About skin tags
Skin tags are very common, harmless, and can vary in colour and size – from a few millimetres up to 5cm (about 2 inches) wide.
They are usually found on the neck, armpits, around the groin, or under the breasts.
They can also grow on the eyelids or under the folds of the buttocks.
Why skin tags occur
Skin tags are made of loose collagen fibres and blood vessels surrounded by skin. Collagen is a type of protein found throughout the body.
Pregnant women may also be more likely to develop skin tags. This may be as a result of changes in their hormone levels. Some people develop them for no obvious reason.
When skin tags can be a problem
Skin tags are harmless and don't usually cause pain or discomfort.
You may consider having skin tags removed if they're affecting your self-esteem, or if they snag on clothing or jewellery and bleed.
You'll usually need to pay to have this done privately.
This is because skin tag removal is regarded as cosmetic surgery, which is rarely available through the health service.
Cosmetic surgery is usually only available on the health service if the problem is affecting your physical or mental health.
Sometimes, skin tags fall off on their own if the tissue has twisted and died from a lack of blood supply.
Removing skin tags
Don't try to remove a skin tag without speaking to your GP first. If you have a skin tag that's causing problems, take advice from your GP about where to go to have it removed.
Surgical removal has the advantage of removing the skin tag completely, but there is a risk of minor bleeding.
Never try to remove large skin tags yourself because they'll bleed heavily.
The difference between a skin tag and a wart
Compared with warts, skin tags are:
- smooth and soft (warts tend to be rougher with an irregular surface)
- knobbly and hang off the skin (warts are usually slightly raised or flat)
- not contagious (warts spread very easily, so a sudden outbreak or cluster of growths is more likely to be warts)