How Do Doctors Remove Skin Tags?

I have a big skin tag. It bothers me. Some websites say to get rid of it by putting fingernail polish on it, tying a thread around it, or using over-the-counter wart freeze. Should I try that or go to a doctor? And if a doctor does it, what's involved and will it hurt?

Skin tags (those soft, fleshy bumps that grow from the skin on a narrow stalk) are harmless. They don't need to be removed. But sometimes a skin tag can get big enough to bother a person, like by rubbing against clothing. If a skin tag is annoying and you want to get rid of it, see your doctor.

Don't try removing a skin tag on your own, particularly if it's large. Skin tags have blood vessels so they will bleed and could become infected if a person uses non-sterile equipment to remove them. Fingernail polish and wart remover are designed for use on hard skin, like nails or warts. They're not the kinds of things to use on a skin tag.

If your tag is large enough, the "home removal" tips you read about could end up hurting. To avoid infection, scarring, and unnecessary pain, see a doc for skin tag removal. The good news is your family doctor or dermatologist can remove skin tags quickly and with very little discomfort right in the office.

Doctors can use several different ways to remove a skin tag — they might snip the tag off with sharp, sterile scissors or freeze or burn it with a special solution. If the tag is small enough, you'll feel no more than a pinprick. If it's larger, the doc will rub a numbing medication on your skin so you don't feel it.

Skin tags often develop when we're kids. Occasionally they go away on their own. But more often a skin tag will stay on the skin and it may grow slowly over time.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: September 2010

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