How to Remove Skin Tags, According to Dermatologists

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Moles, pimples, freckles – the marks that can pop up on our bodies are many. Some are bothersome, and some are more neutral – they’re not a life-changing annoyance, yet we’re aware of their presence. Skin tags can fall into either category. They’re very common – almost everyone will find one on their body at some point in their lifetime – but even still, they can be a nuisance.

Sometimes confused with moles, skin tags are small, flesh-colored noncancerous growths attached to the surface of the skin by a slim stalk. They tend to form where the skin folds and are often found on the neck, chest, underarms, groin, and eyelids. The bad news: you can’t really avoid getting a skin tag. But the good news is that you can remove them pretty easily with a trip to the dermatologist.

Ahead, dermatologists explain everything from how to remove skin tags to what causes them.

Experts Featured in This Article

Neal Schultz, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist in NYC, the host of, and the creator of BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz.

Kavita Mariwalla, MD, is a double board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon.

What Is a Skin Tag?

In the medical world, skin tags are known as acrochordons or fibroepithelial polyps. They’re essentially the result of extra skin cells growing on the skin. “They grow out from your body but vertically,” dermatologist Neal Schultz, MD, tells PS. “Their height is usually much greater than their width. Sometimes they are virtually hanging off by a thread.” Thankfully, they are usually harmless and more annoying than anything. “They’re not dangerous,” Dr. Schultz says. “Just annoying and inconvenient.” And they likely won’t go away without treatment.

What Causes Skin Tags?

What we do know: about 50 percent of adults in the United States have skin tags. What we don’t know: what causes skin tags.

“To a certain extent, they are hereditary and tend to occur in certain characteristic places, where skin folds on skin,” Dr. Schultz says. They’re also more common in those who are middle-aged, are obese, or have diabetes. Friction caused by the skin rubbing against itself or your clothing can be the culprit behind skin tags. So minimizing friction in the affected area – avoiding tight clothing, removing necklaces, using antichafing products – may help the situation.

How to Remove Skin Tags

Even though they are harmless, it’s completely normal to think about removing skin tags. As with any skin condition, you should visit your dermatologist to talk about your treatment options. Although it’s nice to know how to remove skin tags on your own, it’s best done by a professional. “While it doesn’t take eight years of medical education to remove a skin tag, there are certain basic principles that have to be observed,” Dr. Schultz says. Dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla, MD, adds: “Because they are based on a small stalk of skin, the easiest and safest way to remove them is to go to a doctor’s office.”

Know that there are different removal methods. One popular with dermatologists involves numbing the skin with local anesthetic before cutting the growth off with sharp, sterilized scissors. “You are totally awake, and it is just a small pinch of a very thin needle,” Dr. Mariwalla says. “The result is a very small cut that will heal in a few days.”

Cryotherapy, or freezing the skin tag, is another option, as is cauterization, or using heat. That said, cryotherapy isn’t Dr. Schultz’s first choice. “Freezing is so imprecise that it tends to affect the skin around the skin tag,” he says.

Can I Remove Skin Tags at Home?

Yes, it’s possible, but it’s definitely not recommended. “If you try to remove them at home, you may do it incorrectly, leading the skin tag to become inflamed and potentially infected,” Dr. Mariwalla says.

If you don’t have access to a dermatologist or professional – and you feel that you absolutely must remove a skin tag on your own – Dr. Schultz advises tying a tight piece of string around the skin tag (after you’ve cleansed the string, the tag, and the surrounding area with alcohol) to cut off the blood supply to the area before cutting it off with disinfected scissors. You can dab the spot with alcohol and follow up with some ointment and a bandage once you’re finished, making sure you keep it covered until it heals fully to avoid scarring.

But again, at-home removal isn’t doctor-approved. “Just be careful with those DIY solutions that you see on TV or the internet,” Dr. Mariwalla says. “Those work by causing a severe irritant contact dermatitis, and the skin tags fall off because the skin gets so irritated.”

– Additional reporting by Emily Orofino, Holly Carter, and Jessica Harrington

Jessica Harrington is the senior beauty editor at PS, where she writes about hair, makeup, skin care, piercings, tattoos, and more. As a New York City-based writer and editor with a degree in journalism and over eight years of industry experience, she loves to interview industry experts, keep up with the latest trends, and test new products.

Danielle Jackson is a former assistant beauty editor for PS.

Emily Orofino is a former beauty editor for PS.

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