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A Handout for the Non-Dermatologist


Skin Tags

A skin tag (acrochordon) is a small, soft, flesh-colored to dark brown growth that is either sessile or pedunculated. It is not skin cancer and does not become skin cancer. Skin tags are more common with increasing age. They appear most often in skin folds of the neck, axillae, trunk, beneath the breasts and in the groin area. They can become irritated by clothing or jewelry rubbing against them, and patients often want them removed.

Diagnosis is usually done based on clinical appearance. They are small but can be up to 1 cm in diameter. They are skin-colored to brown in appearance and appear in skin folds, typically around the neck, armpits, beneath the breasts, or in the genital region. They are typically painless. As a result of twisting on the stalk, they may become inflamed or tender, or necrotic.

Pathology testing is not required if skin tags have a characteristic appearance. If a skin tag is immobile, is a different color than surrounding skin, is multicolored, or has raw or bleeding areas, consider sending the lesion for pathologic evaluation.

Skin tags can usually be clipped off at the base using sharp scissors or a sharp blade. This method is best for tags with a thin stalk. No anesthesia is required, and lesions often do not bleed. If bleeding occurs, it can be stopped with aluminum chloride, light electrodessication, or sometimes with just a spot-size Band-Aid.

For lesions with a thicker stalk, local anesthesia is recommended.

Some patients and some doctors prefer cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen can be applied using two cotton-tipped applicators to trap the tag or try pick-ups or forceps dipped in liquid nitrogen. Continue to apply liquid nitrogen until the tag is white. Allow the tag to thaw before repeating the process once.

Large numbers of small tags may be treated quickly by electrodessication.

Secondary treatment:

If skin tags do not clear with the first treatment, retreat.

Some nevi may have a pedunculated base. If a pigmented skin tag is changing or symptomatic, review the ABCDs of melanoma and consider biopsy.


There are so many skin tags in the world! To preserve appointments for patients who need dermatologic consultations, UM Dermatology does not accept patients for skin tag therapy. Patients' personal physicians are the best source for treatment of skin tags.


Treatment of tags without symptoms should be billed to the patient (advance notice required, with specific forms for Medicare patients).