Skin tags have a fancy medical name: acrochorda (a single tag is called an acrochordon). Dermatologists also call them fibroepithelial polyps. These are soft, fleshy growths that often show up in armpits, in the soft folds of the neck, under the breast or in the groin area. Some people get them on eye lids. They usually have a stalk or “peduncle.” What causes them is pretty much a mystery, though some medical experts have suggested that skin friction may be an important contributing factor. Skin tags are benign but unsightly.
Metabolic Syndrome and Skin Tags:
As people get older they tend to bcome more prone to acquiring skin tags. They can range in size from about a grain of rice to as large as a golf ball, though such a large size is quite rare. There is some suggestion that skin tags are a manifestation of metabolic syndrome, prediabetes or diabetes (Annals of Medical & Health Sciences Research, Mar-Apr, 2014). In other words, people who have some of the following signs: a big belly, insulin resistance, higher blood sugar and/or blood pressure and elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels
If you have a bunch of skin tags and love handles, we would strongly encourage a blood test for diabetes. One study reported that 45.1 percent of the people who visited a dermatology clinic complaining of skin tags also had type 2 diabetes (Nepal Journal of Dermatology, Venereology & Leprology, Vol 13, No. 1, 2015).
Getting Rid of Skin Tags:
Although skin tags are by definition benign, it is not always easy for someone to self-diagnose these fleshy lesions. If they have a funny color or look strange in any way, a dermatologist should be consulted.
Almost inevitably the doctor will inject a little local anesthetic into the base and then snip it off with surgical scissors or a scalpel. Skin tags can also be frozen with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy).
Dermatologists sometimes burn off skin tags with an electrocautery device or a laser. They can also cut off the blood supply to the fleshy part of the polyp by tying off the stalk with surgical thread (suture).
Over-the-Counter Products for Skin Tags:
Q. I recently saw a TV commercial for an over-the-counter product to remove skin tags. What can you tell me about it?
A. Skin tags are benign growths (acrochordon) that often appear on the neck, underarms, groin or eyelids. They are not dangerous, although, as you’ve just read, they may signal metabolic syndrome.
We suspect that the product you saw might have involved “cryotherapy” (freezing). Dimethyl ether, propane and isobutane in the product combine to create cold temperatures.
Dermatologists use cryotherapy to remove skin tags. They may also cut them off or use an electric needle to burn off the fleshy growths. For at-home use, caution is advised, as very cold temperatures will destroy the tissue surrounding the skin tag as well as the tag itself.
Removing a skin tag at home involves some risk. There is always the possibility of infection if the skin is not carefully cleansed and if equipment is not sterile. That’s why we were intrigued by this suggestion from a reader:
Q. Some time ago I read in your column about someone who had success removing skin tags with a liquid bandage. I would appreciate hearing about this remedy.
Several of these growths have appeared on my neck where the chain of my necklace rests. I have been considering having them removed by a dermatologist, but would like to try this remedy first.
A. We have heard from many readers who tell us New-Skin Liquid Bandage works:
“I used it twice a day for three days and the skin tags came off!”
Others tell us it may take a few weeks. Cindy shared this:
“After my mother told me about your article, I applied “New Skin Liquid Bandage” to a skin tag on my neck. I reapplied it daily for about two weeks, and noticed one afternoon that the Liquid Bandage was still on my neck, but the skin tag was gone!”
Another reader shared this experience:
“I tried the suggestion I read in your column about using New-Skin Liquid Bandage for eliminating skin tags. I have gotten rid of four tags on my neck, chest and below my armpit. I found that it takes about a week or so, applied twice a day.”
Another approach some readers have tried involves a wart remedy:
“I found Compound W works just as well for getting rid of skin tags.”
We have no good explanation for why liquid bandage or Compound W would work against acrochorda. Perhaps the chemicals stimulate an immune reaction that shuts down the blood supply to the polyp.
Barbara had partial luck with this old approach:
“I had read in one of Edgar Cayce’s books that castor oil will remove moles and skin tags. I put some on a bandaid, and covered the tag with it. In a few days it fell off. It hasn’t gotten rid of all I treated, but I have removed several in this way.”
We have heard from many readers that just using the right bandage over a fleshy lesion can make it go away. This technique does require some patience.
Q. I was skeptical about liquid bandage to get rid of a skin tag, but when I found out what my doctor would charge me for removal, I decided to try your remedy first. The only brand at my store was New-Skin. I started treating the skin tag yesterday, applying New-Skin twice a day. The top half of the skin tag is shriveled up.
This is working and I am going to keep at it until the skin tag is gone!
A. Skin tags are small fleshy growths the same color as the surrounding skin. They are not dangerous, but they can be annoying.
Years ago we heard from a reader who kept small adhesive bandages on skin tags for about 10 days to get rid of them. Other readers have had success with liquid bandage. Here is one recent comment on our website: “I have removed several skin tags from my neck with store-brand liquid bandage. It worked every time.”
Louise shared this story:
“Five days ago I found a small skin tag under my right breast lined up with the bottom strap of my bra.With constant rubbing it caused the skin tag to be irritated, red and sore. I went looking for information and a solution when I came onto your site.
“Looking around for temporary relief until I was able to purchase the product mentioned. I found our bandages with silver fibers by FORMEDICA. I wore it for five days. On removing it yesterday, I saw that the tag had shriveled and as I touched it, it fell into my hand. You made a believer out of me. Thank you for posting the testimony. I would have never thought that a simple band-aid could do the same job that others say can only be done painfully and costly.”
Daniella has a pretty interesting story to share about bandages:
“I read hundreds of comments on forums before having the confidence to do this. I had a grape size skin tag on my face, near my ear, that literally ruined my life for nearly 10 years. I was too embarrassed and poor for a surgical removal so I used my hair to partially cover it. I even turned down jobs where I’d need my hair tied back.
“One week ago I tried using just a bandage (plaster), or more like 5 because it was so big, to cut off circulation. I twisted the tag and pulled it downward and covered it with lots of plasters to hold it in place.
“On day 1 it didn’t feel any different under the bandages (but a bit colder from lack of blood). Day 2 it was slightly larger and swelled up. Day 3 I carefully changed the bandages and it was big, swollen, much harder and purple. Day 4 it was still swollen a little bit sore around the stalk of the tag with some blood (the tag was detaching). Day 5 I changed the bandages and the tag was very dark, getting shriveled and smaller but still attached. Day 6 there was no pain and the tag was a lot smaller, not swollen anymore but hard and dead. Day 7 it was a quarter of the size and before sleeping I took the bandages off and it was no longer attached. IT WAS GONE!
“It took 7 days, there was almost no pain, a bit of gross bandage changing and lot’s of WILL POWER to go through with it but for the first time in 10 years I’m not constantly trying to cover my face with my hair.”
Richard added vinegar to his strategy:
“Skin tags are easy to get rid of; take a cotton ball soaked in vinegar, cover the tag and use a bandage to hold it in place all night. This may take 3-5 nights but the tag will fall off. Use good bandages to avoid skin irritation.”
Lyn offers this approach:
“Take the inner part of the banana peel and cut the peel in a small size and place the banana peel over the tag with a bandage. Do this daily until the tag falls off. If you don’t want the banana peel on 24 hours a day you can put the banana peel on at night prior to bed but it will take just a little bit longer than wearing the banana peel 24 hours. Works great and no pain.”
Diet May Make A Difference:
J. O. wrote:
“One summer my naturopath said my skin tags indicated I was eating too much sugar. I usually do not consume sugar, but I had been eating a lot of fruit. When I cut back, the skin tags shrank and eventually disappeared.
“I find the appearance of skin tags useful when I get careless about sugar from any source. They always go away when I am careful about what I eat.”
D.C.R. reports something similar:
“I have been bothered by skin tags for years. I found myself altering my wardrobe in order to hide them. I eliminated from my diet, gluten, sugar, corn, soy, peanuts, dairy and eggs. I had already known I had trouble with sugar, corn, gluten, and soy and had already eliminated those foods or greatly reduced the amount I ate.
“After 21 days, I reintroduced corn; bad reaction, so that is totally out my diet.
I have learned to enjoy milk substitutes. I prefer almond, coconut, nut milks, or blends of these. I can enjoy cheese aged for more than a year or greek yogurt but I only eat it once a week.
“The purpose of this entry: my skins tags are disappearing without any other treatment. To take care of the remaining tags, I plan to start using Liquid Bandage again. That helped in the past. I feel better in general and have lost 25 pounds. Wish I had know about this possible dietary approach years ago.”
Although we have no way of knowing for sure, this diet might also have helped D.C.R. control blood sugar.
Thread or Dental Floss:
There is also an old-fashioned approach to skin tag removal. Dermatologists do this with surgical thread. We do worry about the possibility of pain and infection. Many people insist that it works.
In this case, a physician supervised the treatment:
“I had a rather large one on the side of my neck. My dermatologist said to just ignore it. Soon after, I mentioned to a friend (an orthopedic doctor) how much I hated it, and he promptly tied and knotted a piece of thread around it and cut the ends off real close. You couldn’t even see it. He said that would shut off the blood supply to the tag and it would fall off very quickly. It was gone in three days.”