Skin tags, also known as ‘acrochordons,’ are small, noncancerous growths that can appear anywhere on the skin. They are common, especially as a person ages, and they often develop on areas where skin rubs against skin or clothing, such as the neck, eyelids, or underarms.
Despite being harmless, many people choose to remove skin tags due to aesthetic reasons or discomfort caused by the tag rubbing against clothing or jewelry. A study from the National Library of Medicine found that 50–60% of the general population can at least develop a skin tag, with the prevalence increasing with age. People who are obese or have type 2 diabetes are more at risk of developing skin tags.
Effective Procedures for Skin Tag Removal
Skin tags, while harmless, can sometimes cause discomfort or be a cosmetic concern for many. If you’re considering removal, there are several safe and effective procedures available:
Cryotherapy is a procedure that involves the use of liquid nitrogen to freeze off skin tags. This extremely cold substance targets and destroys the tissue of the skin tag, leading to its fall-off within 10 to 14 days post-treatment. Dermatologists perform it quickly, and patients generally tolerate it well. However, for some sensitive areas or larger skin tags, a local anesthetic may be employed to numb the area before the procedure.
Electrosurgery is a technique where a high-frequency electrical current is used to burn off the skin tag. The procedure starts with a local anesthetic numbing the area. Then, a tool that transmits an electrical current is used to burn the stalk (the thin piece connecting the skin tag to the skin), effectively removing it. The heat from the process also aids in minimizing bleeding by sealing off the blood vessels.
Another effective method is ligation, which involves cutting off the blood supply to the skin tag. This is typically accomplished by wrapping a surgical thread around the base of the skin tag. As a result of this restricted blood supply, the cells in the skin tag eventually die, and it falls off. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a week. While ligation can be performed at home, it’s recommended to have it done by a healthcare provider for safety and effectiveness.
Excision is a more direct method where a healthcare provider cuts off the skin tag using a scalpel or sharp surgical scissors. The area is first numbed with a local anesthetic. This method is commonly used for larger skin tags or those located in areas where other methods might not be suitable. While the procedure is safe, there’s a slight risk of minor bleeding and infection, but these risks are minimal when performed by a professional.
5. Laser Removal
Laser removal is a more modern approach where intense bursts of light (laser) are directed at the skin tag to break down its cells. This method offers more precision, making it a suitable choice for skin tags located in hard-to-reach or sensitive areas. Depending on the size and number of skin tags, several sessions may be required for a complete removal.
Each of these methods has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider to understand each procedure thoroughly and decide on the one that suits your needs best.
Self-Care and Aftercare Following Skin Tag Removal
Once a skin tag has been removed, it’s crucial to take appropriate care of the treated area at home and follow the aftercare instructions provided by your healthcare provider. This is essential to prevent possible infections, promote effective healing, and reduce the chances of scarring. Here’s a detailed guide to what to expect and how to care for your skin after the procedure:
1. Wound Care and Dressing
The first step in post-procedure care is making sure the area remains clean. Clean the area where the skin tag was removed with soap and water two times a day unless your healthcare provider gives you different instructions. To prevent unnecessary scarring or infection, do not pick at any scabs that develop. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, as these can slow down the healing process.
If your healthcare provider has applied a bandage over the area, it’s generally recommended to leave it on for 24-48 hours, unless advised otherwise. You may be advised to gently cleanse the area with warm water and mild soap, but avoid scrubbing or applying harsh skincare products until the wound has fully healed.
Cover the wound with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a nonstick bandage. This keeps the wound moist, which can aid in healing and scar reduction. If clothing irritates a skin tag, consider wrapping it in a bandage. This can help prevent rubbing and potential bleeding.
2. Sun Protection
Sun protection is crucial during the healing process. The treated skin will be more sensitive and vulnerable to sun damage. As a result, avoid sun exposure for at least four weeks after the procedure. When you do go outside, apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to the affected area (and ideally to all exposed skin). Wearing protective clothing or seeking shade can also help protect the skin.
3. Infection Prevention
Keep an eye out for signs of infection in the treated area. These signs could include redness, swelling, pus discharge, or increased pain. Fever can also be a sign of systemic infection. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away.
4. Bandage Removal and Healing Time
The timeline for bandage removal and complete healing can vary depending on the method of skin tag removal used and individual healing rates. Generally, if a bandage was applied post-procedure, it is usually safe to remove it after 24-48 hours. However, when it comes to bandage care and removal, always follow your healthcare provider’s specific instructions.
As for the overall healing period, minor procedures like skin tag removal typically heal within one to two weeks. During this time, you should keep the area clean and sun-protected. If you notice any signs of infection or other complications, such as prolonged redness, swelling, pain, or discharge, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
Patience and Care for Optimal Healing After Skin Tag Removal
In conclusion, caring for yourself after a skin tag removal procedure is a crucial part of the healing process. It is important to remember that everyone’s body responds differently, and your personal health history can influence how quickly you heal. Patience is key during this time. Follow the guidelines provided by your healthcare provider, keep the area clean and protected, and be vigilant for any signs of complications.
Remember, good aftercare is not just about ensuring a smooth recovery, but also about maintaining the overall health of your skin. Your diligence in self-care post-procedure can lead to optimal healing results.