Cutaneous skin tags are small, entirely benign pieces or sacs of skin that can appear pretty much anywhere on the body but are most common in high friction areas. They are flesh coloured, painless, and very common though many people find them irritating or unattractive. Despite their common nature, we know very little about skin tags other than the fact that they are of cosmetic concern to many people who develop them. Because of this over-the-counter remedies and medical treatments for skin tag removal have become increasingly popular over the last few decades. In fact, many people choose to remove them at home with scissors or a scalpel. So. should you cut off skin tags with scissors?
There isn’t necessarily a need to remove skin tags, whether you undertake a costly medical removal procedure or do it at home. After all, skin tags, also known as acrochordon, pose no risk to your health and wellbeing. The exception to this rule, of course, is in cases of infection, or suspected melanoma.
When to Worry About Your Skin Tags
There are very few times at which you will need to worry about skin tags; they are almost always harmless. However, skin tags can become infected if the skin tears after being caught on clothing or jewelry. If your skin tags become red, swollen, sore, or weep cloudy liquid, it would be best for you to see your doctor.
There is also a chance that a skin tag could, in fact, be an epidermoid cyst (in which case you should see a doctor rather than trying to remove them at home). Epidermoid cysts also tend to be benign, but they are located under the skin rather than hanging onto it by a thin strip of flesh. Attempting to remove or lance an epidermoid cyst at home can cause infection and severe scarring (depending on the size).
You can tell the difference between a skin tag and an epidermoid cyst in a few easy ways. A skin tag will be soft and be attached to the skin, whereas an epidermoid cyst is a hard lump under the skin. Skin tags also tend to appear in high friction areas like the armpits and neck, whereas cysts are most likely to form on the face and neck. Finally, you should be able to grip and gently pull a skin tag away from the skin to show the thin strip of flesh which attaches it to the rest of the skin.
Finally, a raised mole or freckle should not be removed at home; while they may resemble large skin tags they are not and will bleed and scar heavily if cut from the body (as well as causing pretty intense pain).
Should You Cut Off Skin Tags With Scissors?
You have three options when it comes to skin tag removal.
Firstly, you can go to your doctor or a clinic to have your skin tags removed professionally for a fee. They will numb and sterilise the area and then snip it off for you (which you can do at home). This is the safest and most efficient invasive method. Secondly, there are over-the-counter treatments designed to remove skin tags chemically. These will freeze or otherwise shrink the tag over time and present the lowest risk of infection, though they take more time than cutting. Thirdly, you can remove the skin tags at home with scissors or a scalpel. This may be more painful than a professional removal, and is invasive unlike chemical at-home treatments.
Many people opt to remove small skin tags at home, either with an over-the-counter treatment or by snipping them off, because it’s relatively easy and safe.
However, there are those who will say that cutting skin tags off at home is not ideal, and, to be fair, there are always risks.
The Risks of Removing Skin Tags Yourself
The most medically pressing risk of home removal, so long as you are sure it’s a skin tag, is the chance of infection. If you get an infection following a home removal, you are far more likely to have a lasting scar, even if it’s a minor infection. More than this, however, you are likely to need medical intervention if your home removal ends in infection.
There is also the small chance that a skin tag may be something more serious. Acrochordon are generally harmless, but they can look similar to some types of melanoma. Do not seek to cut away skin tags unless you are certain that’s what they are, and if you have recurring tags on the same spot make sure to raise this with your doctor.
So, should you cut off skin tags with scissors? The truth is that this is the wrong question to ask. The right question is how skin tags can be cut away safely at home.
Tools for Safely Removing Skin Tags at Home
If you’re going to remove your skin tags at home, you should prepare thoroughly so as to ensure you remove them safely and efficiently. Firstly, you will need sterile surgical gloves, rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer, and a sharp pair of scissors or a razor blade. If you’re using scissors, a pair of cuticle scissors or sharp hairdressing scissors would be best as thick kitchen scissors may trap additional skin. You want to cut the skin tag at its thinnest point, which should be closest to the rest of your skin. Any damage to surrounding skin increases the risk of infection and scarring.
You should also have sterile cotton pads, antiseptic cream, and a bandaid to hand for after removal. If the tag has a wide stem, you might find it bleeds a little and requires a dressing. Plus, it’s always a good idea to have these items to hand during such procedures in case there’s an accident.
How to Safely Remove Skin Tags with Scissors
Once you have your tools laid out before you, you can begin removing your skin tags. Here’s how you can remove your skin tags safely;
1. Check that your scissors or razor blade is sharp enough. A dull blade will not provide a clean cut, and this will increase the chances of infection. A new razor blade, scalpel, or set of cuticle scissors is the best option, but sharpening your tools is a good second.
2. Numb the area thoroughly with ice. Removing skin tags isn’t very painful, but numbing the area will nonetheless make the process more comfortable and allow you to focus.
3. Sterilise the blade fully with rubbing alcohol or hand santiser before beginning.
4. Sterilise the skin tag and the area around it with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitise and put on disposable gloves.
5. Pull the tip of the skin tag to expose the stem and carefully cut it from your body with the razor or scissors. Be careful not to nick the healthy skin, if you do treat the wound quickly and only try to remove the tag after it has healed.
6. Get rid of the tag and stop any bleeding, put antiseptic cream on the wound. If the wound has bled, you will need a bandaid, but if it doesn’t you can leave it to dry in the air.
The cut should heal within a few days and leave no noticeable scar so long as you do not pick at the scab or otherwise tamper with the wound as it heals.
Is This the Best Way to Remove Skin Tags
If you make sure that you’re using sharp implements and you sterilise them well, cutting off skin tags yourself can be a very effective method of removal. This is certainly the case for small tags, though larger tags can bleed and become infected more easily.
If you have large skin tags, if you have many skin tags, or if you’re not certain that they are skin tags then it may be best to consider the other options open to you.
If you have concerns about just what the tags are, your first port of call should be with a local doctor who can assess them properly. Skin tags are almost always benign, but there are some more serious conditions that present themselves in the same way, so it never hurts to check it out.
If you are worried about your ability to get sharp tools, or you’re concerned you might be unable to sanitise them well (or even if you’re concerned about the pain) there are other ways. You can always use pharmaceutical remedies that are less prone to cause infection. These methods remove the tags without breaking the skin, which means that it takes longer but it is also safer (in fact, it’s the safest way to do it without seeing a doctor). The downside to this, however, is that it takes longer to remove the tags, and you will have to be very careful not to get the chemical mix on any healthy skin.
Will There be Scarring?
When you’re cutting skin there is always a chance that a scar will form, but if you’re using sharp tools on a small tag, and the wound does not get infected, any scar is likely to be small. Nonetheless, those who remove skin tags at home are the most likely to be left with a scar; those who used chemical removal methods or who visit a doctor almost never have noticeable scars.
This is most likely why so many people are unwilling to risk cutting off skin tags in noticeable places such as the neck or shoulders Furthermore, if you find you have skin tags on very sensitive areas such as the face, eyelids, or genitals you should always have them removed by a doctor.
The most dangerous facet of removing skin tags at home with scissors is, unsurprisingly, the fact that you run the risk of cutting healthy skin. If you do cut yourself it is imperative that you immediately asses the wound. If the cut is clean and shallow you should clean and dress it, letting it heal before attempting to remove the tag again. If the cut is deep or ragged, you should consult a doctor to avoid infection and scarring. If you are careful, however, there is no reason why you can’t remove skin tags safely at home. Just remember that removing tags does not prevent them from forming again, or from forming on other parts of the body. Finally, never attempt to remove moles or cysts with a razor as you will cause bleeding, scarring, and potentially serious infection; a doctor should always undertake the removal of such things.
1. Cutaneous skin tags, or acrochordon, are benign, fleshy growths which form most commonly on high friction areas of the body and are mostly removed for cosmetic reasons.
2. Skin tags should be assessed by a doctor if they become inflamed, swollen, painful, or seep pus.
3. Epidermoid cysts can be distinguished from skin tags by their texture and their place under the skin; such cysts should not be cut or lanced at home.
4. Skin tag removal can be done at home with a razor/scissors or with an over-the counter remedy, or in a clinic by a medical professional.
5. Infection is a real risk if skin tags are removed badly.
6. When cutting away skin tags at home sharp scissors or blades are needed, and sterilisation is necessary.
7. The area around the tag should be numbed and sterilised before cutting; pulling the skin tag away from the body allows for a clean cut.
8. If the wound bleeds it is necessary to cover it with a band aid after applying antiseptic cream.
9. Home removal with a blade is not the most recommended treatment method, especially if you have doubts as to whether the growth is actually a skin tag.
10. Scarring is always a risk, but can be minimised by a clean an efficient, or not invasive, removal; large tags are more likely to scar on removal than small ones.