At first glance, It’s easy to get super freaked out by skin tags, especially since these weird fleshy growths can look much like cancerous moles. But before you assume the absolute worst, it’s good to know the skin tag facts. For example, most are actually benign, as the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology suggested that these harmless growths (which appear on areas where there are skin folds) are more of a cosmetic nuisance if anything.
With that said, you may have stumbled upon plenty of old wives’ tales, Reddit threads, and over-the-counter products online claiming to remove skin tags safely. However, before you reach for some floss or nail clippers, we tapped three board-certified dermatologists to weigh in on the safety of these at-home removal methods, especially if you won’t be getting into your dermatologist’s office any time soon.
From the dangers of snipping skin tags with scissors, to concerns about picking them off your face, read their expert advice ahead.
Never Cut Skin Tags At Home
Cutting your skin tags at home may seem tempting, especially if your tags are noticeable and on the larger side.
However, a 2018 article published by the University of Utah revealed that only small skin tags can be removed with sharp cuticle scissors, making this something to keep in mind before you proceed with removing them on your own.
If you decide to follow the at-home scissor removal route, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Susan Bard, MD, explained that cuticle scissors need to be sterilized thoroughly before you use them. Unclean scissors can lead to inflammation and possible infection if you aren’t careful, she said.
“I always advise patients not to cut off their skin tags with unsterile tools,” Dr. Bard told StyleCaster. “This can definitely lead to infection.”
Similarly, snipping those skin tags at home also causes a lot of bleeding. This, in turn, also ups your risk for infection, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD.
“Skin tags do have a blood supply– meaning that there is a small blood vessel that goes into the skin tag,” Dr. Zeichner said. “Because of this, there can be a surprising amount of bleeding if one tries to cut off a skin tag at home.”
Don’t Pick Your Skin Tags
Large skin tags hanging off your face can be very frustrating, but according to Dr. Bard, you won’t want to pick them off your face. Doing so, she suggested, can lead to scarring that may take a long time to remove.
Similarly, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman, MD, also noted that picking your skin tags can lead to infection and serious bleeding. This makes it something to avoid, as many doctor and dermatologist appointments are emergency-only at this time.
“Your risk of infection goes up each time you pick skin tags,” Dr. Jaliman said. “This can lead to serious bleeding and or an infection.”
Don’t Remove Your Skin Tags With Floss
Popular at-home skin tag removal techniques also include using floss or fine thread to cut off circulation, and ultimately, kill skin tags.
However, Dr. Zeichner explained that this method has its share of downsides. Not only is this time-consuming and uncomfortable, but it can also lead to infection too.
“I don’t recommend this method because I have seen the aftermath, and it can be uncomfortable and can take a very long time for it to work,” he said. “It can also lead to infection as well.”
Avoid Over-The-Counter Treatments
Over-the-counter remedies and treatments for skin tags aren’t hard to find online these days, especially over-the-counter liquid products that claim to burn off skin tags safely and effectively.
However, Dr. Bard suggests that these liquid treatments can lead to more harm than good, as peroxide preparations, for example, can cause unwanted chemical burns to the skin.
Don’t Skip the Doctor’s Office
Yes, removing skin tags on your own may seem like a plausible option for those who can’t wait to get into a dermatologist’s office.
However, Dr. Jaliman advised resisting the urge and waiting for an in-office appointment stay-at-home orders are lifted. Professionally removing tags ensures they are removed safely and reduce your risk of scarring.
“In the office, skin tags are removed by cutting them off or burning them by electrodesiccation,” she said. “When you see a dermatologist you are in a sterile environment, and you won’t be left with a scar.”
Additionally, Dr. Baird said it’s important to hold out for an in-office appointment in case there is a chance your skin tag is actually something more dangerous. Many skin tags appear similar to warts and moles, she said, making a professional diagnosis crucial before you attempt to remove them on your own.
“There is a chance that what you thought was a skin tag actually turned out to be a wart or a mole,” she said. “As some moles can be cancerous, it’s preferable to see your board-certified dermatologist for confirmation of diagnosis and for treatment.”
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