I know skin tags aren’t the sexiest of topics for a blog, but this is a parenting blog after all; we lost sexy somewhere between battered vaginas and poo stains. Let’s face it: pregnancy has been fetishised since the dawn of time, but if you’ve actually done it you’ll know it’s about as sexy as Boris Johnson in a pair of edible panties. The varicose veins, the heavy labia, the dripping pelvic floor, the burgeoning, leaking boobs straining translucently through a knackered old feeding bra and branded with a road map of blue veins are not sexy. Growing a human may be bad-ass, but it’s rarely sexy.
There’s a myriad of side effects to pregnancy that most people suffer at some point and then there are a handful that only some suffer. The pregnancy mask, RSI in the wrists…weirdly whacky things happen when those hormones start throwing their weight around. For me, it was moles and skin tags – I looked like a human dot to dot puzzle intersected with stretch marks and the odd rogue hair. Created by the same hormone responsible for the pregnancy mask – melanin – some women notice an increase in moles and skin tags especially across their abdomens and in the groin area.
For me, it was pretty much everywhere on the upper half of my body. My abdomen became covered in moles and skin tags emerged from my jawline right down my body to my groin. Generally, skin tags are harmless but all new moles and skin growths should be looked at carefully so, knowing that my procreating days were behind me I decided that I wanted to get them checked out and do something about them.
They’re unsightly. That’s vain, I know but I hated the way they looked. I also hated the way my necklaces, bra straps and knicker line caught on them making me wince. My almost two-year-old was fascinated by them and thought that fiddling with them using her teeny-tiny baby nails was just about the coolest thing she could do. It wasn’t. They were irritating on a daily basis and so I went to my GP.
Unfortunately, due to strains on our national health service, certain local health authorities are cutting back on treatments they don’t deem to be necessary. Much like varicose vein treatment, skin tag removal is less and less available on the NHS as it’s considered a cosmetic procedure. So, determined to get the skinny on my skin tags, I contacted Dr. Ross Perry, Cosmetic Doctor at Cosmedics Skin Clinics, who runs a team of dermatology doctors and skin specialists based in Harley Street, Putney, Knightsbridge, City of London & Bristol, to learn more about these pesky tags and he agreed to remove mine.
Here’s what I learnt:
- Skin tags are easily removed
- It’s an super common side-effect of pregnancy
- Skin tags are almost always benign but you should keep an eye on all new skin growth (moles/skin tags)
- Tying cotton around them to remove the blood supply is not recommended. You’re unlikely to get to the base of the mole and you can leave yourself with all sorts of nasty scarring.
- Natural remedies? Well, give them a try but essentially, if you want rid of them, you need to chop them off.
- Once they’ve been removed, they won’t grow back but new ones may still appear.
So, the process? Dr Ross Perry started off with a thorough consultation regarding my skin issues and habits. After assessing my skin tags, he injected the bigger ones with a local anaesthetic. I’ll be honest, I’ve got the pain threshold of a gerbil and I hate needles so I really had to hitch up my big girl pants but it was over quickly. The smaller skin tags he did without an anaesthetic on the basis that the injection would hurt more than the removal of a small tag itself. Once I was suitably numb, he set to work with nothing more than a pair of scissors and a laser. Most of them he simply cut off, other more stubborn moles he lasered (insert slight smell of burning flesh here) but within twenty minutes, he was done. He couldn’t take them all off – we would have been there all day – but he removed almost all the very visible ones and those that get caught on jewellery or clothes.
IMMEDIATELY AFTER TREATMENT
ONE HOUR AFTER TREATMENT
While I was there for my skin tags, he was far more interested in my moles. I’ve had a lot of sun exposure over the years – especially as a child. Our parents weren’t as ‘sun safe’ as we’ve been brought up to be and you can see that in my skin. I have over 50 moles on my body and I’ve lived overseas in hot areas. I’ve had blistering sunburn as a child (a high risk factor in contracting melanomas later on), I used to use sunbeds and I’ve previously had a dysplastic (pre-cancerous) mole removed. All in all, I’m a melanoma waiting to happen and for that reason, I need to self-check my moles every 2-3 months and keep an eye on them.
After a thorough examination of every mole on my body with a special microscope called a dermatoscope he found there was one that required close monitoring. Dr. Perry took a picture of it and sent it to me, suggesting that I take another picture in 2 months and compare the two. Any changes in colour, shape and size, and I should get myself to the GP. While it’s hard to know whether this mole was new (there are so many!), it was clearly darker than the rest – a clear warning sign.
So, what’s the message? Sure, go and get your skin tags removed. If the NHS in your area will do it, great. If not I can’t recommend Cosmedics Skin Clinic and Dr. Ross Perry highly enough. But much more importantly than that, get your moles checked too. When you’re pregnant, your body goes through all sorts of crazy changes and if moles and skin tags is one of them, it’s a great opportunity to get someone to look at them properly. Get your GP to check out an new moles (especially ones that looks noticeably darker than the others) and growths. Caught early on, a melanoma is easily curable with minor surgery. Left unattended, a melanoma spreads and can be fatal.
According to Doc Perry, there’s no such thing as a healthy glow – fake it, don’t bake it is definitely the message and while you’re there, slap some Factor 50 on. We get enough Vitamin D from having our arms exposed to daylight for 15 minutes twice a week so let’s not play that card as an excuse.
But also, let’s call bullshit on this whole thing. Tanning is a social beauty construct; it’s not real. In 1929, Harpers Bazaar declared, “If you haven’t a tanned look about you, you aren’t part of the rage of the moment,” and that was if you were white. In the first half of the last century women of colour spent small fortunes on extremely dangerous products trying to lighten their skin and worryingly this trend isn’t going anywhere. Today, skin lightening continues to be practiced around the world, with particular popularity in Africa, India and Pakistan. The annual global market is expected to reach $10 billion by 2015, though many of the products still come with serious health risks. Being tanned is nothing more than a western trend that we’ve come to see as a mark of beauty, wealth, wellbeing and health when in actual fact, it’s a dangerous habit to get into.
It’s simple. We’ve been hoodwinked, manipulated, tricked by a beauty industry that saw an opportunity to make a shed load of profit after sunbathing became a popular doctor’s prescription in the early part of the 20th century equating a ‘tan’ with ‘health’. We’ve been made to think that having a tan makes us more beautiful much like being skinny, or tall, or having huge boobs, and as such we have pinned our confidence to it. I get it – am I ready to hang up my tanning products and let my legs run free? Unfortunately not, not yet. My legs are never on display without a tan but these days I rely on Sally Hansen’s Airbrush Legs. That shit makes them look better than they would if I’d tanned them for three weeks in Bali and it’s a damn sight safer.
The #bodypositivity movement is doing amazing things to force us to question those myths about what is beautiful and we need to start including tanning in that. From now on, I’ll be slapping on the sunscreen faithfully and faking it proudly. Who’s with me?
*A consultation with Cosmedics Skin Clinics is normally charged at £50 but they will waive this if you choose to go ahead with the treatment.
This post is written in collaboration with Cosmedics Skin Clinics. I received no payment for this article but Cosmedics Skin Clinics did remove my skin tags free of charge in exchange for an informative blog and social media coverage about the process of removing skin tags and the importance of safe tanning and regular mole checks.