Skin tags are soft, benign growths that usually form within the skin folds of your neck, armpits, breasts, groin area, and eyelids. These growths are loose collagen fibers that become lodged inside thicker areas of the skin. It’s unclear exactly what causes skin tags, but they may develop from friction or skin rubbing against skin. One found a link between skin tags and obesity and type 2 diabetes. Hormonal changes in pregnancy may also contribute to skin tags.
These skin lesions are usually harmless, but they can be painful when snagged by jewelry or clothing. If you’re tired of these annoying growths, relief is available. Here’s a look at a few home remedies, over-the-counter products, and surgical options to get rid of skin tags.
Skin tags don’t usually require treatment or a visit to the doctor. If you choose to remove a tag, it’s possible to do so with products already in your medicine cabinet or kitchen. Most at-home remedies involve drying out the skin tag until it shrinks in size and falls off.
1. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil, which has antiviral and antifungal properties, is safe to use on the skin. First, wash the affected area. Then, using a Q-tip or cotton swab, gently massage the oil over the skin tag. Place a bandage over the area overnight. Repeat this treatment for several nights until the tag dries out and falls off the skin.
2. Banana peel
Don’t toss away your old banana peels, especially if you have a skin tag. The peel of a banana can also help dry out a skin tag. Place a piece of banana peel over the tag and cover it with a bandage. Do this nightly until the tag falls off.
3. Apple cider vinegar
Soak a cotton swab in apple cider vinegar, and then place the cotton swab over the skin tag. Wrap the section in a bandage for 15 to 30 minutes, and then wash the skin. Repeat daily for a couple of weeks. The acidity of apple cider vinegar breaks down the tissue surrounding the skin tag, causing it to fall off.
4. Vitamin E
Aging may contribute to skin tags. Since vitamin E is an antioxidant that fights wrinkles and keeps the skin healthy, applying liquid vitamin E over a skin tag may cause the growth to vanish in a couple of days. Simply massage the oil over the tag and the surrounding skin.
Garlic has anti-aging benefits and helps improve the appearance of skin by reducing inflammation. To get rid of a skin tag naturally, apply crushed garlic over the tag, and then cover the area with a bandage overnight. Wash the area in the morning and repeat until the skin tag shrinks and disappears.
Along with home remedies, several over-the-counter homeopathic products at grocery and drug stores can safely remove a skin tag. These include products such as TagBand and Skinprov. Apply the liquid over the skin tag as directed until the tag falls off.
If you don’t feel comfortable removing a skin tag yourself, see your family doctor or a dermatologist. After numbing the area with local anesthesia, your doctor may perform one of the following procedures based on the size and location of the lesion.
- cauterization — uses heat to close a wound or remove a growth from the body
- cryosurgery— involves spraying a small amount of liquid nitrogen over the skin tag, which freezes off the growth
- surgery — involves snipping off the skin tag at its base using surgical scissors; size and location of the skin tag will determine the need for stitches
These are noncancerous growths, but if a skin tag is atypical or looks suspicious, your doctor may perform a biopsy as a precaution.
Infections and complications don’t usually occur with skin tag removal. Some people develop a scar after removal, which may slowly disappear over time. After removing a skin tag at home, apply antibiotic ointment to the affected area as a precaution. This lowers the risk of infection. See a doctor if the area becomes painful or bleeds.
If you have a procedure to remove a skin tag, your doctor’s instructions may include keeping the wound dry for at least 48 hours, and then gently washing the area with soap and water. Your doctor may also schedule a follow-up appointment to check the wound and remove any stitches.
Skin tags are usually harmless, so treatment isn’t necessary unless the lesion causes irritation. Although home remedies and over-the-counter products are effective, inexpensive solutions, see a doctor if a skin tag doesn't respond to home treatment, bleeds, or continues to grow. Several procedures can successfully remove a skin tag with minimal pain and scarring.