I’m convinced that the phrase “swimsuit season” was manufactured for the sole purpose of triggering a little anxiety in all of us.
Whether you’re confident or comfortable in your body or nowhere in between, the summer is a time when everyone becomes more self-conscious about their body. Skin tags are high on the list of concerns.
According to one estimate, more than half of adults will develop at least one skin tag during their lifetime. And they can crop up in some unusual places, like around your groin or on your neck, where it can snag on jewelry.
The good news: They’re completely harmless.
But skin tags can be associated with other conditions, so it’s important to know how to identify them and when to consult a board-certified dermatologist about one.
What are skin tags, exactly?
Skin tags are small, soft growths that protrude from the surface of your skin. They can vary in appearance, but they’re usually about the size of a grain of rice or a tiny pebble and can be flesh-colored or darker.
Sometimes, they can resemble the lesions associated with skin cancers. So, if it’s a new growth and you’re not sure what it is, it’s a good idea to have it checked out by a dermatologist.
No one really knows what causes skin tags, but we seem to be more prone to developing them as we age. And they tend to pop up on parts of the skin that rub against each other, like under your arms.
Hormones could play a role because they’re more common among those who are pregnant. They also seem to be genetic. So, if your parents had skin tags, you’ll probably have them too.
Some research indicates there might be a link between skin tags and insulin resistance, a precursor to Type 2 diabetes. If you’re suddenly getting a lot of them, bring it to the attention of your primary care doctor, who may recommend blood work.
What can you do about a skin tag?
It’s worth mentioning again that skin tags are – and always will be – completely benign, so there’s no need to remove them. But if you’re annoyed by yours, there are a few different ways a dermatologist can help you safely remove them.
One involves numbing the surrounding area with a shot of lidocaine, then cutting the tag off with sharp, curved scissors and treating the wound with a substance that stops any bleeding and helps prevent infection.
Another entails numbing the area with lidocaine and then using a special instrument to direct an electrical current to the skin tag, killing the tissue.
A dermatologist can also pinch the base of the skin tag with a tweezer-like instrument that’s been dipped in liquid nitrogen, which basically kills it and causes it to fall off after a few days. The pinching and freezing don’t hurt, but you might experience a little discomfort as the tissue thaws afterward.
In all instances, as long as you keep the wound covered in a thin layer of ointment like petroleum jelly and a Band-Aid, the skin should heal within a week.
One final note: Tempting as it may be to cut off the skin tag on your own – especially with the abundance of home remedies available on social media – there’s a high risk for infection.