If you haven’t had a skin tag yet, chances are you will. 50 to 60 percent of adults will have at least one skin tag in their lives.
For the most part, skin tags happen after 40 years of age. Skin tags can appear in teenagers but are more common as we age.
Skin tags usually grow in areas where there are skin folds. This includes the armpits, neck, eyelids, and groin. They can be flesh-colored, brown, or even red. They are usually small, between one and five millimeters.
However, they can be bigger than this and sometimes can grow to be between one and two centimeters large.
Skin tags are not painful or tender themselves. However, they can get caught on clothing or jewelry. This can cause itching or bleeding, and irritation.
Sometimes, skin tags can pop up in large numbers, forming a necklace-like shape around the neck. This is what we refer to as the molluscum pendulum necklace sign.
Skin tags can have smooth or irregular borders. Sometimes, they are attached to the skin with a thin stalk. These are what we call peduncles. Other times, skin tags sit flat across the surface of the skin. These are sessile. Skin tags can grow on their own or in groups.
Diabetes mellitus is a long-term condition. It happens when there is too much sugar in your blood. This is because your body can’t healthily process sugar. In a healthy person without diabetes, the pancreas creates insulin. Insulin signals the cells of the body to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. In patients with diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin. Either that or the body doesn’t use insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in the blood.
So, is there a link between diabetes and skin tags? Read on to find out.
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What Are Skin Tags?
Skin tags, or acrochordons, are small, skin-colored growths of the skin. They are soft and noncancerous. Numbers show that 50% to 60% of adults develop at least one skin tag at some point in their lifetime.
Although not dangerous, skin tags have a harmful impact on self-esteem and confidence. For that reason, people usually wonder how to remove skin tags effectively. The main focus of this post is on the removal and prevention of skin tags, so keep reading to learn more.
Research On Skin Tags
A study found that there is a higher risk of diabetes in people with multiple skin tags. Eight years later, another study reached the same conclusion. This shows that there could be a link between skin tags and diabetes.
A more recent study concluded that skin tags indicate high cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. Many studies show that the incidence of skin tags in children and teens is on the rise. So too is diabetes. It’s possible that this isn’t just by coincidence.
Are Skin Tags a Sign of Diabetes?
There is a potential link between skin tags and diabetes. One study found that patients with skin tags had a higher hemoglobin a1c than patients without skin tags.
Hemoglobin a1c is an indicator of blood glucose levels over the past few weeks. Hemoglobin a1c levels in patients with skin tags were 46.5 millimoles per Litre. However, hemoglobin a1c levels in patients without skin tags were only 36.8 millimoles per Litre.
Research has also found that skin tags are present in 94.6 percent of patients with diabetes. This is high in comparison to the 79.4 percent of patients without diabetes who had skin tags.
Both diabetes and prediabetes are linked with several different skin conditions. There is an association between diabetes and the following skin issues:
- Skin tags (also known as fibroepithelial polyps)
- Acanthosis nigricans (or benign acanthosis nigricans, which is called “pseudoacanthosis nigricans”)
- Diabetic dermopathy
- Rubeosis faciei
- Pruritis (itching)
- Granuloma annulare
- Necrobiosis lipoidica
- Scleroderma diabeticorum
- Yellowish scaly patches of dry skin
- Eruptive xanthomatosis
Skin tags related to high insulin levels are often accompanied by acanthosis nigricans. This is a dark, thickening skin that occurs in folds. It often occurs around the back of the neck. It can look like the skin has been stained by a necklace.
HOMA-IR, serum glucose, and insulin all have been higher in patients with skin tags than controls. These are all indicators of diabetes.
One study looked at patients with more than five skin tags in the neck and/or armpits. They found that skin tags are directly associated with HOMA-IR levels. Researchers in this study concluded that the presence of multiple skin tags is strongly associated with insulin resistance.
Research also states that the risk of developing metabolic syndrome is 11.13 times higher in patients with skin tags compared to controls.
People with diabetes may develop skin tags, but several other conditions and lifestyle factors also contribute to skin tags. If you have several skin tags, it doesn’t mean you must have diabetes. But if skin tags do show up, see your doctor for diabetes testing, just in case. You don’t want to be walking around with undiagnosed diabetes! This can also help you to prevent negative consequences of diabetes, such as nerve damage.
Having just one or two skin tags is not concerning. If you have a sudden outbreak of skin tags, then that is worthy of seeing your dermatologist. Some studies show that even just three skin tags can be linked to a higher risk for diabetes.
One study, in particular, looked at 216 patients with skin tags. Researchers tested these patients for diabetes. 26.3 percent of patients had diabetes. Impaired glucose tolerance was present in 7.9 percent of patients. Researchers concluded that skin tags are linked to impaired carbohydrate metabolism. They added that skin tags might be one way of identifying patients at higher risk of diabetes.
Skin complications often happen when someone has high blood sugar levels. In fact, skin lesions are one of the first symptoms of diabetes that we can see. Approximately one-third of patients with diabetes have skin conditions that are caused by or influenced by diabetes.
You can opt to use medication for these skin problems, but that’s more of a band-aid solution. Managing your blood glucose is the best way to get to the root of the problem.
What Causes Skin Tags?
The specific cause of skin tags is unknown. Skin tags seem to affect men and women in equal numbers. Skin tags do appear to happen more frequently in people with obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. They also happen more often in people with a family history of skin tags.There is also a trend of increased skin tags in children and adolescents. This is rising in concert with the global rise in childhood and teenage obesity.
Certain genetic disorders might have a predisposition to skin tags. For example, patients with Birt Hogg Dube syndrome (called BHD syndrome for short) are at higher risk of developing skin tags. Patients with tuberous sclerosis are also at higher risk.
There is also an association between patients with Fitzpatrick Skin Type III, acanthosis nigricans, and hypothyroidism developing skin tags. There are also statistically significant associations between skin tags, cholesterol, high triglycerides, and an abnormal atherogenic lipid profile. Skin tags are also more common in patients with perianal Crohn’s disease.
Patients with skin tags tend to have higher systolic blood pressure. When we look at blood pressure values, systolic blood pressure is the top number. This represents blood pressure when the heart is contracting.
One study found that patients with skin tags had an average systolic blood pressure of 138 millimeters of mercury, compared to 125.1 millimeters of Mercury in healthy controls. Antihypertensive therapy is used by 45.8 percent of patients with skin tags, compared to 13.3 percent without skin tags. Overall, skin tags are related to a higher risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
Patients with skin tags also seem to have a higher C reactive protein (called CRP for short). C reactive protein represents inflammation occurring in the body.
Leptin is a substance that is important in the biology and pathology of the skin. It is linked to cell differentiation, growth, migration, and survival. Leptin has great effects on blood flow, tissue perfusion, and angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels). One study looked at leptin’s role in the development of skin tags. They found that leptin has a role on keratinocytes, fibroblasts, and vascular endothelium. This is how leptin can play a role in skin tags.
Skin tags are also common in pregnancy due to hormonal changes that occur.
The reason for skin tags in people with diabetes is not clear. It seems to be connected to the body’s insulin resistance. However, we do not yet have enough research to confirm this completely. Obesity is also linked to diabetes. People who are overweight are more prone to developing skin tags. This is because excess folds of skin chafe against each other in areas like armpits and the groin.
Skin tags also appear more frequently in older people. 46 percent of people over the age of 40 have skin tags. 59 percent of people over the age of 70 have skin tags. More and more skin tags as the age goes up.
Skin tags occasionally contain skin cancer, so if you have one, it’s always worth getting checked out by your dermatologist.
Treatment Options For Skin Tags
Did you know that skin tags don’t necessarily need treatment? In fact, they are completely harmless! There is no need for medical treatment. However, many people opt to treat their skin tags. This is usually because they can be irritating. It is sometimes because of cosmetic reasons. In these cases, you can have your doctor remove the skin tag.
There are natural remedies for skin tags out there. These include apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and tea tree oil. However, none of these have been studied thoroughly for their effectiveness.
One of the main concerns when it comes to skin tag removal is skin infections. If you have diabetes, you are more prone to infection. And infections can be more damaging for you. Removing skin tags on your own without medical professionals’ help increases the risk factor for viral, fungal, and bacterial infections.
It’s always important to consider the root cause of your symptoms. If your skin tags are a result of diabetes, then you may want to work on stabilizing your insulin levels. You may find that once your insulin levels have normalized, your skin tags clear up and don’t come back as often. If you focus on normalizing insulin levels, this avoids the risk of infection while also potentially getting rid of the skin tags. If you don’t treat the root cause of the skin tags, then skin tags can continue to pop up in the area of ones you have removed.
Insulin resistance develops before the appearance of associated symptoms like skin tags. The early identification and treatment of insulin resistance are of utmost importance. Lifestyle changes are instrumental in this type of preventative care.
If you do want to treat your skin tags, the most common options are those listed below:
- Ligation: This involves tying surgical thread around the base of the skin tag in order to cut off its blood supply.
- Electrosurgery: This type of skin tag removal uses high-frequency electrical energy to burn off the skin tag.
- Cryotherapy: Also known as “cold therapy,” this involves freezing the skin tag with liquid nitrogen.
- Surgical removal: The skin tag is excised using micro scissors and micro forceps. This can be done with or without local anesthesia.
Home Remedies For Skin Tags
Besides procedures that your dermatologist can perform, there are various home remedies for skin tags. Not all home remedies work for everyone equally.
Consulting with your doctor or dermatologist before you try them out is a good idea. They will inform you whether it’s beneficial or not.
Nowadays, some drugstores hold freezing kits that allow you to perform cryotherapy at home. If you’re interested in OTC cryotherapy kits, you may want to look for one that reaches the lowest temperature when used properly. Keep in mind that destroying benign lesions like skin tags effectively requires temperatures of -4°F (-20°C) to -58°F (-50°C).
Besides at-home cryotherapy kits, there are removal creams, bands, and patches that promise you can get rid of skin tags and other lesions effectively. It’s useful to mention these products can cause contact dermatitis, which is why they are intended for short-term use.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is an essential oil obtained by steaming the leaves of the Australian tea tree. Also known as melaleuca oil, it is widely known for its antibacterial, antioxidant, and antifungal properties. Tea tree oil can enhance healing and alleviate inflammation.
Using tea tree oil for the removal of skin tags is simple. Clean your skin first, then apply a few drops of the oil onto a Q-tip or cotton ball and secure it onto the skin with a bandage. Wait 10 minutes and remove it. Repeat the process three times a day. It may take several days up to a few weeks for the skin tag to fall off.
Keep in mind tea tree oil is harsh and may not be a good idea for people with sensitive skin. Avoid using it on areas around your eyes. Some people dilute it with carrier oil.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is well-known for its health benefits and antimicrobial effects. Its acidity may break down tissue surrounding the skin tag, after which the growth will fall off.
You can use it to remove skin tags by soaking a cotton ball or swab in apple cider vinegar and placing it over the lesion. Use a bandage to wrap it and wait for 15 to 30 minutes before removing it. Then, wash your skin. Repeat several times a day for a couple of weeks.
Banana peel may cleanse, moisturize, and revitalize your skin. It can also help remove a skin tag by drying it out due to the powerful antioxidants it contains.
To make it happen, you can place a piece of banana peel over the skin tag and wrap it with a bandage. Ideally, you should do it before bedtime and remove it in the morning.
Garlic exhibits potent antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiseptic effects thanks to its main active compound called allicin. It can also alleviate inflammation.
Crush one or two garlic cloves and apply them over the skin tag and cover with a bandage. Do it before bedtime and remove in the morning and wash it off, of course.
Repeat the same process until the skin tag falls off. Keep in mind garlic can be harsh on sensitive skin.
Vitamin E is one of the most beneficial vitamins for skin health, which explains why it’s among the most common ingredients in skincare products. You can find vitamin E in pharmacies and drugstores.
The process is simple, apply liquid vitamin E over a skin tag and massage it gently into the surrounding skin. Keep doing it until the skin tag falls off. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, which is why it could help remove these lesions.
How To Prevent Skin Tags
A definite method for the prevention of skin tags doesn’t exist. However, you can significantly reduce the risk of their formation with the following tips:
- Maintain weight in a healthy range
- Strive to lose weight if you’re obese or overweight
- Moisturize your skin
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid too much friction by wearing clothes or jewelry that don’t rub against your skin too much
- Manage your diabetes or focus on a healthy lifestyle to keep blood sugar in a healthy range and prevent diabetes
Frequently Asked Questions
How To Remove Skin Tags
Skin tags don’t pose a threat to your health. People want to remove them because skin tags bother them and affect their confidence.
Sometimes they fall off on their own, but on many occasions, skin tags are stubborn and need to be removed by a dermatologist.
To remove skin tags, your dermatologist may choose one of several options, such as:
- Cauterization: the use of heat to burn skin tags off or stop bleeding
- Cryotherapy: freeze skin tags with liquid nitrogen (an extremely cold gas)
- Snipping or excision: the use of an instrument such as a scalpel or scissors to remove the skin tag. This option is more suitable for larger skin tags.
Removal of skin tags may cause mild discomfort. Before the procedure starts, the dermatologist numbs the area with a local anesthetic. After removal, skin discoloration and scar may appear, but they go away as the treated area heals.
Do Skin Tags Grow Back?
Generally speaking, skin tags don’t grow back once they’re removed. However, you can still develop new skin tags on the same or other parts of the body. Some people are prone to skin tags, but it’s not one skin tag that keeps growing back.
Are Skin Tags Contagious?
Skin tags aren’t contagious, but warts are, and many people can’t tell them apart. The main difference between skin tags vs warts is their appearance.
While skin tags are soft and smooth, warts are rough, and their surface is irregular. Warts are raised or flat, whereas skin tags hang off the skin. Since they’re contagious, warts appear quickly and tend to come in clusters, while skin tags don’t develop that fast.
So which of the above options is best for you? That will be up to your doctor. One study looked at a ligation procedure called Ligaclip. After the Ligaclip procedure, there were no cases of edema, cellulitis, or bleeding. The scar results were extremely satisfactory upon three months of follow-up. This form of skin tag removal is deemed safe, economical, quick, and simple. It is commonly used in newborn babies.