Skin tags

Page last reviewed: 13/07/2011

Skin tags are small flesh-coloured or brown growths that hang off the skin and look a bit like warts. They are very common and harmless.

Skin tags are usually a few millimetres in size, although some can be as big as 5cm.

They are commonly found on the neck, in the armpits, around the groin or under the breasts. Sometimes they grow on the eyelids or under the folds of the buttocks.

The medical name for skin tags is acrochordons.

Why skin tags occur

Anyone can develop skin tags, but they are particularly common in older people. Some people are prone to developing them for no apparent reason.

It is thought that skin tags grow where skin rubs against skin or clothing. This would explain why they also tend to affect overweight people who have excess folds of skin and skin chafing.

When skin tags can be a problem

Skin tags are harmless and do not usually cause pain or discomfort. 

However, you may want to consider getting them removed if they are ugly and affect your self-esteem, or if they snag on your jewellery and bleed.

Sometimes, skin tags fall off on their own if the skin tissue has twisted and died from a lack of blood supply. 

How to remove skin tags

If skin tags are upsetting you, consider making an appointment with your GP to have these removed.

The GP can easily burn or freeze off the skin tags, just as they would remove warts.

If the skin tags are very small and have a narrow base, the GP might suggest that you try removing them yourself, by:

  • tying off the base of the skin tag with dental floss or cotton, to cut off the blood supply and cause it to drop off, or 
  • cutting it off with fine sterile scissors

Do not attempt to remove large skin tags yourself, as they will bleed heavily.

Skin tag or wart?

Here's how to tell the difference:

  • Skin tags are smooth and soft, whereas warts tend to be rougher with an irregular surface.
  • Skin tags are knobbly and hang off the skin, while warts are usually flat.
  • Skin tags are not contagious but warts spread very easily.

Content provided by NHS Choices www.nhs.uk and adapted for Ireland by the Health A-Z.

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