be due to the influence of sex hormones. One 2010 research study found a possible link between increased estrogen levels and skin tags.

This link is supported by the fact that most skin tag formation occurs after puberty, a period of drastic hormonal changes. In addition, women produce high levels of estrogen during pregnancy, which might lead to the increased formation of skin tags.

There have been other proposed causes of skin tags, including insulin sensitivity and genetics, although these causes do not necessarily apply specifically to pregnant women.

Although skin tags may disappear after you give birth, do not be alarmed if they decide to stick around. In this case, you may seek multiple treatment options to safely remove them.

Medical remedies

The following treatments require a visit to the doctor’s or dermatologist’s office for removal. For larger skin tags and skin tags on your face or other sensitive skin, always see your doctor, and do not try to remove these at home.

  • Excision. This procedure involves physically snipping or cutting the skin tag off with scissors or a scalpel. If the skin tag is particularly big, stitches may be required.
  • Cauterization. With cauterization, the skin tag can be removed by burning the tag with high levels of heat or electrical energy.
  • Cryosurgery. Similar to cauterization, cryosurgery allows for the freezing and removal of the skin tags using liquid nitrogen.

Home remedies

During pregnancy, it is important to avoid harsh treatments or chemicals that may be absorbed into the skin. The following treatments can be done safely at home to attempt to naturally dry out the skin tags.

  • Apple cider vinegar. The drying properties of apple cider vinegar are due to its acidic nature. This may be beneficial in drying out skin tags, which will allow them to fall off. Using a soaked cotton swab to target only the skin tag can minimize the risk of burns.
  • Tea tree oil. Another popular skin treatment is tea tree oil, which has antifungal and antibacterial properties. With the ability to help reduce inflammation, it may be a great spot treatment for a skin tag that has been snagged or irritated.
  • Garlic. Garlic has anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. While there is no scientific proof, people have reported success removing skin tags by placing a small amount of fresh garlic or fresh garlic juice on a skin tag and covering it with a clean bandage each day until the skin tag falls off.

As mentioned, skin tags are relatively painless, benign growths. However, if they become painful, infected, or if you are just concerned that your skin tags may be something else, be sure to visit your doctor. They can help to ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment.

You may also want to avoid using products that contain vitamin A during pregnancy. While very rare, vitamin A has been linked to problems with a developing fetus.

Skin tags during pregnancy are a relatively common dermatological change. There are many reasons that may cause skin tags to develop during pregnancy, including weight gain or hormonal changes.

There are several at-home and in-office treatment options for skin tags that do not go away after pregnancy.

If you’re concerned about your skin tags at all, talk to your OB-GYN or dermatologist.