What Are Vaginal Skin Tags

Get our weekly health related email

Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to us via this website may be placed by us on servers located in countries outside of the EU. If you do not agree to these placements, please do not provide the information.

Best Milk Alternative

Do you have small, soft, painless bumps/ flaps of skin around your private areas causing you some concern? Have you been worrying about what exactly these growths may be but lacking the correct information? 

It might just be that these small growths may be known as vaginal skin tags, and they affect women more commonly than you think! Despite this, numerous myths and false perceptions about these harmless growths persist. 

This article is packed with science-backed facts about vaginal skin tags so you can understand, identify, and manage them properly and address any fears you may have! You will gain the knowledge needed to address those annoying tags and confidently improve your vulvar health.

Introduction

Definition of vaginal skin tags

Vaginal skin tags are small, soft, skin-coloured, non-cancerous growths that hang off the skin of the vagina or vulva (the external female genitalia). They are also sometimes referred to as acrochordons or fibroepithelial polyps. Skin tags are not only located on the vulva but can form anywhere on the body. They are particularly common in areas prone to friction and moisture, like the neck, underarms, under the breasts, and groin region,2 and are more common in these areas than around the vagina.3 When found on the vagina or around the vulva, they are termed vaginal or vulvar skin tags.

Prevalence and common misconceptions

Skin tags are extremely common, with sources estimating that one out of every two adults will have a skin tag in their lifetime.1,4 Despite how frequently they occur, myths and misunderstandings persist about what causes vaginal tags and whether they are harmful. Some women may even feel embarrassed or anxious about vaginal skin tags due to cultural stigmas or fears they are sexually transmitted or cancerous. Some women also experience fear and anxiety because they are unable to tell them apart from more harmful growths, such as genital warts or cancerous lesions.3 However, the current medical consensus is that vaginal tags are benign, meaning that they pose no health risk and do not warrant removal unless they are causing symptoms.2 The good news is that most women can manage any discomfort from vaginal skin tags at home through simple steps like observation, maintaining good hygiene, and making lifestyle adjustments to prevent irritation in the genital region.

Characteristics of vaginal skin tags

Size, shape, and colour

Vaginal skin tags are typically relatively small, ranging from 2 to 5 mm.2 They can occasionally grow larger, but most remain within this range.3 Skin tags are often pedunculated, meaning they are attached to the skin by a small stalk. Conversely, they may be broad-based, connecting more diffusely without a definite stalk.4 They may be skin-coloured, brown or even reddish in some cases.4 The colour may vary between individuals and may depend on different factors such as ethnicity and skin colour.

Location on the vaginal area

Vaginal/vulval skin tags frequently develop on the labia minora (inner vaginal lips) and labia majora (outer lips), as these folds are prone to rubbing and friction.2 Their location tends to be areas exposed to the most repetitive irritation during daily activities, as friction and rubbing can be risks for them occurring. 

Texture and appearance

The surface of vaginal skin tags can appear smooth or slightly irregular or furrowed.3,4 Upon examination, they have a smooth, fleshy feel very similar to normal vulvar tissue.3

Vaginal skin tags are commonly confused with and compared to genital warts, which generally have telling characteristics such as; a rougher surface and cauliflower-like appearance, flat-lying on the skin, growing in clusters, and may cause itching, irritation, burning sensations or bleeding.3

Causes and risk factors

Vaginal skin tags are not caused by a specific virus or condition, but certain factors have been seen to increase risk:

Friction and Irritation

Friction could arise from common daily activities such as clothing, exercise, or even sexual activity. These activities, among others, likely precipitate many cases of skin tags around the vulva that protrude outward.2 The constant rubbing and pressure on this area of thin, sensitive skin may trigger some women's bodies to generate these skin overgrowths.

Obesity

Obese women tend to have a higher risk.2,6 possibly through more perspiration and folds in the fat on the abdomen, which may increase friction around the vulva, promoting skin tags.2 People living with Type 2 diabetes also are at a higher risk as it is also linked with obesity.5 Managing a healthy weight may help reduce skin tag occurrence.

Hormonal changes

Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, menstruation, menopause and other hormonal/endocrine conditions may influence vaginal tag growth.1,3

Genetics

Vaginal skin tags tend to run in families and appear more common in those with a family history.3

Diagnosis

Self-examination

Women can frequently identify skin tags around their vulva through visual inspection and feeling the distinct soft, pedunculated bumps.3 Palpating the vaginal area regularly allows women to become aware of any new growth or changes. However, because not all vaginal bumps are as harmless as skin tags, medical evaluation is advised.

Medical evaluation

Clinical examination in an office setting represents the gold standard for assessing vaginal skin tags, where doctors can visually inspect the genitals and use touch to confirm the typical tactile qualities of tags.3 The medical workup also includes tests that allow the exclusion of other similar vulvar conditions.3

Differential diagnosis

While vaginal skin tags have a distinct appearance, doctors can recognise conditions with overlapping features that should be ruled out through examination and diagnostic testing may include:1,4

  • Genital warts - Caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) and have a rougher surface.
  • Seborrheic keratosis - Benign wart-like vulvar growths, which are more common in older women.
  • Skin cancer - Vulvar melanoma, though very rare, can mimic some features.
  • Condylomas - Larger, warty genital growths related to HPV
  • Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia - Abnormal precancerous lesions requiring treatment.

Are vaginal skin tags harmful?

Pain or discomfort

If located in areas prone to friction during sex or exercise, larger vaginal skin tags may tug or get rubbed, causing mild discomfort, however smaller tags typically do not cause pain [2][3].

Impact on sexual activity

The aesthetic of the female genitalia is becoming increasingly important to women,7 and some women may find the bigger skin tags in the vaginal area visually unappealing or embarrassing, negatively affecting their sexuality and self-image. Reassurance and the use of alternate sexual positions can help overcome these obstacles.

Possible complications

Major complications from vaginal skin tags are very rare since they are benign growths. However, they may twist on their pedicles and may become inflamed.7 If there is a sudden onset of pain, bleeding, or pus, prompt medical assessment is required.3,8

Treatment options

Surgical removal

If causing significant symptoms, vulvar skin tags can be safely removed by a doctor through [1][2][3]:

  1. Cryotherapy - Freezing tags with liquid nitrogen, causing them to wither away and slough off.
  2. Electrocautery - Using heat from electrical current to destroy tags.
  3. Excision - Surgically cutting off tags with sterile scissors, with local anaesthesia applied.

These methods all carry a low risk of infection, scarring, or recurrence; however, removing asymptomatic tags is not medically necessary.

Home remedies and natural treatments

Evidence for home remedies and natural methods of treatment remains limited; however, some women apply tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, or other natural agents to attempt to eliminate vaginal tags without surgery. Tag removal creams claiming efficacy also lack scientific backing regarding safety and results. Such products are generally not recommended. 

Being mindful of friction during activities such as shaving and inserting tampons could help. It is NOT advisable to remove skin tags on your own.2

Watchful waiting

Since most vaginal skin tags are harmless, many doctors recommend just periodically monitoring them and using conservative comfort measures.3 Avoiding friction through loose clothing and vulvar hygiene can help prevent irritation or increase in size.4 Leaving asymptomatic tags alone remains the most sensible and safe approach for many women.

Prevention

While not always possible to prevent the formation of vaginal skin tags entirely, beneficial, proactive measures include; 

  • Losing excess weight. 
  • Committing to regular exercise.
  • Adopting good vulvar hygiene practices such as;
    • Wearing breathable cotton underwear 
    • Avoiding prolonged moisture buildup

These changes may stop some friction-induced skin tags and help minimise irritation that may cause tags to occur.

When to seek medical attention

Most vaginal skin tags are safe to observe and self-manage with little worry. However, consult a doctor promptly if:3

Signs of infection

If tags become increasingly painful, swollen, itching, foul-smelling, or ooze pus, this may suggest infection. Antibiotic treatment or other treatment may be needed following consultation with a medical professional.

Rapid growth or changes

If a tag rapidly enlarges, changes colour, bleeds excessively or has an abnormal appearance, this could indicate a more serious condition requiring assessment.

Persistent discomfort

If discomfort from skin tags remains significant and interferes with sexual function or quality of life. Surgical removal may be warranted.

Summary

Recap of key points

In summary, vulvar skin tags are extremely common, benign growths that do not inherently endanger health. Though they can be frustrating if causing symptoms, they generally respond well to conservative, non-surgical management. 

Being informed about vaginal skin tags allows women to address them confidently and without shame or fear. 

While educational resources can help to understand vaginal skin tags, those with ongoing concerns or changes warranting evaluation should always consult their professional healthcare provider. Combining knowledge with professional guidance empowers women to make the best decisions about their vulvar health.

References

  1. Acrochordon: practice essentials, pathophysiology, etiology. 2022 Oct 26 [cited 2023 Sep 20]; Available from: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1060373-overview?icd=login_success_email_match_norm#a6
  2. nhs.uk [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 Sep 20]. Skin tags. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/skin-tags/
  3. Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 20]. Vaginal skin tags: causes, diagnosis & treatment. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/24330-vaginal-skin-tag
  4. Pandey A, Sonthalia S. Skin tags. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 Sep 20]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547724/
  5. Grant B, Sandelson M, Agyemang-Prempeh B, Zalin A. Managing obesity in people with type 2 diabetes. Clinical Medicine [Internet]. 2021 Jul 1 [cited 2023 Sep 20];21(4):e327–e231. Available from: https://www.rcpjournals.org/content/clinmedicine/21/4/e327
  6. Boza JC, Trindade EN, Peruzzo J, Sachett L, Rech L, Cestari TF. Skin manifestations of obesity: a comparative study: Skin manifestations of obesity. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology [Internet]. 2012 Oct [cited 2023 Sep 20];26(10):1220–3. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-3083.2011.04265.x
  7. Karcher C, Sadick N. Vaginal rejuvenation using energy-based devices. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology [Internet]. 2016 Sep 1 [cited 2023 Sep 20];2(3):85–8. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352647516300107
  8. Skin tags - american osteopathic college of dermatology(Aocd) [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 20]. Available from: https://www.aocd.org/page/SkinTags

Get our weekly health related email

Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to us via this website may be placed by us on servers located in countries outside of the EU. If you do not agree to these placements, please do not provide the information.

Best Milk Alternative
[optin-monster-inline slug="yw0fgpzdy6fjeb0bbekx"]
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Babasola Olaoluwa David

MBBS Babcock, University, Nigeria
MPH, University Of York, UK

David is a seasoned and compassionate medical professional with several years of experience providing exemplary patient care. While earning his medical degree in Nigeria, he honed his skills
during internships in India. As a licensed physician in Nigeria, David has worked in leading hospitals and clinics in the country. In his pursuit for further knowledge, he gained a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of York.

David is passionate about using his medical knowledge to equip people with the ability to boost the quality of their lives by taking control of their health.

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Email:
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818