Leading dermatologists offer advice on how to get rid of skin tags
Skin tags are also known as acrochordons, and while they are common and may be a nuisance, they are not dangerous. "Skin tags are harmless growths that typically develop on the neck and in the armpits," explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in the Dermatology Department at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. "They can occur in anyone, although they are most common in overweight individuals, especially people with diabetes."
Pregnant women too may find they develop skin tags. "There is also likely a genetic factor, and they tend to run in families," he says.
And if you are prone to skin tags, you can expect to find new ones cropping up even after you have had some of them removed.
Anatomy of a Skin Tag
"Skin tags are usually very narrow, but long skin-colored growths that often occur around the collar of the neck, the crease underneath breasts and in the underarm areas," adds New York City dermatologist Ron Shelton, MD. "Some people also get them around the eyes."
They can start out very tiny and almost flat and then can elongate. "Some elongate so quickly they turn dark and crusty because they outgrow their blood supply and the surface dies," he says. "Skin tags can get irritated by bra straps or the straps of handbags hung over the shoulder or from the collar of a shirt or necklace."
Treatment is largely cosmetic and consists of having them snipped, frozen, or burned off in your dermatologist's office, Zeichner says.
Shelton agrees; They can be frozen by a dermatologist with liquid nitrogen carefully, to avoid freezing the surrounding skin," he says. After treatment, a blister forms and in two weeks, the skin tag is gone. "A more common treatment is cauterization or snipping with scissors and light cauterization (or burning them off)," he says.
Skin tag treatment is not covered by insurance, which is why many people try to take care of these growths on their own, which is not a good idea.
Please Don't Try This at Home
Some people may tie a piece of sewing thread around the tag to cut off the blood supply, for example. "This is effective and will lead to the tag crusting up and falling off but it can be a little painful, so people should be cautious," Zeichner says.
Snipping tags by yourself is also risky endeavor, he says. "They can bleed a lot and can become infected. Plus, it can hurt, so leaving it to professionals with numbing medicine is best," he says.
DIY skin tag surgery is ill advised. "Please don't pull them off," Shelton pleads. "There usually is a fine capillary blood vessel that would bleed for a long time and hard to control. Some patients have to go to the Emergency Department of a hospital to get it cauterized."
Some women schedule an annual visit to their dermatologist or plastic surgeon for a general clean up of skin tags, sun spots, moles, warts and other minor growths that may show up during the course of a year. The bottom line on skin tags is that although they are cosmetically undesirable, they are not dangerous, and the best way to get rid of them is at the doctor's office.
To find a board certified dermatologist near you, visit aad.org and asds.net.
-Additional reporting by Denise Mann
Wendy Lewis is President of Wendy Lewis & Co Ltd Global Aesthetics Consultancy, author of 11 books and Founder/Editor in Chief of http://www.beautyinthebag.com.
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