What Are the Causes of Small Skin Tags by the Eyes [and on Eyelids]?

Skin tags by the eyes can make you feel self-conscious. They often appear on the face, such as close to the eyes, the eyelash line, and the rims of the eyelids. In other words, they are easy for others to see when you’re standing close to someone.

They’re little understood medically. Scientists have several ideas of their causes, and one of them could apply to you. Or it could be a mixture of different reasons, depending on your genetics, weight, health, lifestyle choices, hormones, age, and much more.

The good news is that you can remove skin tags around the eyes at home (or get them removed by a doctor). In this guide, we’ll be looking at how to identify skin tags. We’ll then look at the causes of the skin tags on the eyelids (and near the eyes), and some removal methods that work well.

How to Identify Skin Tags Close to the Eyes

Do I have skin tags? There are many bumps that appear around the eyes. If you’ve never had any skin tags before, or haven’t seen one, you might not know how to identify a skin tag. You might also have a wart – these are commonly confused with skin tags.

This brief checklist will help you to make an accurate self-diagnosis:

  1. Smooth and soft. They feel no different to the skin around them. They aren’t crusty or rough in any way, but the texture can change if they become irritated or infected.
  2. Skin tags are peduncular. They protrude from the skin on a narrow stalk.
  3. Not contagious. If you have a cluster of growths, they are more likely to be warts.
  4. They are not painful. They react to pressure or pinching in the same way as the rest of your skin.
  5. Skin tags are usually small. They are usually 2mm – 5mm but can grow much larger.

Skin tags close to eyes come in many shapes and sizes. You may have white skin tags near eyes or flat skin tags under eyes. Or you might have a skin tag on eyelid rim.

What Are the Causes of Skin Tags around the Eyes?

You know how to identify them, but what are the causes? Why do some people get skin tags, but others don’t? And is there anything that you can do to prevent skin tags?

As it turns out, there are many common causes of skin tags. Scientists are not certain why some factors cause skin tags. You’ll likely realize that there’s more than one cause.

Skin Rubbing Against Skin, Jewelry, and Clothing

The first thing you should know is that while several factors can cause eye skin tags, the mechanism by which they occur is unclear.

But we have identified certain things which are widely known to cause them. One of these factors is friction: that could be skin rubbing against skin, against jewelry, or against clothing. The situation is made worse if the area is moist and sweaty, it seems.

The location of skin tags tells us a lot about why they form. They frequently appear on the body where there is likely to be a lot of skin-on-skin friction. That’s why they’re often found under the armpit, on the neck, and so on.

This explains why little skin tags under eyes are such a common skin complaint. The area around the eyes is affected by friction, particularly the area around the eyelids. This skin is always moving as we blink, look around, read, smile, and so on. Friction might be causing skin tags in this area.

Hormonal Fluctuations

Your body’s use of hormones is central to your day-to-day existence. Everything from how you feel, to how you behave is defined by hormones. Hormones are known to affect the skin.

That’s why hormonal fluctuations have been suggested as one of the reasons for skin tags near the eyes. Why? Because obesity, pregnancy and age point to the role those bodily changes seem to play in encouraging skin tag growth. Let’s examine some of the ways hormones are supposed to do that.

  • Leptin, for example, is one hormone suspected of playing a role. Leptin is known as the ‘satiety hormone’- or in plain English, the hormone that makes you feel full. Problems like obesity can both cause difficulty regulating this hormone. And studies have shown that it may be linked to skin tag production.

One study by Egyptian dermatologists found that leptin may be related to the development of insulin resistance. They found that the people who they studied who had skin tags produced far more of this hormone. This seems to suggest that producing more of the hormone promotes skin tag growth.

  • Another hormone which is already known to affect the skin is estrogen. As we get older, the body produces less and less estrogen, particularly in women. This makes the skin more oily, less elastic, and less strong. While studies are uncertain as to the exact link between estrogen and skin tags, it is a short leap to think that perhaps it can have an impact on this skin condition.

Hormonal Fluctuations Associated with Pregnancy

So, as we’ve already established, hormonal changes can instigate rapid growth of skin tags. So what about probably the most common cause of hormonal fluctuations: pregnancy? Yes, pregnancy can cause skin tags.

Pregnancy causes many well known hormonal changes. The most obvious one is the increase in estrogen which pregnancy causes. While we know estrogen as the ‘female hormone,’ it’s vital for both sexes and triggers the development of the baby’s organs while in the womb.

Pregnancy also causes increases in the following hormones:

  • Follicle-stimulating hormone
  • Luteinising hormone
  • Human chorionic gonadotropin
  • Progesterone
  • Placental growth factor
  • Oxytocin

With this hormonal cocktail coursing through your body, it’s no wonder that small changes begin to appear. While scientists are not 100% certain which hormonal change is to blame for skin tags, it is most likely a combination of all of them.

Some women find that skin tags fall off after giving birth.

What are the reasons for small skin tags around the eyes?

Weight Gain or Obesity

Weight gain, or carrying too much weight over time, is a widely held cause of skin tags. At first glance, it might be difficult to think of a reason why this might be the case. But there are two reasons.

  1. The first of these reasons is that weight gain causes increased friction around your body. The most obvious way in which this occurs is when clothes become too tight. But obesity or being overweight also causes increased skin friction, which can, in turn, cause skin tags.
  2. The second reason why obesity is a potential precursor to skin tags is the hormonal imbalance it causes. An example is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which can lead to a whole host of problems including infertility. Obesity also causes the release of extra unnecessary androgens into the bloodstream, which can interrupt the menstrual cycle.

The precise effects of these hormonal imbalances are not clearly understood by scientists at present. But as indicated above, one effect that they do have is to increase the likelihood of skin tags. So the fact that hormonal imbalances cause skin tags by the eyes, therefore, suggests that obesity might just do the same.

Insulin Resistance or Type 2 Diabetes

Studies have suggested that skin tags are associated with diabetes and the onset of diabetes. Of course, this does not mean that if you have skin tags, you probably have diabetes. But rather, they are often an early warning sign that your diet is leading to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Studies show that the more skin tags you have, the more likely you are to have diabetes. This is due to many complicated factors which include diet and exercise, as well as genetics. Skin tags are often the first symptom of diabetes that a person notices before they have been diagnosed.

As a rule, those with skin tags tend to have higher markers for diabetes and insulin resistance. These include higher cholesterol, higher blood sugar content, and higher ‘C-reactive protein’ or CRP.

The precise mechanism behind these factors and an increase in skin tags is unclear. Friction, for instance, makes sense. But why diabetes should affect the skin in such a way is not fully understood. The most that we know is that diabetes and skin tags often occur together.

The Use of Steroids

This is a cause which is far less common than those of diabetes, age or genetics. But it is well known to doctors that skin tags are associated in some way with steroid use. Unlike other markers like insulin resistance and diabetes, however, we have a good idea of why steroid use is associated with skin tags.

Steroids are synthetic, man-made chemicals which were created to resemble ‘cortisol.’ Cortisol is a natural hormone produced by animals to control inflammation and immune response. Cortisol and steroids can, therefore, prevent muscle inflammation, in turn making it easier to gain muscle mass.

There is one key reason why steroid use encourages the growth of skin tags close to eyes. It’s because the steroids cause the skin fibers to bond, more so than usual. As the collagen underneath the skin binds together,  this gradually causes an outgrowth of skin, forming the tag. Who is at risk?

  1. Bodybuilders who use anabolic steroids are at risk of skin tags. But it’s not just bodybuilders who can be affected.
  2. When you’re recovering from certain inflammatory conditions or rheumatoid arthritis, you may be prescribed steroids. That’s because of steroids, like cortisol, reduce inflammation and the activity of the immune system.

So if you’re prescribed steroids as medicine, then you might find yourself with some extra skin tags too.

The Natural Aging Process

Skin tags are perfectly natural. So it’s no surprise that most of the people will have had one by the time they’re fifty. In fact, somewhere between 50 and 60% of people over fifty have at least one. But does that mean that skin tags are a result of the aging process, or not?

Here is why getting older is a factor:

  1. As we age, our skin ages with us; it changes as we change. As we get older, the epidermis – the outer layer of the skin – becomes thinner. That’s why somebody eighty, ninety or a hundred years old can almost look like they have translucent skin.
  2. Not only that, but our skin undergoes elastosis. This is the process whereby the skin gradually becomes weaker and less elastic. The reason why is that the connective tissue starts to lose its strength. Again, this is a natural part of aging.
  3. On top of these processes, our skin produces less oil, the layer of fat underneath our skin thing, and blood vessels in the skin become fragile. These things happen to us all, no matter how much moisturizer we put on. Or how much we try to avoid the sun.
  4. As the skin becomes weaker, it is more susceptible to change and injury. Skin tags are one such example. While it is difficult again to pinpoint the exact causal process, there is no doubt: skin tags disproportionately affect the elderly, and are therefore most likely caused by aging skin.

Genetic Factors

Genetic factors almost certainly play a role in the development of skin tags. This is obvious from the fact that skin tags seem to run in families. Genetics plays a role in the development of moles and freckles, too, so why not skin tags?

Genes dictate everything about us. They have a hand in everything from our skin to our hair, to our predisposition to certain illnesses. The color, texture, and smoothness of our skin are all dictated by our genes. So it isn’t surprising to find that scientists believe them to affect how many skin tags we have, too.

Alongside studies into the matter, there’s also another piece of evidence we can point to. Skin tags clearly run in families. If your parents have them, then you are likely to have them too.

Genes also dictate our body’s hormonal balance. Therefore, if our genetics predispose us to increased androgen or estrogen, this may indirectly cause skin tags. Genetics also affect our likelihood of becoming overweight or obese, which is another cause of skin tags.

Like many genetic conditions, scientists are not yet able to pinpoint the exact genes which cause eye skin tags. The only evidence we have is that skin tags do seem to run in families. And the fact that skin tags are not contagious rules out the idea that they are passed on virally.

Why do I have a skin tag on my eyelid rim?

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Last but not least, some instances of skin tags are caused by simple viral infections. This is the case with people diagnosed with HPV, or human papillomavirus, who have more skin tags than the average population. So, could there be a viral cause of skin tags after all?

This point is based on the findings of a few studies. Scientists have found that some skin tags contain HPV 6 and 11, which could be linked to their pathogenesis (how they developed). HPV 6 and 11 are not the kind which can cause cancer, but which cause warts.

While skin tags are not contagious, they could nonetheless still be caused by a virus. HPV is very common and could explain why skin tags affect so many people too. But even if your eyelids skin tags were caused by a virus, they are still benign, and completely harmless.

Can Skin Tags Near the Eyes Be Safely Removed?

Skin tags can be safely removed using several methods, either at home (sometimes) or by a medical doctor.

Here are 4 of the methods that are preferred by dermatologists:

  • Surgical excision. This is the fastest way of getting rid of a skin tag on the eyelid but can result in bleeding, infection, and scarring. And, of course, you should not attempt to cut off skin tags close to eyes in this way.
  • Cryotherapy involves freezing off eye skin tags. The liquid nitrogen freezes the skin tag so that it dies and will fall off.
  • Cauterization. This involves burning off skin tags on the eyelids, or by using a laser device. The area will be numbed first.
  • Ligation. This involves using a fine string-like material to tie-off a skin tag and deprive it of oxygenated blood.

Your health insurance is unlikely to cover the cost of removing skin tags. This is because it’s considered to be just a cosmetic procedure and not a health problem. The exception is if a doctor wants to perform a biopsy to check for a more troublesome skin condition.

Although skin tags near the eyes and on the eyelid don’t look nice, they aren’t dangerous. Most people get skin tags removed to look their best, but you may also wish to consider skin tag removal if one of these benign tumors is obscuring your vision in some way.

We’ve found the TagBand (a form of ligation) to be effective when there’s sufficient separation between the eye and the skin tag. You can read more about how it works in our TagBand Skin Tag Removal Review.

Important: If you are unable to identify the condition or a skin tag is really close to the eye, talk with your doctor.