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Skin tag on eyelid: Causes and treatment

You may be tempted to remove a skin tag yourself, but it’s best to see your healthcare provider who can safely diagnose and remove it

Skin tags, also called acrochordons, are harmless growths that can occur anywhere on your body but tend to develop in more friction-heavy areas like the armpit, the neck along the seat belt line where clothes and jewelry touch, under the breasts, in the groin, or on the face—specifically, the eyelid. They vary in size from barely noticeable to large skin tags that are more obvious to the naked eye. They are sometimes the exact color of your skin, making them harder to discern, or they can be darker or pink. When irritated, they can be red. Many are fully attached to the skin, while others can hang off by a stalk. While skin tags can occur due to friction, some people are more susceptible to them, and they do not go away on their own. Many people want to remove these growths either because of irritation or for cosmetic reasons, and the best way to do that is to see a primary care doctor or dermatologist. 

What causes skin tags on eyelids?

Why some people get many skin tags while others get none is a bit of a mystery. “No one really knows what causes skin tags, but they tend to grow in areas of friction,” says Annie Truss, MD, a clinical instructor at the Department of Family Medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and RWJ Barnabas Health Medical Group. About half of adults have at least one skin tag, and you tend to get more as you age. Males and females get them at equal rates and amounts, according to studies, but women are more likely to get them at times when hormones are fluctuating. 

Factors that contribute to why someone might be more susceptible to skin tags include:

How to remove a skin tag on eyelids

In general, the development of skin tags occurs over time. Once you have a skin tag, it’s there to stay until you have it removed. “Skin tags do not go away on their own. Sometimes, if a skin tag gets twisted around its stalk, it may die and fall off the skin,” says Brendan Camp, MD, a New York-based dermatologist. Other than that, they stay put once they grow. 

The good news is that skin tags aren’t harmful. “Because skin tags are benign, meaning not cancerous, they do not need to be removed. However, some people find them bothersome and may wish to have them removed, particularly if they impair their vision,” Dr. Truss says. Thus, people with eyelid skin tags are more likely to want to get them taken off. People may also want to remove skin tags if they find them irritating against their skin folds or clothes or if they find them unsightly. If a skin tag partially hangs off the stalk, it may be painful if it gets caught on clothes or jewelry. On the eyelid, it may be more noticeable when blinking. 

Methods for removing skin tags on the eyelid include:

  • Cryotherapy: Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the skin tag, often using a tweezer-like instrument for precise care around the eye. After a few days, the skin tag will fall off on its own due to the extreme cold. 
  • Electrodesiccation: A needle is used to destroy the skin tag with an electric current that creates a scab that heals after a few weeks. This method may not be comfortable for skin tags in the eye area. 
  • Snipping: This involves numbing the area with local anesthetic and then cutting off the skin tag with medical scissors or a scalpel. 

After a skin tag removal procedure, plan on a few after-effects, most of which will be mild. “Skin tag removal is generally a very well-tolerated procedure,” Dr. Camp says. That said, you will feel some pain. Dr. Truss says, “There is minimal pain following skin tag removal. Some people may experience soreness or pain once the freezing wears off.” Always ask your healthcare provider for advice regarding your specific healthcare needs before taking pain medication. As you recuperate, Dr. Camp says, “Patients may experience localized redness, swelling, or pain for a day or two after the treatment. Symptoms can be treated with an ice compress or over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication like acetaminophen.” 

Can you remove a skin tag yourself?

If they’re not feeling discomfort, many people leave their skin tags where they are and learn to live with them, but others may try to remove them themselves as a cosmetic treatment or because of irritation. While you may be tempted to consider ways to remove skin tags at home, Dr. Truss and Dr. Camp don’t recommend them. “These typically require multiple treatments and have a higher risk of infection and irritation.” It is much harder to treat an infected skin tag than one properly handled by a doctor. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve any OTC skin tag treatments. You may see some products marketed as “FDA-cleared,” but that doesn’t mean the FDA has approved it yet for the intended use or rigorously tested it for safety. “OTC skin tag treatments can cause skin injury, leaving scars or causing infections,” Dr. Camp says. It’s better to trust a healthcare provider with skin tag removal than to risk uncomfortable injury, harmful infections, or permanent damage. 

Regarding the eyelid especially, Dr. Truss says, “Since the eyelid is particularly delicate, it is best handled by an experienced physician.” It’s also a good idea to see a board-certified physician to make sure it is, in fact, a skin tag and not another type of growth, such as a wart, mole, or skin cancer, which can sometimes present as raised skin without a clearly defined border. Your healthcare provider can help make sure you receive the most accurate diagnosis and appropriate medical treatment or information about your skin conditions. 

Bottom line

In most cases, skin tags are harmless unless they become irritated or bothersome. If you’re having redness or pain, seek medical attention. It’s best to have a doctor remove your skin tags instead of removing them yourself. Recovery after skin tag removal is usually fast and minimally painful.