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What Are the Causes of Skin Tags?

By April S. Kenyon
Updated May 21, 2024
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Skin tags are very small growths of skin that commonly occur in areas such as the neck, groin, underarms, and anywhere there are skin folds located on the body. The most common causes of skin tags are friction, obesity, pregnancy, and genetics. Blood vessels and collagen that become trapped in thick layers of skin can also cause skin tags. Friction in these areas can contribute further to their formation.

The rubbing of skin against skin is probably one of the most common ways that skin tags develop. This is especially true of individuals who are overweight. People with excess weight and skin are more likely to experience friction, and folds within the skin where skin tags can form.

Genetics may also play a role. Individuals who have parents, siblings, or grandparents with numerous skin tags can generally figure that they will also form them at some point. Skin tags are less common in young people, and they generally begin appearing after midlife. Skin tags are benign growths that do not represent any danger to the individual.

Another one of the common causes of skin tags is pregnancy. This is primarily thought to be because of hormones and chemical changes in the body. Women who are expecting also tend to have more folds and creases in the skin. Skin tags may form in these areas where friction occurs and skin rubs against skin.

While skin tags are not dangerous and do not represent a health risk, they can be aggravating if they become very large or are located in an area that causes discomfort. Skin tags commonly occur on eyelids, for example, and if one becomes very large, it may obstruct the person's vision or be uncomfortable. People with aggravating skin tags or tags that interfere with day-to-day living may want to have them removed.

There are a number of home remedies and quick methods of skin tag removal, but generally, it is a good idea to let a trained medical professional take them off. Attempting to remove them at home may result in infection or unsightly scars. Other skin disorders that may be misdiagnosed as skin tags include warts, moles, malignant skin cancers, and seborrheic keratosis. Excessive skin tags may also be an indication of an underlying condition, such as acromegaly or polycystic ovary syndrome.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1001966 — On Aug 05, 2019

I had two skin tags very near one eye. My daughter seemed more embarrassed about it than I was. So I went to an eye surgeon, and he removed them easily. The only pain was the needle used to numb the area. Now I have many other skin tags on the right side of my neck, and also under my right arm.

I am elderly and have had five children. I'm currently using a skin tag remover, but it takes several weeks for the tags to fall off.

By anon337152 — On Jun 03, 2013

I had some removed from the base of my neck by a dermatologist. Insurance won't pay for it (in the USA), but it was only $80 for 10 of them in 2012. They were frozen off like this: the doctor dipped a hemostat (small scissors-like clamp) into a styrofoam cup that contained liquid nitrogen (super cold) then clamped onto the skin tag for about 10 seconds. It was slightly painful but not terrible and it was just for a short time. In a day or two, they turned black. In a few more days, they fell off. Gross, but effective.

By Oceana — On Sep 19, 2011

I have one skin tag on each underarm, right at the edge where the bend is located. I personally notice them when I wear sleeveless clothing, but no one else has ever pointed them out to me, so I doubt that they are very obvious.

I would like to be rid of them, but I don’t want to pay a fortune for removal. Unless they grow a lot more, I will probably just try to ignore them.

I know how sensitive they can be, so I would never try to remove them myself. I once mistook one for a tick and tried to yank it off. I was camping, and there was no light to examine it by, but I knew once I pulled on it that it was the skin tag, because the pain was extreme.

By orangey03 — On Sep 19, 2011

I have several skin tags on my neck, right in the area where the skin twists and folds when I turn my head. I have long hair that covers them, so I often forget they are there until I touch the area with my fingers.

I once tried to trim one off with nail clippers. It didn’t work, and it hurt as much as it would any other area of my skin. I guess I thought that since it poked out, it didn’t have any feeling in it.

My friend tried to cut hers off with a sharp razor blade. She just stretched it out and sliced quickly in one forceful motion. The tag still hung on by a thread, and she said it hurt too much to even cut off that little piece that was left.

By indemnifyme — On Sep 18, 2011

@ceilingcat - If I had a few small skin tags in that area, I might just leave them alone too. On the other hand, I think if I developed large skin tags in a more visible area like the eyelid I would probably get rid of them!

I've never had a skin tag removed, but I have had a wart removed before and it really wasn't that big of a deal. It sounds like skin tag removal is a pretty simple outpatient procedure.

By ceilingcat — On Sep 18, 2011

This is a little embarrassing but I actually have a few skin tags on my bikini line. I noticed them quite awhile ago and ran to my gynecologist! I thought I had caught an STD.

My gynecologist was able to explain to me that they were skin tags and harmless, if a bit unsightly. I was so relieved, I decided to just leave them alone for now. They really are very small.

But anyway, I think they may be genetic in my case. I'm not overweight and I've never been pregnant, so I'm pretty sure genetics has to be the cause in my case!

By sunshine31 — On Sep 17, 2011

@Sara007 - I always wondered why I have skin tags, now at least I understand why. I am a little overweight which explains why they formed. I have to say that I could not imagine getting a skin tag near my eye.

That must be really horrible. The few skin tags that I have really don’t bother me, but if I had a bunch then I would be marching into my dermatologist's office to get them removed because they can seem kind of ugly if you have too many.

By Sara007 — On Sep 16, 2011

@manykitties2 - It is good to hear you managed to lesson your chance of getting new skin tags by losing some weight. Skin tags are rather unsightly can wreak havoc on your self-esteem.

I struggled with skin tag formation after my first pregnancy and my doctor assured me it was just caused by hormonal changes. He actually removed mine free of charge after I had my son. It was a pretty simple procedure as he basically froze them off. I really didn't feel a thing because he numbed the areas beforehand. I am happy to report though that once those skin tags were removed they didn't come back.

By manykitties2 — On Sep 16, 2011

Skin tags can be a real nuisance, so knowing some of the causes of skin tags is a good way to avoid them. I used to be overweight and that does indeed cause skin tag formation. I was pretty horrified to find little tags of flesh appearing from nowhere.

After I started a diet and exercise regime and lost some weight, the little tags stopped forming.

Unfortunately, the skin tags that had already formed had to be removed by my doctor. The procedure didn't cost much, and it didn't hurt, but it was still a bit worrisome having something cut off. I suppose that was just a matter of thinking it over too much.

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