Updated: Sep 3
It is not unusual to see people getting confused with moles and skin tags. Most often, people are pretty confused about how to identify the difference between the two. In this article, we will clearly mention the differences between moles and skin tags. We will look at each of their characteristics, causes, and treatments. Hopefully, this article will help you better identify the differences between the two!
Characteristics of Skin Tags
Skin tags are soft, little pieces of oddly shaped thick skin that hang from different parts of the body. These tags are painless and pose no risk to those experiencing them. Most often, they grow in the underarm, neck, and groin areas, but they can also appear on the back. Generally, areas of the body that receive a lot of friction develop skin tags. Fortunately, skin tags are benign so there are no medical concerns associated with it. But, these tags can be annoying and can also cause a concern on the physical appearance, which is why most people prefer to have them removed. One of the biggest problems with skin tags is that they can bleed if snagged and hurt because they have their own blood supply. In a nutshell, they irritate you.
Usually skin tags grow to around the size of a typical rice grain and can range in colour from flesh toned to brown.
Characteristics of Moles
Moles are usually smaller, let’s say they are less than a ¼ inch in diameter, with well-defined borders. All of us will have at least one mole on our body and some may have even more types of moles. Some of us are born with moles while other moles develop as we grow. Dermatologists believe that excessive sun exposure plays a vital role in mole development. Additionally, genetics and hormones too are major factors that influence what kind of moles you develop.
Moles can grow anywhere on the skin and can grow alone or in clusters. Most moles are harmless, but some types of moles may become cancerous. Therefore, it is imperative to get these moles examined. Consult a dermatologist immediately if you see your mole growing or changing in shape. Skin experts will perform certain tests to make sure that your moles are benign.
Causes of Skin Tags
Surprisingly skin tags are pretty common. Statistically speaking, around 25 percent of people will develop skin tags, usually after the age of 50. Skin tags are more common among people suffering from diabetes and people who are overweight, both of these conditions often go hand in hand.
Although the exact cause of skin tags is still unknown, but it may happen when clusters of collagen and blood vessels become trapped inside the thicker pieces of the skin.
The friction created by skin rubbing against the skin is often a common side effect of obesity, which causes skin tags in some people. Also, wearing tight clothes may contribute to skin tags in obese people.
In addition, some people may even inherit an increased susceptibility to skin tags. Furthermore, women during pregnancies may develop skin tags.
Causes of Moles
A few of the major factors that contribute to formation of moles are excessive exposure to the sun and genes that we inherit from our parents. When our skin is exposed to excessive sun, we may develop more moles even in those areas that are protected from the sun such as palms, soles, and genitals. Also, sometimes, the moles get darker with more sun exposure and also during puberty and pregnancy.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Melanin, a naturally occurring pigment providing skin colour, produces cells called melanocytes, cluster together for unfamiliar reasons and cause moles.
Treatments for Skin Tags
Not all types of treatments are suitable for removing skin tags. Your choice of treatment highly depends on where your skin tags are located. For instance, if the skin tag is on your eyelids, then you might want to consider a skin tag treatment for cosmetic reasons. Also, another legitimate reason to have a skin tag removed is if it is located in an area that gets a lot of friction.
Typically the following procedures may be used for removing a skin tag:
a. Cryosurgery: The skin tag is frozen off using a probe containing liquid nitrogen b. Cauterization: The skin tag is burned off using electrolysis c. Ligation: The blood supply to the skin tag is interrupted d. Excision: The skin tag is cut out with a scalpel
Of course, all these procedures should be done by a qualified dermatologist, or a skin doctor. But, if the skin tag is on the eyelids, then you may require the help of a specialized eye doctor or an ophthalmologist.
If you don’t wish to undergo these surgeries (albeit very simple surgeries), then you can look for over-the-counter solutions. These over-the-counter medicines are similar to those used for wart removal. Also, there are some home-based remedies that you can try for removing very small tags.
One word of advice: if your skin tags don’t bother you, it’s fine to ignore them!
Treatments for Moles
Please note that removal of most moles isn’t necessary. Only if your doctor finds your mole to be suspicious, that is after he takes a tissue sample of it and gets it tested to determine if it’s cancerous, then removal of moles becomes imperative.
The moles that you absolutely need to consider removing are ones that have changed. If you see any difference in a mole’s colour, size or shape, see a doctor immediately for a checkup.
For those moles that are benign:
Some of the effective (home-based) ways to remove moles are available on various websites. Remember these methods are not proven to work, so check with your doctor about these methods before trying them at home.
Some of these methods include:
a. Taping garlic to the mole in order to break it down from the inside b. Applying iodine to the mole in order to kill the cells from the inside c. Drying the mole with apple cider vinegar d. Cutting off the mole with scissors or a razor blad
In addition, a few other methods that claim to remove moles successfully are:
a. Banana peel b. Tea tree oil c. Flaxseed oil d. Aloe Vera e. Mixture of castor oil and baking soda
If you go to a pharmacy store, you will come across mole removal creams. Make sure that you follow the instructions mentioned on the packaging.
Additionally, if you are self-conscious about your mole, then you can use makeup to conceal it. And if hair is growing from a mole, you might want to pluck it or clip it close to the skin’s surface. Or you can also look for ways to permanently remove the hair and the mole.
For those moles that are malignant (cancerous):
When a mole is cancerous, a doctor will recommend a surgical procedure to remove it. Two of the most common procedures often advised by a doctor are:
a. Surgical excision:
In this particular method, your doctor will numb the area around the mole and cut out the mole and a surrounding area of the healthy skin using a scalpel or a sharp punch device. Then after, the wound will be closed with stitches.
b. Surgical shaves: In this procedure, your doctor will numb the area around the mole and use a small blade to cut around and beneath it. Very often this technique is used to remove smaller moles and doesn’t require stitches. Surgeries are only used in very extreme cases.
Got The Difference!
When we compare skin tags with moles, they surely have a different appearance, but despite this some people tend to confuse them. One of the most vital differences between the two is that, in rare cases, moles can become cancerous while skin tags don’t.
Generally, both skin tags and moles appear on various parts of the body, they are quite different and can be easily recognized as definitely being either moles or skin tags.
If you are unsure about whether you have moles or skin tags in a particular area of your body, consult your doctor or dermatologist who will be in a better position to give you a definite diagnosis, particularly if you wish to remove them. Your family doctor can recommend you to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders for treatment. Also, your time with your doctor will be limited, so it is better to list your questions from most important to least important. In addition to all the questions that you have prepared, ensure to also ask any other questions that you may get during your appointment. Never hesitate to ask about your queries.