Freezing skin tags is a very popular method of removal. There are options for doing this at home or at the doctor’s office. Also known as cryotherapy or cryosurgery, this is an extremely effective method for getting rid of a number of skin growths.
What is cryotherapy
Whenever a skin lesion is frozen it is known as cryotherapy. It is also used to remove growths such as warts and solar keratosis. There are a number of techniques used for freezing skin tags.
- Liquid Nitrogen – This is the most common method found in the doctor’s office. There are a few approaches to dispensing the liquid nitrogen, either using a cotton-tipped applicator, cryospray or cryoprobe. Liquid nitrogen, which is set at -196℃, instantly freezes the skin tag, cutting off the blood flow after being applied to the skin for just a few seconds
- Carbon Dioxide Snow – More popularly known as dry ice is a slightly more outdated method. Popular from the 40’s to the 90’s it can still be found. However, most doctors will use some form of liquid nitrogen instead. Some physicians use a newer version of this called a carbon dioxide laser.
- DMEP (Dimethyl ether and propane) – DMEP is the cryogen found in most over the counter products for freezing skin tags. It freezes at a temperature of -57℃. DMEP usually comes in a spray can with a foam applicator that is applied to the skin tag for a few seconds.
Risks of freezing skin tags
With cryotherapy the risks of having problems are low, but there are some possible complications to keep in mind:
- Wound infection – If the site of removal is painful, has discharge or swelling 48 hours or more after freezing skin tags, it could be an infection. It is pretty uncommon with cryotherapy, but if noticed should be treated with antibiotics or a topical antibiotic cream. This likely means a trip to your doctor’s office.
- Nerve irritation – It is usually just temporary and feels like tingling. Or, you may feel some numbness around the treated area.
- Scarring – Cryotherapy can cause hyperpigmentation which can remain as a scar. They are usually small and temporary. However, if it remains there are creams and procedures to help get rid of it.
- Delayed healing – This is mainly a concern if you have poor blood flow to the area. If you have poor blood flow in a certain area of your body, it is best to avoid cryotherapy in that area.
Pro’s of freezing skin tags
Single treatment – Unless they are particularly large skin tags, one treatment is enough and there is no need to keep going back for follow up treatments.
- Low risk of infection – Infection is possible any time you break the skin. Of the available skin tag removal methods, cryotherapy carries a low risk of infection.
- No anesthesia required – Although you may feel some stinging when freezing skin tags, it only last a couple of seconds and there is no need for anesthesia.
- Simple aftercare – Taking care of the area where the skin tag was frozen doesn’t require much aftercare aside from keeping the area clean and keeping an eye on it to ensure it heals well.
- No need for stitches – There is no open wound to suture which means not having to have stitches put in or going back to the doctor’s office to have them removed.
What to expect after freezing a skin tag
After freezing skin tags, the area around it, as well as the skin tag may blister up and swell. The blister is usually white or clear colored but may be darker like a purple or red because of the blood. The skin tag will usually change color almost immediately. This is a sign that the blood flow has been cut off and the skin tag is starting to die. If you experience blistering they will turn into a scab. Don’t pick at the scab, but let it fall off naturally, to avoid scarring. You can apply some petroleum jelly if you wish.
There is no special aftercare needed after freezing skin tags, but if they are in an area where they can get easily irritated, you may want to cover them with a band-aid to avoid scratching or pulling and let them heal.