What is the Difference Between Skin Tags and Moles?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Skin tags and moles are both skin growths, but skin tags are always benign and moles sometimes precede the development of melanoma. Generally, these growths are not treated unless there is a pressing reason to do so, such as aesthetic concerns or worries that a growth has become cancerous. Perhaps the key visible difference is that skin tags tend to protrude, while moles are flatter, with a raised surface area.

A doctor may recommend removal and biopsy of a mole to determine if it is malignant.
A doctor may recommend removal and biopsy of a mole to determine if it is malignant.

In the case of skin tags, the growth consists of a benign tumor, usually close to the patient's natural skin color, developing in the form of a flap. These growths can appear anywhere in the body, alone or in clusters. Moles are patches of darker skin that typically become rough and raised over time, sometimes also developing unusually long hair. Some moles are congenital, while others appear later in life, in contrast with skin tags, which always develop as people grow older.

Flat skin mole.
Flat skin mole.

Both skin tags and moles can look unsightly. They can also both be removed in an office procedure by a dermatologist, with cryosurgery being a very common approach to removing unwanted growths. In this procedure, a freezing probe is applied to the growth, causing the cells to explode and die. Within a few days, they will slough off, leaving clean skin behind.

A raised mole.
A raised mole.

People typically ask for skin tag removal if the protrusions are attracting unwanted attention or causing problems by catching on clothing. In the case of moles, a medical professional may recommend removal and biopsy if it changes color, texture, or shape in a very short period of time since these can be signs of a malignancy. The medical professional will completely remove the mole at the same time a biopsy sample is collected; if the growth does turn out to be malignant, the first step in treatment has already been taken.

Woman with a mole above her upper lip.
Woman with a mole above her upper lip.

Sometimes, skin tags and moles can look ambiguous, especially if a person hasn't noticed a growth before. A dermatologist can inspect the site to determine what kind of growth is involved and make treatment recommendations to address the issue. A wait and see approach may be recommended to see if the growth changes before aggressive treatments are pursued. People with a history of either type of growth should also have it noted in their charts so new healthcare providers know that they have been documented and discussed.

Moles may be malignant if they are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, appear to spread their color into surrounding skin or change in appearance.
Moles may be malignant if they are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, appear to spread their color into surrounding skin or change in appearance.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Skin tags cab be tried off close to the skin with dental floss. It will dry up and drop off. Painless and no doctor fees!


I have lots of freckles, and a few moles that are flat to the skin, but nothing too terribly outrageous. However, I have often wondered why some people seem to grow so many of them. It seems to come on suddenly, too.

To be honest, I’ve wondered if hormones aren’t a sort of inducer. I have a couple of small skin tags that I got when I was expecting my son. My sister has several skin tags that she developed once she started birth control, and my nephew is just covered in moles since he hit puberty.

Since it seems to be a sort of genetic and hormonal thing, I have secretly wondered how a person could prevent them. I just don’t see how anyone could stand having 20 or 30 of the things cut off at once!


As you will see, I have often wondered about how my husband’s family has made it be grown, living and somewhat healthy adults. I love them dearly, but this made me wonder about my commitment.

One day, I found a skin tag. Apparently, women commonly develop them during pregnancy. I knew this and wasn’t worried about it other than it was unsightly. I asked my husband if it bothered him – it was on my inner thigh, so no one but him, me and the baby doctor were going to see it.

He said it didn’t bother him in the least, but if it bothered me he knew how to “take care of them.” I was curious, and so I asked him how he would go about removing the little thing. He replied simply, “Toenail clippers.”

I almost hit the roof, and asked him if he had lost his mind! There was no way he was cutting something off of my body with nasty, toe-jam toenail clippers (not that I would have let him cut it off anyway).

He just laughed and went on to explain that his dad had lots of skin tags when he was a kid. He and his sister made a game of cutting them off with the clippers. Just yuck.


@Mykol - Freezing skin tags does work, but you would definitely want a doctor to do this. I don't think this would be effective to try at home.

The doctor will use liquid nitrogen which is much colder than something like an ice cube. My brother tried the ice cube approach, and nothing happened!

I have also heard of some people using dry ice, but I don't think this would be very safe to try by yourself.

I have had several skin tags removed by freezing, and it is pretty quick and painless. I like to have it done by a professional that I know and trust.

I also don't have the patience for trying any home remedies either.


I have never heard of anyone removing a mole by themselves, but know many try skin tag removal home remedies.

If you had a mole removed, you would also want to make sure and have it checked out to see if it was benign or not.

I had a skin tag that I wanted to get rid of and couldn't bring myself to try anything that might be painful. I ended up using tea tree essential oil to get rid of it.

I had to apply this several times a day for about a week, but the skin tag eventually fell off and has not returned.

Even though skin tags are benign, I think they are unsightly and wanted to get rid of it right away.

My husband now has one under his arm and he says he is going to the have the doctor freeze it off. Has anybody had good luck with freezing skin tags?


@turkay-- I'm not too knowledgeable about skin tag or mole causes. But I think you may be right about sunlight because whenever I spend a lot of time under the sun, I feel like I get one or two moles more and countless freckles.

My grandmother has a house in Florida and I've been spending my summer there for the past couple of years. I have so many more moles and freckles than I used to two years ago!

I only got one skin tag in my life and it happened randomly out of the blue and I had it removed right away. It seems to me like skin tags are just a piece of skin folding up and above. But moles seem like they are totally embedded in the skin and I don't think they happen for no reason.


@StarJo-- I think another difference between them is that moles have a lot more melanin than skin tags and are also affected by the sun a lot more.

Skin tags don't look any different than the rest of my skin but moles are always dark brown, almost-blackish. I learned in biology class that darker skin pigmentation has more melanin in it which is what causes it to look so dark.

I think this must also be the reason why moles could develop into cancer, especially if they see a lot of sun. Because melanin is a sign that the skin is trying to defend itself from the damage of sun rays. So more sun exposure might cause these skin cells to turn into a tumor.

This is not a risk with skin tags because it doesn't have as much melanin as moles do.


I've had moles since birth and have also developed a couple of skin tags with age. I have never thought of having my moles removed because they've never disturbed me physically or visually. I don't really consider moles as requiring treatment, but skin tags really bother me.

I guess it's the shape of skin tags that's really bothersome. It's not just long in the beginning but it tends to grow even longer sometimes. I had one in my armpit and it was a constant cause of pain because it would rub on my shirt and it felt like a sharp pinch.

I have been so comfortable since I had it removed. I've never had this issue with any of my moles. So from my experience, moles seem friendlier or less of an issue than skin tags even though skin tags are actually safer health wise. Plus you can remove skin tags yourself at home whereas moles always require doctor intervention.


Moles and skin tags used to freak me out. When I was younger, my skin was much clearer and smoother than it is today, so whenever a growth like this would pop up, I felt that it marred my appearance.

As a teenager, I used to tell myself that once I got a job, I would save up and have all my skin tags and moles removed at once. However, when I entered the real world with bills to pay, I discovered that this would not be feasible any time soon.

I have learned to accept moles and skin tags as part of being human and imperfect. If I get any moles that look suspicious, I will see a doctor about them, but otherwise, I will just keep them.


I never worry when I see skin tags on my body. However, when moles start to become larger, I keep an eye on them.

I once tried to get rid of a mole on the top of my wrist by shaving it off. This was very painful. It bled a lot, and the area stung for hours.

It didn't work, either. Once the scab fell off, the mole regrew. It stayed the same size as before, so I didn't worry too much about the cancer risk with this one.

However, I had one on my face that kept getting larger. I had it removed and sent off to be tested. It was benign after all, but I was glad to have it off of my face.


@seag47 – Since skin tags are supplied with blood by a stalk that attaches them to the rest of your skin, you can make them fall off by cutting off their supply of blood. I tried this easy method for getting rid of skin tags, and much to my surprise, it worked.

I tied a piece of string around the skin tag's base, where it connected to my body. I left the string there until the skin tag dehydrated and fell off. It amazed me that something so simple could rid me of a thing I had been trying for years to get rid of by more painful methods.


I can deal with moles, but I absolutely hate skin tags. I don't know what it is about them, but people generally view them as disgusting.

I have tried skin tag removal at home, but it was very painful and didn't work. I know I probably went about it the wrong way, but I had to try something, and I couldn't afford a dermatologist.

I took nail clippers and tried to cut off a skin tag under my arm. It hurt worse than if I had cut a piece of regular skin. It burned for a long time, and I never tried removing it again.

Does anyone know any natural skin tag removal techniques that I can try at home? I would love to be rid of it.

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