Skin tags are harmless growths, and as many as half of all adults may be affected. The tags cause no medical complications, but they may be bothersome. Of the many at-home removal techniques marketed, some are more effective than others.
While skin tags require no treatment and may fall away on their own, medical removal is available. A doctor may recommend this for skin tags that catch on clothing or otherwise cause pain.
A person may also want skin tags to be removed for cosmetic reasons, especially when they are on highly visible areas, such as the face.
Check with a doctor before trying the following methods.
1. A tag removal device
Skin tag removal kits are available for purchase online and in many stores.
A person uses the device to cut off the supply of blood to the base of the tag with a tiny band.
The medical community refers to this process as ligation.
Without a supply of blood, the cells will die, and the tag will drop away, usually within 10 days.
Some people try to achieve ligation with a piece of dental floss or string. It can be tricky to do this without the help of a device or another person.
When the flow of blood has been cut off for at least a few days, the tag should fall away. It may be necessary to tighten the string or floss every day.
Before using this method, clean the skin, string, and hands thoroughly to prevent infection.
3. Skin tag removal cream
Kits containing cream and an applicator are available. Usually, only one application of cream is necessary.
Instructions to some kits recommend cleaning the skin with an alcohol wipe and filing down the tag before applying the cream, to ensure that it is fully absorbed.
The cream may cause a mild stinging sensation. Tags should fall off within 2 to 3 weeks.
4. Freezing kit
A person can use a product containing liquid nitrogen to freeze off skin tags. These products are often available in drugstores and pharmacies.
As always, follow instructions. Several applications may be necessary before a growth falls away, but this usually occurs within 10 days.
The spray should not come into contact with surrounding skin. A person may want to apply petroleum jelly to the area around the tag for protection.
5. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is an essential oil used to treat several skin conditions, including skin tags. However, only anecdotal evidence supports its use.
People typically apply a few drops of the oil to a cotton ball, which they then affix to the skin tag with a bandage. The cotton ball is usually left on the skin tag for 10 minutes, three times daily. It may take several days or weeks for the tag to fall off.
This remedy should be used with caution, as tea tree oil may irritate sensitive skin. Never use tea tree oil for tags located around the eyes.
6. Apple cider vinegar
Little research has been conducted on the effectiveness of apple cider vinegar for skin tag removal.
People often soak a cotton ball in the vinegar and affix it to the tag with a bandage for 10 minutes two or three times a day, until the tag falls away.
Watch for skin irritation and discontinue use if any adverse reactions are experienced. Do not use this method around the eyes.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that a person can use liquid iodine to remove skin tags.
First, protect the surrounding skin by applying petroleum jelly or coconut oil to the area. Soak a Q-tip in iodine and spread the liquid across the tag. Cover the area with a bandage until the iodine has dried.
Repeat this treatment twice a day until the tag drops off.
A doctor may recommend cutting away the growth with a sharp blade or scissors. Never attempt this with medium or large skin tags, as this can cause bleeding. Tags usually measure anywhere from a few millimeters to 2 inches in width.
Only consider this method if the skin tag has a very narrow base. Scissors and blades should be sterilized before and after use.
Seek professional advice before attempting this method, and never cut off skin tags located around the eyes or genitals.
Home remedies are not suitable for skin tags that are:
- located around the eyes
- located around the genitals
- very large or long
- causing pain, bleeding, or itching
Seek medical treatment in these cases. The following are medical methods of skin tag removal:
- Cauterization: This involves burning off the skin tag. Most tags will drop away after one or two treatments.
- Cryotherapy: A medical professional will apply liquid nitrogen to freeze off the tag. Usually, one or two treatments will be sufficient.
- Ligation: The tag is tied off with surgical thread, to reduce blood flow.
- Excision: A professional will use a blade to cut off the tag.
Skin tag removal is usually considered cosmetic, and it is unlikely to be covered by health insurance.
If skin tags that are large, painful, or located in sensitive areas, a person should see a doctor.
Seek prompt medical treatment if a skin tag:
- changes shape or appearance
Skin tags are not usually a cause for concern. Once a doctor confirms that the growth is benign, often no further action is necessary.
When skin tags are large, inconveniently located, or otherwise bothersome, a person may want to use a home remedy or professional treatment.
See a doctor if skin tags change in appearance or cause other symptoms, such as pain or bleeding.
The home remedies listed in this article are available for purchase online.