Are Skin Tags Dangerous?

By Alisa Hrustic |

They’re usually just a nuisance, but here’s when you should see a dermatologist.

skin tags

Ever noticed a small, fleshy bump sticking out of your skin and thought, What the…?

Good news: You can relax. Probably.

“If it’s just a soft fold of skin, it’s most likely a skin tag,” says Ramsey Markus, M.D., a dermatologist in Seattle.

Skin tags, which dermatologists call acrochordons, are extremely common and rarely harmful. Anyone can get these flesh-colored growths, but they tend to become more prominent as you age, Dr. Markus says. That's because your DNA experiences more mutations as you grow older, which could trigger the development of these "mistakes" on your skin, he explains.

People who are overweight and those who have diabetes are more prone to skin tags, most likely due to hormonal changes occurring in their bodies, Dr. Markus says.

Skin tags can form on any part of your body, either on their own or in little clusters, but they most often crop up around the neck, underarms, or groin area, since those regions experience lots of rubbing and friction.

When You Should See a Doctor

It’s fine to ignore a skin tag that isn’t bothering you, but if it’s constantly getting irritated, don’t let it go.

"Skin tags are pretty much never dangerous, but they can be annoying," Dr. Markus says. Because they stick out, skin tags can easily get caught on clothes, jewelry, or a razor blade while you're shaving, causing them to become red and uncomfortable.

While it’s possible to yank off a skin tag by quickly taking off a shirt or necklace, you might end up with a lot of bleeding, pain, scarring, or even an infection if it’s not cleaned properly.

That's why Dr. Markus cautions against intentionally trying to remove these bumps yourself, especially if you have one near a sensitive spot, like your eye. Instead, see a dermatologist, who can easily and safely do the job using liquid nitrogen, a laser, or a scalpel.

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You should also make an appointment if the bump appears to be changing over time. Sometimes what looks like a skin tag is actually basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer. And any growth on your body that changes in size, color, or shape could turn out to be melanoma.

“If it looks odd in any way, has extra pigmentation, redness, or has a different texture to it, have a dermatologist look at it to make sure it’s nothing to worry about,” Dr. Markus says.

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