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Can You Safely Cut Skin Tags Off?

Introduction

Skin tags are small, benign growths that hang off the skin and that have an appearance similar to that of a wart. They are a common issue that affects both men and women. Skin tags usually appear around the neck, armpit, groin or breast, but they can also grow on other areas of the body such as the folds of the buttocks and the eyelids.  Skin tags are safe, but they can sometimes be painful if they are located in an area that means they get caught on clothing or jewelry. Some people feel that they are unsightly, and prefer to have them removed.

Can you cut a skin tag off yourself?

There are several ways that you could remove a skin tag, and one option for removing skin tags is indeed to cut them off. Before you run out to get a pair of scissor to do this, you should make sure that the skin issue you have is indeed a skin tag. Cutting off a mole or a wart, for eaxmple is not a good idea. And, as you will find out, it might also not be the best idea to try to cut a skin tag off!

If you wish to remove a skin tag, then you will need some appropriate cutting tools (such as an acute pair of scissors), as well as some ice to help numb the skin, antibacterial soap to wash your hands and the skin around the tag that you want to remove, wipes to sterilize the cutting tools and rubbing alcohol for additional sterilization. You should also have antiseptic cream, ​gauze pads and bandages to clean and protect the area after you remove the skin tag.

Removing a Skin Tag

To remove a skin tag, start by sterilizing your hands, the skin tag and the surrounding area and every bit of equipment that you will use. Make sure that you have everything you need on hand so you don't have to run around looking for things or leave the 'sterile area' after you have cut into your skin.

Numb the area around the skin tag with ice, then stretch it away from the surrounding skin. You should see an area where the skin 'dips', where the stalk of the skin tag is. Cut quickly and smoothly through the stalk in one motion. Do not 'saw' at the skin. As soon as you cut the skin tag away, put pressure on the broken skin with a cotton ball or some medical gauze. Hold ​this in place for a couple of minutes, until the bleeding stops. Once you are sure that the wound has clotted, remove the cotton ball and apply some antiseptic cream to the wound, then cover it with a bandage.

Change the bandage daily if the wound is in a place where you tend to sweat. You should find that after 2-3 days bandages are no longer necessary, and the skin has healed without the tag growing back. Congratulations, you are skin-tag free!

Scalpel to cut skin tags off yourself

What do you need to cut one off?

If you are going to use scissors to remove a skin tag, they must be acute ones, so that you can precisely line up the cutting area and get as close to the healthy skin as possible without damaging it. You could use a scalpel instead if the skin tag is the right size and shape to allow you (or the person 'operating' on you) to get a clean cut.  Whatever you decide to use it is important that it is sharp and sterile. Do not use standard household scissors or a simple knife, because this will greatly increase the risk of infection.

Is it safe?

Cutting off a skin tag is safe if it is done properly and with sterile equipment. After making the cut, it is important that the open wound is kept clean until it is fully healed. Be aware though about the 'done properly' part. Most likely, you are not a surgeon and as such having the experience to know how and where to cut can easily be beyond your capabilities. You might consider alternative ways to get rid of your skin tags that are less invasive and safer to use at home!

What Could Go Wrong?

One common mistake that people make is that they assume they have a skin tag when they actually have a wart or a mole. Cutting these off is usually not helpful, because they will ​often grow back or even spread.

In addition, if you attempt to remove something that you think is a skin tag but that is actually ​more serious such as melanoma, then you could accidentally delay the diagnosis. Skin cancer is a serious condition that has a much better prognosis if it is caught early and treated aggressively.

If your condition goes undiagnosed because you mistakenly tried cutting away at that area of your skin instead of going to a doctor to get a biopsy done then the cancer could spread and put your health - and your life - at risk.

There is always the risk of scarring if the cutting implement that you use is not sharp, or if you cut too deeply into the skin or damage a large area of the surrounding skin. Another potential risk is that the skin could become infected. Some infections are minor and would clear up quickly, but there are some incredibly dangerous infections such as MRSA which are resistant to common antibiotic treatments and which can be fatal.

Preventing Infections

To prevent infection, use a sharp pair of scissors that are brand new and designed for surgical use, or a surgical scalpel. Sterilize the implement before you start work, and make sure that you sanitize your hands and the area around the skin tag.

It is a good idea to wash your skin, thoroughly dry it, and then use rubbing alcohol and let the skin air dry.  Cover the wound as soon as you have cut the skin tag, and keep it clean and covered until it is fully healed.

Do not pick at, poke or prod the wounded skin. Usually, the area of broken skin created by a skin tag is small so it will heal within a matter of days if kept clean, dry and undisturbed. If the tag is in an area where it will be rubbed on or chafed this may slow down the healing process and it becomes even more important to keep the area clean and to let it air out when possible.

Will there be scars?

If you are removing a very small skin tag, then the removal process should not leave a scar. With bigger skin tags, there could be some risk of scarring, however. You can reduce the risk of scarring by making sure that you use a sharp and sterile implement, and that you do not cut into healthy skin - just remove the tag itself.

The risk of scarring is greater for someone who attempts to remove a skin tag at home, compared to someone having a doctor perform the same procedure. While you may think that the procedure is simple since it looks like nothing when a doctor does it, the truth is that doctors use specialist equipment in a sterile environment and they have had training in how to do the procedure well. The average person attempting to do the procedure on themselves will most likely be less precise, and will be exposing themselves to a greater risk of both scarring and infection.

For this reason, many people are willing to take the risk of cutting away skin tags that are on concealed parts of their bodies. However, if the tag is somewhere delicate such as on the eyelid or the neck, then it is far less advisable to try to cut it away at home. Delicate, sensitive or visible areas of skin are best left un-cut, unless it is a professional performing the procedure.

Is it a good method?

Cutting off a skin tag yourself might seem like a good idea - and it can sometimes be practical, but it is risky and there are better ways. If you are concerned about infection, worried about scarring or not confident in your ability to do it safely then you could pay to have the procedure done by a qualified doctor or surgeon privately.

Another option is to use over the counter skin tag removal ​remedies. These ​treatments will kill off the skin tag gradually and do so in a safer way than just 'cutting the tag off' since they do not break the skin or cause bleeding.  If you opt to remove your skin tag in this way then you will need to take care not to apply the treatment to any area of healthy skin.  

Be sure to read the documentation of any treatment that you are considering using. Do not apply chemical peels to areas near a mucous membrane, for example. Just like surgical procedures, there is always some risk with applying chemicals. If you were to get the chemical in your eyes, then it could be incredibly harmful.

Skin tags are harmless, and you do not have to remove them if they are not irritating you or if they are somewhere on your body where they will rarely be seen. If you do want to remove them, then know that you have several options. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your skin.

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