Skin tags themselves are harmless, hanging flaps of skin made up of blood vessels and collagen fibers. They serve no purpose and cause no physical harm. They can, however, look displeasing which is why so many people want to remove them. There are certain risks of removing skin tags which we will discuss here.
The safest way to remove skin tags is to visit your doctor or dermatologist. We realize this isn’t always feasible for everyone whether it be cost or time constraints. The most popular methods of removing skin tags are freezing, cauterization, over the counter creams, ligation and surgical.
Freezing – Also known as cryotherapy or cryosurgery. This is using extremely cold temperatures, usually, with liquid nitrogen, the skin tag is frozen causing the blood flow to the skin tag to stop and causing it to eventually fall off. This is usually done in the doctor’s office, but there are at home products available for freezing a skin tag.
Cauterization – Using a heat tipped tool, the skin tag is burnt off from the base. The skin tag falls off immediately usually leaving a small scab.
Over the counter creams – There is a range of products for skin tag removal and even some for wart removal that can be purchased for removing skin tags. Depending on the product they will usually either work by suffocating the skin take or removing the layers of the skin tag until it falls off.
Ligation – Otherwise known as tying off a skin tag. This can be done either by using something like dental floss or TagBands. By tying the dental floss or placing the Tagband at the base of the skin tag, it cuts off the blood supply and causes the skin tag to die and fall off.
Surgical – Surgical skin tag removal is cutting or slicing off the skin tag with sterile scissors, scalpel or blade. If this results in any bleeding, the doctor will usually cauterize the bleeding. This may cause a scab to form.
Risks of removing skin tags
There are risks associated with any at home medical procedure. If you have already decided that you would like to try removing your skin tag yourself, let’s discuss some of the possible risks of removing skin tags that you should be aware of.
Bleeding – Considering that skin tags are made up of blood vessels, it’s no surprise that when removing them, bleeding can occur. In fact, bleeding from a skin tag can be alarming profuse. Bleeding is mainly an issue when trying to “surgically” remove a skin tag yourself. Cutting or pulling off a skin tag is considered surgical removal and should only be done by a physician.
Infection – Anytime you break the skin you are susceptible to infection. Removing skin tags is no different. When removing skin tags you want to ensure that your hands, the skin around the skin tags and any tools you use are clean. For example, if tying off skin tags with dental floss, you want to make sure the dental floss is clean and sterile before tying it around the skin tag. It is also important to make sure you apply some antibiotic cream after removing the skin tag.
Scarring – When a skin tag is removed properly, it shouldn’t leave a much of a long-term scar. Scarring will usually occur when live tissue is cut. The chance of scarring depends on the method used to remove the skin tag, the size of the skin tag and your skin type. The larger the skin tag, the higher the chance of scarring when removing the skin tags. Some methods, such as cauterization, may leave a scab when the skin tag is removed. It is important that you don’t pick at this scab as it greatly increases the chance of a scar forming.
Do you have to remove skin tags
As we mentioned, skin tags are harmless. Leaving a skin tag and not removing it is perfectly fine. If it doesn’t get in your way, isn’t becoming irritated or the aesthetics don’t bother you, there is no rush to remove it. However, if you notice a skin tag is getting bigger, it is a good idea to remove it as the chance of a large skin tag getting irritated is higher and the larger the skin tag gets the more difficult it is to remove.
When to see a doctor
Whilst there are certain risks of removing skin tags yourself, it can be easily done for most skin tags. There are certain times where the risks are greater, especially in sensitive areas. These are times you should consult a doctor and not try removing the skin tag yourself.
- Skin tags on the eyelid – This should ideally be removed by an ophthalmologist. Risking your eyes and vision is not worth it in order to remove a skin tag yourself.
- Skin tags on the genitals or anus – This can be a very sensitive area where the skin is different from the rest of your body. Removing skin tags from the penis, vagina or anus should be done by a licensed physician.
- Infected skin tags – In some case where a skin tag has been pulled or scratched or you may have tried to cut it off yourself unsuccessfully, the skin tag can get irritated or infected. Don’t try removing this yourself, as you could just make it worse. Visit your doctor for some antibiotics and ask them about removing your skin tag.