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Skin Tags and Cysts: When You Should Worry

They’re usually harmless, but may need treatment

You may be wondering about that little outgrowth of skin that popped up on your otherwise smooth skin surface. Most of the time, a skin tag or cyst is nothing more than unsightly, and usually not painful or bothersome.

But sometimes, there might be more to these common skin flaws, and it’s important to know when to have a doctor take a look.

“If it’s truly a skin tag or a cyst, then it’s of no concern,” says dermatologist Pamela Ng, MD. “But if it’s bleeding or painful, that’s a reason to come in.”

Common skin tags

A skin tag is a narrow stalk of skin that bulges at the end. They are benign flesh-colored growths that usually develop in areas of the skin that rub together, such as the neck, armpit, and groin.

Although less common in children, they can occur in any age group and any race.

“They don’t discriminate — they affect people of all ages and body types and can occur anywhere, including the face,” says Dr. Ng.

Most of the time, skin tags are just unsightly or annoying but not a health issue. “However, when skin tags are twisted, irritated, or bleeding, this might be a good reason to seek medical attention,” Dr. Ng says.

Skin cysts

Skin cysts — called epidermoid cysts — are small sacs under the skin that fill with keratin and can develop anywhere. They typically appear as flesh-colored nodules underneath the skin. They can occur in various parts of the body, including the scalp. 

“If someone suddenly develops a new growth underneath the skin, I recommend getting this checked out by a doctor,” Dr. Ng says.

Chances are, it may be a benign cyst but there are various tumors and even malignant ones that can occur as lumps underneath the skin. 

Dr. Ng says it is best to have it evaluated by a physician if you are not sure what it is. Dr. Ng usually only treats skin tags and cysts if they are painful, bleeding or bothersome to a patient.

Treating skin tags

To treat skin tags, Dr. Ng prefers to numb the area and snip off the tag. “I like the method of snipping best because it’s clean and the skin tags are gone by the time the patient leaves,” she says. 

Another possible treatment is freezing, which will cause the tag to fall off after about 10-14 days, she says. However, freezing can cause greater inflammation to the surrounding skin.

A third option is to perform electrodessication, which is a surgical method of drying out tissue by touching it with a needle-like electrode that passes electric current into the tissue.

One thing to keep in mind, Dr. Ng says, is that skin tag removal is considered “cosmetic” by most insurance companies and usually is not covered.

Treating cysts

These are benign and often times, no treatment is necessary. But if a cyst becomes inflamed, infected, or painful, these are good reasons to see your doctor.

Cysts can be injected with steroids, which are sometimes mixed with an antibiotic.  “I prefer this because it can decrease the swelling and pain without creating a scar or wound.” Dr. Ng says.

Sometimes, cysts have to be opened up and drained. This will leave a scar and the cyst can come back. Finally, cysts can be excised but the patient will be trading a bump for a scar as well. 

Don’t try this at home

It can be tempting to try squeezing a cyst or slicing off a skin tag. Over-the-counter compounds claim to remove skin tags, and YouTube videos claim to demonstrate methods to treat both at home.

But Dr. Ng warns against such do-it-yourself treatment of these skin conditions, which can cause bleeding and infection.

“Trying to take care of it on your own means you’re self-diagnosing,” she says. “You might be treating something inappropriate, like a skin cancer or a mole. Let a doctor diagnose it before you try anything at home,” she adds.

Tags: cysts, dermatologist, dermatology, skin care, skin tags, warts
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  • reedjrod

    LEMON JUICE……..Applied daily, a couple times!!! works great! Even removes warts!!!

  • Anonymous

    Tie a piece of thread or unused dental floss ard the skin tag tightly. It will cut off the blood supply and in a day it will fall off.

    • Kris Vandenheuvel

      I’ve done that. It works.

    • female avatar would fit

      Thanks for your info. What a great idea. I wouldn’t have thought of that.

  • huera

    Im goin to try these two home remedies…i found something to be very effective salycic acid ..but it burns

    • Pamala Vela

      Use peroxide or betadine instead. Lemon juice does not work BTW.

  • REGINA

    Put a small piece of silver colored duct tape over the lesion. Make sure it sticks tightly. In a week or so, remove the tape. The lesion ought to be gone, stuck to the tape. If there is some skin tag left, just scrape it with your fingernail. If there is still some left, repeat the process. This works better for me than any other treatment.

  • johnBoneage

    -Speaking of skin tags and cysts… When is Congress supposed to be coming back from their 4th 10-day vacation since the end of December to actually pass more than one piece of legislation this year?

    Anybody know?

    • hfp

      If people vote to oust the Dems in Nov maybe this country will have a chance to dump Obama’s followers and get back on the right path.

      • RED

        one can only dream, but hey, spreading the word falls on some def ears , dont it? sad but true! ok, didnt mean to rain on your parade, lets stay country strong!!!

      • David Sabie

        So you think the right path is war and losing the middle class and rising cost, and poverty, lies, cheating, fraud, etc. republicans are self serving . Don’t care about the country. They re the ones that spent 14.7 trillion dollars figting wars we had no business starting. When are they going to go t work? Try not doing yor job and see how long you get paid for it. Vote out all fraud on both sides and quit trying to persecute the president for trying to do his job with out a congress.

        • Michael Funk

          Obama is actually a scourge on this country. He’s not a citizen and therefore hiding it Is a Socialist Marxist believer. Democrats have turned into communist and socialist. Scandals Why did the Democrats go in and takeover the Bureau of Vital Statistics. I actually hope both parties lose and the Libertarians win. My vote is always with a best man and it was not with Obama.

          • female avatar would fit

            He’s like a painful hemorrhoid that irritating most of the time. Just my opinion. We have Soviet jet fighters invading our air space, Canadian air space and the air space of other countries, probably due to Putin having a hissy-fit over Obama meeting with the Ukraine president. Then, shortly after Obama left the White House with both daughters, on the helicopter, a man broke into the White House and was swiftly apprehended.

          • Amensan

            Not a citizen? And this is based on what? He provided a copy of his birth certificate six years ago. He was born in Hawaii.
            Listen, I didn’t vote for him but the issue of his citizenship has been laid to rest. Enough already. Whenever I hear someone bring that up it’s obviously code for one thing.
            President Obama, and he is the President, is simply guilty of being a black president in America. The bigots in this country will never forgive him for being half-black AND President of The United States…period. He ran for office and won, twice. You people create more conspiracy theories than some nut out in the desert convinced he’s spotted a spaceship from his RV while he was listening to AM talk radio. You know, one of your friends, Funk.

          • mystuff42462

            Just one question? Can you explain why this president is referred to as black? Yes i could have sworn his mother was WHITE, thus how is he black? Never understood that. He is “milado” our first milado president, not black. Each teacher in our public school teach our childten of all races is deleting the WHITE race from the equation. A sad fact in America, the white race since his first second of the “Oboma” won announcement the white race has been quickly being deleted as a race. Equality is no longer. Oh and that birth certificate, could be a fake who would ever know same as his claming to be black yet having a white mother!! He is NOT our first black president!

        • lifematters

          Umm, wars, losing the middle class, rising costs, growing poverty and wealth gap, lies, cheating, lawlessness and fraud are what we have now under six years of a democrat president and senate.

          In 2.5 years, Reagan cured Carter’s disastrous economy (not unlike this one) with a democrat obstructionist congress in power. Six years of Obama with a democrat Senate has only made things worse.

          You liberals never take responsibility for your actions. Blame others is your motto.

        • Big How

          That’s what is wrong with this presidency. The President is not suppose to “do his job with out a congress”. Please read The Constitution. It explicitly says congress makes the laws and the President must follow them. Not the other way around. Send Obama back on vacation. He needs a break from all his unconstitutional acts.

        • Al Scarbrough

          Aaaaaaahhhhh, yes, the chanted mantra of Owe-bama’s mindless drones. Owe-bama told us all that he would cut the deficit and national debt by at least 50% by the end of his first term. He added to it and started even more wars. $10 trillion that he allocated is missing. Where did that money go? Nobody claims to know, especially Owe-bama himself. And no, I don’t watch Fox News Channel, which is another droning claim that the establishment loves to claim we of Owe-bama resisters constantly do. I get my news about the cancer in our nation’s capital from news sources all over the world and independent watchdog organizations and when you are seeing it reported by these entities all over the world, it tends to be true. Our own press doesn’t have the ‘nads to tell it like it is because Owe-bama is their hero and purveyor of the brand of lies and propaganda that they just love. Status quo is the foundation of what our cancerous and cystic press and government officials build on. They are getting their pockets and legacies lined with the hard-earned wages and souls of we citizens. This, too, shall pass. The cancerous and cystic growths within the confines of Capital Hill WILL be taken off and out and excised when it is time for we that won’t sit on our hands to clean up the mess. The American citizenry has done it before and we will do it once again. Freeze them out and let them drop off is the way it is always done, just as dermatologists and oncologists do it. Democrats AND Republicans will be the sloughed off dead weight and new, vibrant growth will be able to live and grow. No one up on the Hill is doing their job for us, so we will do it for them, just as we always have. That is the bottom line.

          • Amensan

            Too bad you can’t spell

          • Al Scarbrough

            HAHAHAHAHAHA!! Thank you so very much for proving my entire set of points here. I am indebted to you. Have a nice day. (Oh, and you might want to look in the mirror. OWE-BAMA looks in the mirror, you know. OWE-BAMA likes what he sees. Do you?)

      • Annie Benz

        Amen.

      • James

        “If people vote to oust the Dems in Nov maybe this country will have a chance to dump Obama’s followers and get back on the right path.” Well you’re half right…. It’s professional politicians that are responsible for the country’s decline. You do not make it to congress without being for sale. When your opinions, votes, words and actions are projections of corporate interest then they are more often than not, at odds with “middle class” America.

      • bezo

        Its bigger than politics its GOD VS DEVIL GOOD VS EVIL choose your side. But before you make that choice take a look at your family and friends first.

    • Ron Quandt

      Actually, speaking of Congress; They are more of a Cancer on society than a skin tag

      • Qwtaldy2

        They are definitely more lethal than any disease I know of. No one seems to know how to eliminate this Malignancy. It’s a parasite and self serving.

        • Karen

          Term limits

        • Luz

          I do. Plainly – STOP VOTING! If everyone stopped voting – and I mean EVERYONE – no one can win anything. NO VOTES, NO WIN!

        • freeme10

          More lethal than any disease? No, probably not. ALS is more lethal, so is colon cancer. I understand that you don’t like Congress, but your characterization is silly.

    • Cabinet lady

      Bahahahahaha That is hilarious

    • Vanessa

      Hahaha! That’s hysterical!

    • Lissa Dalton-Derlan

      Well, they could pass legislation if Harry Reid would stop blocking the bill to be voted on in the Senate. He needs to retire! He’s sitting on 300+ bills like an old crazy hen.

      • johnBoneage

        Yeah especially John Boehner… What is it 25 years now? He is the one holding everything up! Tax payer money wasted on both parties! I think voters should send a valuable message voting all incubants out of office! If you’re dem vote Republican and if you’re Republican vote Democrat… Send a message that says we the people aren’t going to take a do nothing Congress in the future! You sluff off at your job you lose it! What is it? 19 vacations so far this year?

        • Michael Funk

          That’s silly to vote like that, smart vote Libertarian. If we go back to the Constitution and live by the Constitution as our forefathers were so Brilliantly able to produce. Then we will have true freedom. Or is the IRS abolished and go to a national sales tax. The whole thing is get the government out of your personal lives. Don’t you see it thats real America. That’s how America grew not this big business government that the Democrats and Republicans have

          • johnBoneage

            Actually if that is true that wouldn’t be half bad at all… I’ll look into it. Thanks.

          • Amensan

            I suppose that would include bringing back slavery and taking away a woman’s right to vote to begin with?
            How many states would you eliminate? And just how far back would you roll back the protections on the elderly, healthcare, disabled, civil rights, and child labor laws to name a few? These hard-fought battles resulted in freedoms for millions which you now suggest we abandon. At what cost? And for whom? Did it ever occur to you that it might adversely affect those you care about? Of course not.

    • pepe

      The longer they stay away the better. Government is inherently inefficient.

    • female avatar would fit

      Didn’t you know that Congress is the opposite of progress? Oh, to be paid so well and get so many perks, including all those vacations. Must be nice.

    • bezo

      Nope they don’t care that’s why we are in the place we are now.

  • http://www.london-dermatology-clinic.com/ Tyler Thonon

    Great information. Skin tags and cysts are generally very common skin disorder affecting many people around the world. Sometimes such skin disorders can be very painful and discomfort. A dermatologist can suggest you some effective skin tag and cysts removal treatments.

    • Denise Cater

      The dermatologists I’ve seen always say either it’s something they must treat, or it has to be left alone. I have yet to see one suggest any at-home treatment.

      • Dr. Phil

        Well of course. If you treat it at home they don’t make any money silly

        • Mongoose218

          THAT NONSENSE…….and ignorance…No one can tell by looking at any skin growth if it is cancerous or precancerous.

      • cccddd123

        My Kaiser-Permanente doctor told me to try the dental floss trick. She would not refer for removal unless I had more than 2 dozen.

      • Mongoose218

        Thats for a good reason…no one can tell by looking whether a skin growth is cancerous or precancerous…..not unless its removed by a doctor, preferably a dermatologist, and sent to a lab to be checked for cancer…….THAT is why they don’t want you removing them at home.

  • always works

    PABA will solve the skin tag problem-a B vit you may be deficient in

  • tina

    I recently found one on my husband but it’s not flesh color. It looks like a skin tag but darker. I suggested he see my dermatologist but he hasn’t yet. What do you think?

    • Big Love

      The article says they can be caused in areas where skin rubs together. Ask if he’s been rubbing with someone of a darker skin color

    • kaynekartrashian

      It’s cancer. Definitely cancer. Get him to a doctor immediately. I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV.

    • Denise Cater

      Tina, whenever I get one that’s dark, it is dying and about to fall off on its own. If your husband’s skin tag is still there, and dark, then have a doctor check it out. Better to be safe and make sure when it doesn’t look normal.

  • kitty

    u got to get out and vote, republican across the board, put the power back in the peoples hands.

  • Mike

    I have so many I was once sleeping on my couch and when I woke my grandchildren touching them and were giving them names.

    • Kathryn Kski

      OMG, that is toooooo funny!!!

    • Heather

      Okay, this is by far the funniest thing I’ve heard all day, maybe even all week. I’m sorry you have so many, but your story really cracked me up. Thanks for sharing!

    • Al Scarbrough

      LOL My sister and I used to give my grandmother’s skin features individual names. Holy-moley, Mrs. Bump-kin, Mr. Scar-brough, Granny Freckle-mus, Old Warts-her-name, Joan Pimpler-nickel, Franny Tag-let, Rip Van Wrinkle, and many other names. I am surprised I remember all of those. Ahhhhhh, good times.

  • Pamala Vela

    My husband has been getting skin tags for about 20 years. I take them off myself – the doctor showed me how. I take a sharp pair of surgical scissors, soak the area in betadine first and then snip it off. It never bleeds and he has never had an infection.

    • kaynekartrashian

      I did this with my ding d o n g. It worked great!

    • Estela

      Do you cover it afterwards and after you snip do you put alcohol on the area

  • anonymous

    Tag away does work. It takes time but it kills the lil bastards pretty effectively.

  • Ld

    Tumors of Merkel cell carcinoma, arare and deadly skin cancer, are often misdiagnosed as cysts. They are NOT painful. To be safe, get any cyst biopsies if possible.

    • Mongoose218

      They’re all too concerned with saving a little money to get them checked out by a physician (a dermatologist in this case)….the entire article said “don’t do this at home, needs to be diagnosed FIRST” and yet the first post is about how to remove these at home! Stupid people!

      • johnny sunshine

        Nothing in the American medical system can be described as a matter of ‘a little money.’

        • Mongoose218

          If you have health insurance, it SHOULD be “just a little money”…..

          • johnny sunshine

            If you have good health insurance. Which applies to fewer and fewer people nowadays. For many people who haven’t yet hit their annual deductible, it’s all on them.

          • Mongoose218

            OR if you have the ACA (Obamacare) as do my sister, her husband and their child….they work, both of them, full time for the same employer, who gives NO benefits, none……they had to make do with highly expensive private health insurance, which covers very little, or free or reduced pay clinics, up until Obamacare came out….they love it…..and they SHOULD KNOW!!!

          • johnny sunshine

            Yep, I benefit from it too. But that doesn’t mean I’m likely to hit my deductible this year, so a test like you mention would be all on me. A minimum of three times as costly, direct from my pocket, as it would be if I were in pretty much any other advanced nation with more cost-effective health care. Our doctors drive very nice cars, though.

          • Mongoose218

            actually, and I’m speaking as an RN with over 30 years experience in hospitals, the ONLY people getting rich on healthcare NOW are the insurance companies and the hospital corporations…..

  • Melissa Toye

    This thread is a riot! Especially the comments about the government.

    Funny story about a skin tag on my neck. My son (5) sings to me “Mom, I see your nipple!” Time to get that tag removed!

  • Anonynmous

    I had my tags looked at by a doc, so I know they are just cosmetic. I get a LOT of them. To the point it’s embarrassing to take off my shirt at the beach. My solution (to avoid paying out of pocket) is to sterilize a set of nail clippers, the ones that resemble a pair of pliers, and then pinch off the tags with the clipper. I found that bleeds less and more importantly hurts a lot less than cutting it with a scissor.

    • Mongoose218

      sorry, but unless that doctor is a dermatologist, and has ALSO seen the other skin tags you’ve developed since you last saw him, then you AREN’T sure they’re not cancerous or precancerous….its a HUGE risk to take to save a bit of money.

  • anonymous

    My 11 yr old daughter had a skin tag close to groin area. I was going to tie it off with thread but decided to take her to my dermatologist since I already had an appointment for me. He said it was just a harmless skin tag. He sent out the clipped off skin tag for analysis since this is the standard procedure. I was shocked to find out that it was precancerous! She had to go back for a wider extraction…

    • Mongoose218

      Thank God you took her to a dermatologist, and this story ought to wake up the idiots who are STILL posting about how to remove these things at home, on your own…..!!!

  • tammy g

    tie fishing line around the tag mole and have someone pull it, just like pulling a tooth , it comes right off

  • Michael Silveria

    The best way to remove a skin tag is silver. Most skin tags are cause by bacteria build up in the folds of the skin. I have affectively removed 3 skin tags by using silver. Best way this is done. Get you a sterling silver necklace and break a link off. Place the link on the tag. Then a bandaid over both. It could take several days but the tag will shrivel and fall off. Same will happen for warts and many other virus or bacterial cause skin lumps or growths. However cysts are not treatable. Cysts are usually fatty buildups under the skin. Silver is more of a topical type treatment.

    • FDP

      Skin tags are growths. They are not bacterial infections. Apples & oranges.

    • Mongoose218

      MANY are also precancerous or cancerous….no one but a lab can tell you if they are or aren’t…..anything removed by a doctor is automatically sent to a lab to be checked…..

  • bezo

    If we all LOVE then where’s the fight. The problem is that some of our own people are Devils and its hard to Love the Devil when he causes so much pain. Its hard to Love when you don’t know God. So some people are ready to fight for that love. They are tired of being held back and trampled on by the Devil. And vice versa the Devil knows his time is up because truth be told we all live on this planet together every breath counts. Man and beast. So the Devil is trying to get as many souls possible just like God is. So Love or Hate. I choose love for all mankind. And the Devil will have his place where he belongs. Peace and blessings to you all and may the Most High bless all of us through these trying times.

    • Al Scarbrough

      Yes, ALL of our bodily ailments are results of living in a fallen and sinful world. That is why we have to endure it and live to serve others and serve God. Without Him we have no hope. Skin tags, lesions, cancer, psoriasis, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, etc., etc., etc. are symptoms of the fall of mankind. Until we reach the Kingdom we are to suffer with all of this. So any of you that sit around saying, “Why would God let us suffer like this if He really exists?” THIS is the answer. Mankind fell into sin and depravity and it all has to take its course through the plan for mankind. It is as simple as that.

      Okay, all of you atheists and non-believers are free to call me all the names you like and skewer me verbally. You will say nothing I have not heard before. Have a nice day. : )

  • Kris

    My doctor told me to tie a thread tightly at the base of the skin tag. May take 2-5 days to fall off. But it works!

  • lotusgdess

    My HMO refuses to even deal with skin tags anymore. It is their policy. So THEN what do you do?