Introduction 

Skin tags (acrochordons) are small flesh-coloured or brown growths that hang off the skin and look a bit like warts. They're very common and harmless.

Skin tags can vary in size from a few millimetres up to 5cm wide.

They're 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

Anyone can develop skin tags, but they're particularly common in older people and people with diabetes. Pregnant women may be more likely to develop skin tags, caused by changes in their hormone levels. Some people develop them for no apparent reason.

Skin tags tend to grow where skin rubs against skin or clothing. This would explain why they also tend to affect overweight people or younger children who have excess folds of skin and skin chafing.

When skin tags can be a problem

Skin tags are harmless and don't usually cause pain or discomfort. 

However, you may want to consider getting them removed if they are unsightly and affect your self-esteem, or if they snag on clothing or jewellery and bleed. You'll usually need to pay for this procedure privately.

This is because the removal of skin tags is regarded as cosmetic surgery, which is rarely available through the NHS. Generally, the NHS will only carry out cosmetic surgery procedures 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

If a skin tag is upsetting you, consider making an appointment with a privately practising GP to have it removed.

Skin tags can easily be burnt or frozen off in a similar way to how warts are removed. They can also be surgically removed, sometimes using local anaesthetic.

If your skin tag is small with a narrow base, the GP may suggest you try removing it yourself by:

  • tying off the base of the skin tag with dental floss or cotton to cut off its blood supply and make it drop off
  • cutting it off with fine sterile scissors

Don't attempt to remove large skin tags yourself because they will bleed heavily.

Skin tag or wart?

Here's how to tell the difference:

  • Skin tags are smooth and soft, whereas warts tend to be rougher with an irregular surface.
  • Skin tags are knobbly and hang off the skin, whereas warts are usually flat.
  • Skin tags aren't contagious, but warts spread very easily, so a sudden outbreak or cluster of growths is more likely to be warts.

Read more about warts.




Page last reviewed: 17/12/2014

Next review due: 17/12/2016