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Skin Tags vs. Warts – What are the Differences?

Difference between Skin Tags and Warts

Skin tags and warts can often look somewhat similar. Discovering a new skin growth can at times be disturbing. The first thought is that it might be something serious while in most cases it’s rather benign in being a skin tag or a wart.

Both are very similar in appearance yet they have quite significant differences. Both cutaneous and genital warts can at times be confused with skin tags. While there are similarities, there are quite some differences when it comes to the causes and treatments for both skin tags and warts.

What are Skin Tags and what causes them?

Skin tags are benign, fleshy growth of skin. Scientifically the skin tags are referred to as acrochorda in case of multiple or acrochordon in case of a single skin tag.

They show up in a variety of shapes but typically they are narrow at the base so they dangle. In color they usually match your skin tone but sometimes they are slightly darker. They do not fulfill any specific function and by themselves they do not spread.

Affected Areas

They can appear in a variety of areas on the body:

  • Armpits
  • Neck
  • Groin
  • Eyelids​

All in all, they mostly show up in areas where the skin forms creases which then leads to friction. While they do not spread, you can at times see more than one skin tag form in the same area simply because the conditions for them to form are good in a somewhat larger area of your body.

Skin Tag
By The original uploader was Jkemp at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Technically, there is no treatment required for skin tags. Often though, these skin tags are in areas where they are moving around a lot which then can cause them to bleed. They usually don’t cause pain but they can get uncomfortable if they get irritated from being moved around a lot. In those cases they should be treated.

The other reason to treat skin tags and remove them is that they can be quite unsightly. Typically, they are easy to treat without any pain or any scars left behind.

What are Warts and what causes them?

Warts are bumpy growths on the skin that are caused by a virus. Several strands of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can cause different types of warts.

This also means that warts are contagious. That’s the immediate difference to skin tags! Warts can spread throughout the body and they can also be transmitted from person to person. Not the wart itself but the underlying virus which then can cause warts in the infected person.

Affected Areas

Warts can develop anywhere on the body. While skin tags are caused by the friction of the skin, warts do not need this kind of mechanism. They show up wherever the virus has a chance to form a wart. That can be all over the body including the genital areas!

Usually, they are flat and the base is not narrow. They do not dangle like skin tags. Most times they match the color of your skin.

Never pick on a wart

Warts can appear as a single wart or in clusters or clumps. They can even grow into shapes that resemble a cauliflower.

Warts do not need to be treated. They usually do not cause any pain except if they are in areas where they get irritated. They certainly are, like skin tags, unsightly and you might want to choose to get rid of them simply for that reason.

The most common treatments for warts are through the use of salicylic acid, cryotherapy, or through using natural remedies. To reduce the chances of the warts spreading, it is best to treat them as soon as possible!

Appearance of Skin Tags vs. Warts

Skin tags typically are small and skin-colored. Sometimes they can also take on a deep brown color. They hang from the skin surface which makes them prone to get irritated or to bleed. Their texture is soft and they are most times rather small. It is common that you can find multiple skin tags in the same area.

The appearance of warts depends very much on the type and location of the wart. Periungual or Subungual warts form underneath the nails while common warts appear as growth that are dome-shaped. They typically have a rough surface that sometimes has tiny black-colored spots. Plantar warts always appear on the soles of feet and typically look similar to common warts except that they usually have a smooth surface. Flat warts, as the name suggests, are very flat and do not raise much from the skin. They look a lot like small pimples. You will usually find more than one in an area.

All warts are firm and do not dangle from the skin. They only exception can be filiform warts that usually have a narrower base. Yet, that base is most times thicker than the one of a skin tag. Warts often match the skin color or are greyish or even brown in color.

Impact of Age

Age plays a role in who has skin tags vs. who has warts. Skin tags mostly develop in middle-aged and older adults. The older you get the higher the chances are that skin tags form.

Interesting enough there is a racial component to the development of skin tags. Caucasians are more prone to developing them than other races. But race is not the only factor. For many women skin tags develop the first time during pregnancy. Other groups of people that are at a higher risk of having them are overweight people and diabetics.

Warts are the opposite. They typically develop in children and young adults. This has to do with the body developing an immunity to many of the strands of HPV over the years. The body learns to fight the virus.

However, be aware that your body only learns to deal with the HPV strands it knows. If strands of the HPV are contracted that are new to the body, then warts can build at higher ages also. Those new strands can get into your body in public showers or if you for example have a weakened immune system.

Treatment Options

As already mentioned, skin tags are benign. There’s no risk that they develop into anything else than a skin tag. However, they can become irritated, start to bleed or get infected. Additionally, they can be unsightly if they are in visible places like the face.

For these reasons, people do often look into treating them. They can easily be treated in the privacy of your home with a good over-the-counter skin tag remover. Alternatively, your doctor can remove them by simply cutting or freezing them off.

Warts are typically also not of a health concern except that they can spread. For many people they go away over time by themselves. Mostly, people want to get rid of them so the risk of spreading is contained. Warts are certainly also not pretty to look at and that’s the other reason why you would want them gone.

They usually don’t hurt. The exception can be plantar warts as they are on the sole of your foot and thus can easily get irritated and start to hurt. Similarly to the skin tags, there are many over-the-counter treatments for warts available. The most effective ones contain salicylic acid to get rid of the wart.

Alternatively, there are also natural remedies to treat warts available. The most effective are Tea Tree Oil and Castor Oil as well as TCA. When dealing with genital warts you definitely want to consult your doctor on what treatment steps to take. It also is a good idea to do that for any kind of warts. That is also specifically true if the warts are in your face or close to any sensitive area.

If you choose to have your warts treated by your doctor, then expect a surgical removal of the wart or cryotherapy. These options might work faster but typically the cost of them is way higher than using OTC remedies or natural treatments.


Neither warts nor skin tags pose serious health risks of any kind. Mostly, the desire to remove them is cosmetically or because they are located in a place where they get irritated or bleed. Most over-the-counter options for both kinds are working but will need some time. The same is true for natural remedies.

If you treat skin tags or warts yourself and they do not go away or they change shape or form in a strange way, then immediately stop using your remedy. Latest then is it time to go your medical professional to have the situation evaluated.

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