How to Cope with the Annoying Skin Problem 1 in 4 People Have
This post originally appeared on Allure.
There are some skin maladies that are just universal—acne, flaking, shine, wrinkles. As skin-care fanatics, we dedicate ourselves to finding out what causes them and how to prevent them as best we can. But there as some skin oddities that don't get as much attention, even when they're just as common. Take, for example, skin tags. One in four people get them, but they're not talked about openly very often.
If you're one of the lucky 75 percent of people who don't get them, skin tags—known medically as acrochordons—are small, fleshy growths that typically appear along the neck, groin, or underarms. They can be dark, like moles, or the same color as your skin, and are typically smaller than a pencil eraser, though skin tags as large as golf balls have been recorded. Unlike warts, which are caused by a virus, skin tags occur naturally, but the reason for that is still a mystery.
"We don't totally understand why they develop, but there's definitely a genetic component," says Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "Obesity and diabetes are also associated, and we see tags commonly in these patients." Anecdotal evidence suggests that friction may be to blame for the small hanging growths, as they tend to crop up in spots where skin rubs against skin, but it's not yet clear why some people develop them and some don't.
The good news is that skin tags aren't anything to worry about—beyond cosmetic concerns, of course. Though the bumps can be uncomfortable, depending on their size (looking at you, golf-ball-size tags) and placement, they don't cause any harm, so leaving them alone is a safe bet. If the look of them bothers you, or if they're in a spot that causes you pain, a dermatologist can easily remove them either by carefully burning them off or by quickly snipping them with medical scissors. (This should go without saying, but please, absolutely do not attempt this on your own.) While some people try a variety of home remedies to remove them, Zeichner cautions that these DIY methods can cause bleeding, which can be tricky to control by yourself. So as usual with any type of medical procedure, leave it to the medical professionals. And no, no matter what your grandma told you, removing one won't make three more grow in its place.