It is possible to remove skin tags safely at home if the proper precautions are taken to prevent infections during or after a procedure. People may be able to remove the tumors by cutting them off, using a ligature to cut off blood flow or applying commercial liquid nitrogen. In general, however, a person should consult a trained dermatologist before trying to remove them. A medical professional can inspect problem areas carefully, ensure that other skin problems or medical conditions do not exist and recommend treatment options. If at-home removal methods are not effective, the next best option is receiving professional treatment at a dermatologist's office.
About Skin Tags
Skin tags are small, painless, benign tumors that appear as irregularly shaped bumps on the skin. They are small protrusions, usually no larger than a pencil eraser. Most people get tags in areas where the skin creases or folds, such as the armpits, neck, eyelids or groin. The cause of skin tags is largely unknown, but they appear most frequently in women, older people and individuals with diabetes.
These growths are completely harmless from a medical perspective. A person still might wish to remove them for aesthetic purposes, however, or to avoid accidentally irritating or cutting them by shaving. With the guidance of a dermatologist or primary care physician, people often can safely remove skin tags by themselves.
An individual who takes care to prevent infections and accidents can cut off skin tags using a sharp scalpel or scissors. A person who wants to do this first should sterilize the skin and cutting tool with hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol. One cut as close to the base of the tumor as possible is preferable. Any bleeding usually is controllable with cotton and a bandage.
An advantage of using this technique is that the results are very quick. The main disadvantage is that it can be painful, with the physical break in the skin providing a potential entryway for bacteria and viruses. Some people who have difficulty with the sight of blood also might not be able to perform this removal method on themselves.
Many pharmacies and supermarkets sell over-the-counter, concentrated liquid nitrogen solutions that can be used to effectively freeze skin tags, warts, and other similar maladies. Most kits come with disposable applicators that freeze the protrusions on contact. This causes the cells to stop functioning and eventually erode.
Freezing a skin tag is beneficial in that it doesn't require any other tools aside from the nitrogen applicator. It does not physically break the skin, so there is no bleeding, and the risk of infection is very low. The drawback is that, depending on the size of the tag, it can take more than one application of nitrogen to freeze the growth completely. There is also some risk that a person accidentally will touch the nitrogen applicator to healthy skin, damaging it.
Ligation is the process of binding something together. In medical contexts, it usually means to wrap something around body tissue to restrict or stop blood flow. This technique might work to remove a skin tag if the growth is large. To use this method, a person sanitizes both the skin and a piece of thin thread. He ties the thread tightly around the skin tag to restrict blood flow, which usually causes the growth to fall off in two to four days.
This is probably simplest means to remove skin tags. In order for it to work, however, the string needs to be very tight, and this can cause some discomfort. Bleeding still can sometimes happen, and similar to using nitrogen, ligation can take a while to be effective.
Herbal and Other Remedies
Some people recommend using herbal ointments such as DermaTend®. These are readily available in pharmacies and drug stores. Castor oil and baking soda paste, tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar also are said to be effective. The idea behind these solutions is that they essentially dry out the tag from the inside out, all while disinfecting it. Most of the evidence supporting these remedies is anecdotal.
Giving herbal remedies the benefit of the doubt, an advantage is that many of them use natural, non-toxic substances. Some people still can be sensitive to these natural products. The results, if any, happen slowly over time.
Location as a Factor in Removal Decisions
Assuming that a skin growth is not particularly big, the factor that is most important in deciding whether to remove it at home is the location of the tag. One that is located in the armpit, for example, can be extremely sensitive. In this case, it might be a better option to go to a doctor simply because he can provide a numbing agent or pain medication that is more effective than over-the-counter options. In the same way, a growth on the back can be difficult to reach without help, and one located anywhere near larger blood vessels might necessitate being in a location where professionals quickly can respond to heavy bleeding.
When a person is not certain whether he should try to remove skin tags himself, it's always best to consult with a dermatologist or other professional. Through a basic examination, the professional can determine whether the size and location of the tag warrants removal in a medical setting. He might even be able to remove the tag in the same visit, depending on the method of removal he selects. Doctors use laser treatment, ligation, freezing, electrosurgery and scalpel cutting as removal methods.