What are Skin Tags?
Skin tags are small, benign tumors. It must be emphasized that they are benign, meaning they do not run any risk of actually spreading. Skin tags are not indicative of nor related to cancer in any way; they are simply minor deformations of the skin composed of skin cells. Skin tags manifest as small, distinct, square-shaped tabs of skin that hang off the surface of the skin.
Skin tags are nothing more than nuisances, truly. They do not have nerves, but they do generally have a blood vessel supplying them with oxygen. This keep them alive and allows them to grow in the first place. Some skin tags simply go away on their own, but others are more stubborn things and take some time to eliminate. Skin tags generally have a short lifespan, but some are more durable. While most will simply be worn away over time and destroyed like normal skin cells falling into disuse, some are healed and kept sustained over a longer period of time. These generally require some kind of treatment to deal with if one is bothered by them.
Skin tags are frequently asymptomatic beyond their very existence. Many individuals do not notice that they have skin tags at all, and the skin tags are worn away harmlessly. Even so, a number are irritating, annoying and unsightly, and skin tag removal has become a more popular prospect.
Who gets Skin Tags?
Everyone is vulnerable to skin tags. There is no one any more or less likely to suffer from skin tags in a tangible manner from birth. Skin tags may crop up on anyone’s skin, because their creation is simply a matter of the skin being able to heal. Because skin tags are effectively just benign tumors and anomalies of the skin’s own natural processes, they can pop up anywhere at any time.
There is some correlation, however, to the elasticity of skin and the development of skin tags. Skin tags have a tendency to develop where the skin frequently folds and stretches, near joints and on the neck. This is possibly a result of the skin being forced to stretch and re-heal as it does so. It follows, then, that those who are overweight may be more likely to suffer from skin tags in these areas and others, as the skin will be required to stretch more often and more deeply. Anywhere flesh can compound and roll on itself is a likely area for a skin tag to form as the skin tries to cope with its configuration.
What causes Skin Tags?
Skin tags are caused simply by having skin that can heal properly. Skin tags are nothing more than benign tumors of the skin. This means that they are constructed entirely from normal skin cells, and supplied with a blood vessel. They are not just built up dead skin, but rather a full structure of cells. Skin tags exist as though they belong where they are, however.
While there is no particular cause of skin tags beyond deformation and imperfection in the skin (which is why they are so common), there are certain circumstances that make skin tags more likely. The first is strain on the skin. Because skin tags grow into being as a result of cell division and the healing of the skin, anything that prompts active cell division can prompt the growth of a skin tag. This is not enough to be attributed as a full and true cause, but is simply a contributing circumstance to a complex set of events.
Skin tags are known to be more common around areas where the skin folds or is stretched. This includes the backs of most joints, but especially around the sides of the neck. Areas where the skin must fold or stretch most frequently are the most likely to develop skin tags. This ultimately means that individuals who are overweight may be more likely to suffer from skin tags; increased weight demands higher skin elasticity as their skin must cope with the extra mass, making skin tags somewhat more likely. This is not to say that being overweight is a direct and overt cause of skin tags, however.
What do Skin Tags cause?
Skin tags ultimately don’t cause much of anything but annoyance. Skin tags are completely benign. While they are technically a form of tumor, they are not cancerous and do not carry any risk whatsoever of spreading. Many individuals have skin tags and are never aware of them before they detach on their own just through common wear and tear. It is not uncommon for individuals to deal with skin tags without even realizing it by simply clawing them away while scratching at them reflexively. That said, skin tags can still be a nuisance.
Skin tags are the most troublesome when they manifest on the skin in places that cloth will rub against them. Constant rubbing and irritation can make it difficult to put on certain clothes, and difficult to keep the clothes on without dealing with constant discomfort. Over time, constant wear and tear on the skin tags may destroy them, but it may also cause irritation and minor trauma to the surrounding skin. Skin tags may bleed somewhat if they are torn away, which can stain and ruin clothing for individuals that are not careful.
What does Skin Tag treatment look like?
Skin tags do not require treatment as-such. They are isolated items, and they do not get worse over time. A skin tag remains a simple nuisance throughout its existence, and will not grow larger or get worse. However, skin tags can be troublesome enough, and sometimes linger well beyond their welcome before they wear away naturally. For skin tags that are too annoying and too much trouble to leave alone that must be removed, there are several options available both over the counter and under the supervision of a trained and qualified dermatologist. The primary variables are risk and cost.
The first and most common method of getting rid of a skin tag is simply scratching at it. Scratching away at skin tags is the ‘natural’ way to remove them, and is the way most skin tags eventually meet their end. Many skin tags are worn and scratched away by their hosts before their hosts even become aware of their existence, simply worn down by rough clothing or unconsciously scratched when they cause irritation. If not worn away over time or caught by nails repeatedly, it only takes one rough abrasion to do away with a skin tag once and for all. However, scratching at skin tags carries with it certain risks. Much like scratching at scabs, scratching at skin tags can leave open sores, and the nail beds are an excellent location for unwashed hands to store bacteria—and an excellent place for bacteria to hide out even on hands that have been washed. There is a significant risk of a secondary infection if one simply claws a skin tag away. Besides that, clawing a skin tag can hurt. While skin tags do not in and of themselves have nerves, they are still connected to the skin itself, and will be tugged; besides that, it is impossible to actually scratch at a skin tag without also scratching at the surrounding skin. All in all, the level of irritation caused by scratching at a skin tag makes this an unviable option.
The next method of removing skin tags is to deal with them the way warts are frequently dealt with: freezing. Cryosurgery has improved and grown much cheaper in recent years. Removing a skin tag with cryosurgery is simply a matter of freezing the cells that compose it. This cuts off all oxygen to the skin tag, killing the cells involved, and they are quickly discarded by the body. However, cryosurgery, while cheaper than it once was, is still expensive. While cryosurgery carries a much lower risk of infection than scratching a skin tag away, the risk is still greater than zero. In addition to this, cryosurgery can still cause some damage to the cells around the skin tag. As with any form of surgery, the risk is never zero percent. Even so, cryosurgery is still a very viable option for those that have the proper insurance coverage or can otherwise afford to purchase the operation themselves from a proper dermatologist.
The next method of skin tag removal is another form of surgery. Whereas cryosurgery involves freezing the skin tag away, this method involves burning it. Laser therapy is available that directly destroys the skin tag cells, and only those. This also carries the benefit of cauterizing the tiny, tiny wound at the same time. Laser surgery to remove skin tags scarcely leaves any kind of mark or scar, but is very expensive. There are not as many qualified technicians as there yet could be to operate the appropriate equipment for this form of surgery, and many dermatologists lack the expertise on their own to do so. There are some spas specializing in this sort of minor cosmetic surgery that make it somewhat more affordable, but caution and a thorough reputation check is generally a good idea at these facilities; some of them are simply seeking to capitalize on a new trend and do not have sufficient equipment for their work. As with all forms of surgery, however, the risk is not zero percent. Laser surgery only scars but rarely, but a scar is still a possibility. Additionally, the laser can still damage surrounding cells that do not require any sort of treatment.
One method of skin tag removal simply involves tying a thread around the base of the skin tag. This can be done at home fairly easily, usually with the help of a friend or family member. Tying a skin tag off tightly enough cuts the oxygen off from the cells of the skin tag and causes it to atrophy. It functions much like cryosurgery in this way, as it allows the skin tag to die over time to be naturally discarded. This reduces the risk of scarring relative to, say, scratching or cutting the skin tag away, but it does still carry some small risk of scarring. Additionally, unlike scratching, laser surgery or cryosurgery, skin tag removal with thread takes some time. The extended time that the skin tag spends tied up with thread can be uncomfortable, and can also put the skin tag at greater risk of being torn away. This makes this method less preferable to cryosurgery or laser surgery when these are available options, but they are still far more expensive. This form of skin tag removal may not be viable at all when a skin tag has taken up residence near the eye.
There are some over-the-counter options available for skin tag removal. Some of them operate on all-natural and organic ingredients, for those that value such traits. These agents operate by drying up the skin of the skin tag. Drying up and dessicating the skin tag weakens the structure of the skin tag itself. This accelerates the collapse of the skin tag with no risk of scarring. Such processes are relatively new, and thus are not as commonly spread, but they are rapidly becoming the preferred method of skin tag removal. There are several options for skin tag removal that operate on this principle, most of which are available for purchase online; not all of them have reached pharmacy-level distribution just yet, making them easiest to find directly from their manufacturers.
How do I know if I have Skin Tags?
Skin tags are easily identified by sight. They are distinct and do not resemble other tumors. Skin tags are generally the same skin tone as the surrounding skin, and are very small structures. They are frequently not more than half a centimeter, but there are always exceptions to this. Skin tags do not hurt, but they may tug on clothes and other items that brush the skin. Skin tags can be positively identified by a medical professional when such an identification is necessary, but it is rare that a single simple skin tag would be bad enough to warrant this.