When it comes to skin concerns, skin tags, and moles are two common features that often confuse. Both are usually harmless, but understanding their differences is important for skin health. Skin tags are so common that it’s estimated about half of all adults will develop at least one in their lifetime. On the other hand, moles can have a unique feature called a “beauty mark” or “beauty spot.” Throughout history, these marks have often been considered a sign of charm and attractiveness. However, some people may feel it is a confidence dampener and opt for getting it removed.

What are Moles?

Moles are common skin growths that appear when pigment-producing cells, called melanocytes, cluster together. These growths can show up anywhere on the skin, either by themselves or in groups. Typically, moles are brown or black, but they can also be blue, red, or the same color as your skin. They come in different sizes and can be flat or raised, smooth or rough, and sometimes even have hair. 

Most moles are harmless and don’t cause problems, but it’s important to keep an eye on them for any changes in size, shape, or color, as these changes could be signs of a type of skin cancer called melanoma. Knowing what to look for, like changes in the mole’s shape, border, color, size, or if it starts evolving, can help you catch any potential issues early.

What are skin tags?

Skin tags are small, soft growths that often appear in areas where the skin folds, like the neck, armpits, groin, eyelids, and under the breasts. They are usually the same color as your skin or slightly darker and are connected to the skin by a tiny stem. 

Skin tags are made of loose fibers and blood vessels surrounded by skin. They are harmless and usually don’t cause any pain, but they can become irritated if they rub against clothing or jewelry. Skin tags are very common, especially in older adults and people who are overweight or have diabetes. Although they don’t need treatment, they can be easily removed if they bother you or for cosmetic reasons.

What are the major differences between a skin tag and a mole?

Skin tags and moles are both common skin growths, but they have distinct characteristics and differences. Here are the major differences between the two.


Skin Tags: Small, soft, flesh-colored growths that hang off the skin by a thin stalk (peduncle). They are usually smooth and can be wrinkled.

Moles: Pigmented spots that can be brown, black, blue, red, or flesh-colored. Moles can be flat or raised, smooth or rough, and can sometimes have hair growing from them.


Skin Tags: Made up of loose collagen fibers and blood vessels surrounded by skin.

Moles: Composed of melanocytes, which are cells that produce pigment (melanin).


Skin Tags: Commonly found in areas where the skin folds or creases, such as the neck, armpits, groin, eyelids, and under the breasts.

Moles: Can appear anywhere on the body, including areas that are not prone to friction or folding.

What are the treatment options for skin tags?

There are several treatment options for removing skin tags. These procedures are usually quick and can be performed by a healthcare professional. Here are the most common methods.


Description: The skin tag is frozen off using liquid nitrogen.

Procedure: Liquid nitrogen is applied to the skin tag with a spray or a cotton swab, causing it to freeze and eventually fall off.

Recovery: Minimal, with slight discomfort and possible blistering before the skin tag falls off.


Description: The skin tag is cut off using sterile scissors or a scalpel.

Procedure: The area is numbed with a local anesthetic, and the skin tag is snipped off. Stitches are usually not necessary.

Recovery: Quick, with some minor bleeding and soreness possible.


Description: The skin tag is burned off using an electrical current.

Procedure: An electric probe is used to burn off the skin tag. Local anesthesia is typically used to minimize discomfort.

Recovery: Minimal, with possible scabbing as the area heals.


Description: The skin tag’s blood supply is cut off, causing it to fall off.

Procedure: A small band is tied around the base of the skin tag, cutting off its blood supply. The skin tag will wither and drop off within a few days.

Recovery: Usually painless, with the skin tag falling off naturally.

What are the treatment options for moles?

Treatment options for moles vary depending on factors such as size, location, and whether they are cancerous or non-cancerous. Here are some common treatment options


This involves cutting out the mole and stitching the skin closed. It’s typically used for suspicious moles or those that are large and protruding.

Shave Excision

This method involves shaving off the mole using a scalpel or razor blade. It’s often used for small, raised moles that are non-cancerous.

Laser therapy

Laser treatment uses focused light to break down the pigment in the mole. It’s commonly used for small, non-cancerous moles on the face or other visible areas.


This involves freezing the mole off using liquid nitrogen. It’s usually used for small, non-cancerous moles and may require multiple treatments.

What are common risk factors for developing moles and skin tags?


Genetics plays a significant role in the development of moles, as a family history of moles can increase one’s likelihood of having them. Sun exposure is another key factor, with ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds leading to an increased number of moles. Sunburns, particularly during childhood, are strongly linked to a higher incidence of moles. 

Additionally, skin type influences mole development; people with fair skin and light-colored eyes are more prone to moles, especially those who freckle or burn easily in the sun. Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during puberty and pregnancy, can also cause existing moles to change or new ones to appear.

Skin tags

Skin tags are more common in middle-aged and older adults. Moreover, obesity can increase the likelihood of developing skin tags, possibly due to increased skin friction. Skin tags often develop when skin rubs against itself or clothing, such as the neck, armpits, groin, and under the breasts. Additionally, people with diabetes are more prone to skin tags, possibly due to insulin resistance. Hormonal changes, particularly during pregnancy, can also increase the likelihood of developing skin tags. You may also have a genetic predisposition, as skin tags often run in families. 

What’s my next step?

While complete prevention of moles and skin tags may not be possible, proactive measures can significantly reduce their likelihood. Protecting the skin from UV radiation, regular skin checks, maintaining a healthy weight, minimizing friction, managing diabetes, and addressing hormonal changes are all key preventive strategies. It’s important to speak to a medical provider and book a consultation as that is the first step to minimize the risk of potential complications associated with moles and skin tags. 

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