A skin tag, also called an acrochordon, is a small outgrowth of skin that hangs from a thin stalk of flesh from the rest of the skin. Skin tags are very common: nearly half of all adults have some skin tags, although some people may have more skin tags than others do. The exact way in which skin tags form is not known, although there are a few factors which seem to encourage skin tag growth. Since only the conditions that make skin tags possible are known, it is difficult to say how precisely to prevent skin tags. For people who are especially susceptible to developing new skin tags, it is important to realize that skin tags often appear seemingly for no reason at all, despite attempts to prevent them. However, knowing what makes a person predisposed to developing skin tags can help you to take actions to minimize the appearance of new skin tags. More information about the causes of skin tags is in our article “Causes of Skin Tags.”
Keeping Underlying Medical Conditions in Check
Skin tags form most readily in areas where the skin is exposed to a lot of friction, most commonly in areas where skin rubs against skin. Areas where the skin folds together, such as the neck, the groin area or under the breasts tend to be where most skin tags form, although they can appear anywhere. Because skin tags form most readily in skin folds, overweight or obese people are more prone than thinner people to develop skin tags. This is probably because larger people have more folds of skin and thus more areas of skin that rub against each other. Some medical conditions also seem to accompany high numbers of skin tags on individuals.
Dormant viruses such as certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) and molluscum contagiosum seem to encourage the growth of skin tags. These viruses are sometimes responsible for outbreaks of skin lesions. HPV can sometimes develop into genital warts, although many people who have the virus do not experience genital warts. Molluscum contagiosum is a virus that is easily transmitted through skin to skin contact, and outbreaks commonly begin in locker rooms or other communal spaces. Whether or not a person carrying these viruses presents with symptoms, their presence in the body seems to encourage skin tag growth.
Other medical conditions that are associated with skin tags are disorders of organs in the endocrine system. People with insulin resistance may experience more skin tags, such as people with type 2 diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome. People with underactive thyroids experience a range of skin conditions, and they may have a greater predisposition to developing skin tags than people with typically-functioning thyroids.
Keeping any medical conditions you may have under control may help you to prevent skin tags from occurring. If you are diabetic or suspect you may have a pre-diabetic condition, keeping your insulin and glucose levels regulated or taking thyroid medications for underactive thyroid may prevent skin tags. In addition to potentially curbing the appearance of new skin tags, it is important to your overall health to keep chronic medical conditions under control.
Wearing Looser Clothing
Skin on skin friction is usually what leads to the appearance of new skin tags, but other kinds of friction can also cause skin tags to form. Tight or restrictive clothing creates a lot of friction against the skin as well. This may cause skin tags to form, particularly in the areas covered by undergarments. Many women wear ill-fitting bras; bras that are too tight create friction against the skin under the breasts and may create skin tags, particularly if the bra has an underwire. Underwires increase the pressure of the bra against the skin and encourage more friction. Taking care to reduce the friction that certain areas of your skin experience may help curb the appearance of new skin tags.
Wearing clothing that fits properly and that does not cling to your skin keeps the fabric from rubbing against your skin excessively. Avoiding certain rough fabrics may also help. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight may decrease the amount of skin that rubs together. When you keep the amount of friction your skin experiences to a minimum, you discourage the formation of new skin tags.
The ease with which you develop new skin tags is most often genetic, and therefore there is not much that can be done to prevent the formation of new skin tags. It is normal for adults to develop skin tags as they age. Although most children and adolescents do not have many skin tags, it is not abnormal for them to have skin tags, but is merely uncommon. People with high numbers of skin tags may wish to see a doctor, however, since a high number of skin tags may be indicative of a latent medical condition such as diabetes or some asymptomatic viral infections. Detecting medical conditions such as these before they become life threatening or – in the case of viral infections – before they can be transmitted to other people can give you a chance to treat them more effectively than you would be able to had you detected it later.
It is difficult to completely prevent skin tags from forming. Although you may wear clothing that fits you properly and monitor your health for hormonal changes or viral infection, you still may see new skin tags form. All that can be done to prevent skin tags is to change certain habits, such as wearing tight clothing or undergarments, or being proactive and maintaining your overall health. The fact that healthy people who do everything “right” develop skin tags is a testament to the fact that developing skin tags is completely normal. Most adults in their middle age have some skin tags. In addition to being common, skin tags are completely benign and do not have any cancerous implications. Skin tags can be easily removed during a routine visit to a doctor or at home. Consulting a physician or dermatologist before removing any skin tags is encouraged, since home skin tag removal, particularly methods involving cutting the skin tag, may result in infection.