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How to Remove Skin Tags Yourself

You can try this at home, but some methods are safer than others, and a visit to the dermatologist may be best

spinner image woman in yellow shirt looking at her face in the mirror
MixMedia / Getty Images

Do-it-yourself isn’t only for home renovation projects. The internet abounds with tales of dermatology DIYers who claim they have the perfect remedy for removing skin tags.

Whether by apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, wart remover or a pair of scissors someone just pulled out of their junk drawer, most home skin tag removal methods have scant evidence to back them up. Some could damage your skin or leave you with permanent scars.

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To remove or not to remove?

spinner image close up of a skin tag or acrochondon
Tetiana Mandziuk / Getty Images

The first question is whether you should attempt to remove a skin tag at all. Shasa Hu, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, doesn’t advise it. Although skin tags aren’t cancer, your untrained eye might not be able to confirm that’s what you have. “You may be removing a precancerous or cancerous mole inadvertently, and you’re missing an opportunity to get the correct diagnosis and treatment,” she says. A skin tag doesn’t need to be removed at all unless it rubs against your clothing or gets caught on jewelry and bothers you. Even then, it’s much easier — and less painful — for your dermatologist to snip it off in the office. “If you do it at home and you don’t do it correctly, you end up having more headaches,” Hu says.  

But if you know for sure that you have a skin tag and not something else, and you’re intent on removing it yourself, there are right ways to do it — and wrong ways.

The wrong ways to remove skin tags yourself

Tea tree oil, castor oil, alcohol and apple cider vinegar are some of the home remedies people claim they’ve used to remove skin tags. There isn’t any evidence in the medical journals to suggest that these substances work, but they are irritating to the skin, which may be why some people have had luck with them.

“Sometimes that inflammation is enough to cause the skin tag to get so irritated that it then falls off,” says Susan Massick, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. If you’re looking for something that’s proven to consistently remove skin tags, “these products don’t work,” she adds.

Because vinegar and oils are irritating, instead of removing the skin tag, you could end up with a skin tag surrounded by inflamed skin.

Freeze-away wart remover is another product people have tried to remove skin tags. The theory is that the cold creates a blister around the skin tag that makes it fall off. The problem is that home wart products aren’t as cold as the liquid nitrogen your dermatologist uses to remove skin growths. “The skin gets irritated, but not irritated enough for the growth to fall off,” Hu says.

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The right ways to remove skin tags

One tried-and-true method for removing small skin tags at home is to tie a thin piece of string around its base, then wait a few days for it to die. “The idea is that you’re physically trying to cut off its blood supply, which then allows it to shrivel up and fall off,” Massick says. Dental floss works well because it’s the right thickness.

You could also snip off the skin tag at the bottom using a pair of scissors that have been sterilized by boiling them or wiping them off with rubbing alcohol. Of course, you won’t have the benefit of numbing cream like you would in your dermatologist’s office, so prepare for some pain.

If you opt to remove a skin tag this way, “do it at your own risk,” Hu says. She’s had patients come in after a failed removal attempt with an irritated, bleeding skin tag dangling from their body. “If they had seen me before that whole drama, it would have been easier to take care of,"” she says.

No matter which method you prefer, our experts advise that you always leave larger skin tags to a dermatologist, because they tend to bleed. And don’t try to remove anything on your face: It could leave a permanent scar.