Skin tags are much like the occasional pimple in that - outside of being a nuisance - nearly everyone will find at least one on their body at some point in their lifetime. Not to be confused with moles, skin tags are small, typically benign growths on the surface of the skin that match your complexion and usually take an odd shape.
"They grow out from your body, but vertically," dermatologist Neal Schultz, MD, previously told POPSUGAR. "Their height is usually much greater than their width. Sometimes they have a very narrow stalk so they are virtually hanging off by a thread."
What causes skin tags isn't widely known to doctors and dermatologists - according to Dr. Schultz, they're hereditary and are common under the arms and legs - but if you've ever come across any on your body, it's normal to contemplate how to remove them. If this is where you've landed, the first thing you should know is that removing skin tags on your own isn't recommended by professionals.
"Because they are based on a small stalk of skin, the easiest and safest way to remove them is to go to a doctor's office," dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla, MD, FAAD, told POPSUGAR. If you choose to get your skin tag(s) removed by a doctor, you can expect for the area to be numbed with a local anesthetic before the growth is cut off with a pair of sharp scissors.
"You are totally awake and it is just a small pinch of a very thin needle," Dr. Mariwalla said of the anesthetic. "The result is a very small cut that will heal within a few days."
While it's possible to remove a skin tag yourself at home, there's no avoiding the risk that comes along with using the wrong method to do so. "If you try to remove them at home you may do it incorrectly, leading the skin tag to become inflamed and potentially infected," Dr. Mariwalla said. "Just be careful with those DIY solutions that you see on TV or the internet; those work by causing a severe irritant contact dermatitis and the skin tags fall off because the skin gets so irritated."
If you don't have access to a dermatologist or professional - and you feel that you absolutely must remove a skin tag on your own - Dr. Schultz advises tying a tight piece of string around the skin tag (after you've cleansed it and the surrounding area with alcohol) to cut off the blood supply to the area before cutting it off with disinfected scissors. You can dab it with alcohol and follow up with some ointment and a bandage once you're finished, making sure you keep it covered until it heals fully to avoid scarring.
- Additional reporting by Emily Orofino