Genital Warts vs Skin Tags | 2 VERY Different Things!
Written By Kobi Nathan, Pharm.D., M.Ed., CDP, BCGP, AGSF
Sleep Disorders
May 9, 2023

*Warning: This article contains a medical image of HPV warts on a female’s genitals.

If you are underage or uncomfortable viewing this image, click away from this article now.

In this article, we will dive into the differences and similarities between genital warts vs skin tags.

While these conditions might appear similar, they have distinct characteristics, causes, and treatments.

So, let’s explore each to help you differentiate and understand how to manage them effectively.

Before we get into the details, here is the quick answer you are looking for:

Genital warts vs skin tags: Differences

Skin tags are small, benign growths on skin folds, while genital warts are contagious bumps caused by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV).

Skin tags are harmless and non-contagious, whereas genital warts may require medical treatment.

Skin tag on a female's skin

Skin tag on a female’s skin


HPV genital warts on female vulva

HPV genital warts on female vulva Source: Reis HL, Ferreira DC, Forattini AG, Souza PG, Curvelo JA, Passos MR – Clinics (São Paulo, Brazil) (2010), Open-access image


OK, let’s expand on this more…

What causes genital warts?

Genital warts are highly contagious and caused by HPV, the human papillomavirus.

There are over 100 HPV strains, but only a few cause genital warts.

The majority of these cases are linked to HPV types 6 and 11.

Genital warts, also called HPV warts, are always a result of a sexually transmitted infection.

They can appear anywhere on the penis, vagina, vulva, cervix, anus, or mouth.

HPV is a leading cause of cervical cancer in women and also places men at high risk for penile cancer.

If you want to learn more about the early stages of HPV warts, please read my in-depth article here.

Additionally, genital warts present differently from genital herpes, although viruses cause both.

To get the details, read my article Genital Warts vs. Herpes.

What causes skin tags?

Skin tags, also known as acrochordons, are benign skin growths that develop in areas with friction and skin folds, such as the neck, underarms, groin, and eyelids.

Unlike genital warts, skin tags are not caused by a virus and are not contagious.

Their formation is often associated with aging, obesity, metabolic syndrome, hormonal changes, a family history of having skin tags, and hyperinsulinemia (excess insulin secretion due to high blood glucose, commonly seen in diabetics).

Both women and men are equally affected by skin tags.

If you want to learn more about skin tags, you can read my detailed article here, where I review the causes, symptoms, and medical and home remedy options for their removal.

Symptoms and signs of genital warts

Genital warts are small, flesh-colored bumps that can appear individually or in clusters.

They can be flat, raised, or cauliflower-shaped and typically cause mild discomfort, itching, or pain.

They are usually found on the genitals, anus, or surrounding areas.

Symptoms and signs of skin tags

Skin tags are small, soft, painless, and typically connected to the skin by a thin stalk.

They are not spread by sexual contact.

They are usually the same color as the surrounding skin, and their size can range from a pinhead to a few millimeters.

That said, let’s break this down even further:

  • Small skin tags: Approximately 1 to 2 mm in height and width, usually appearing on the neck and the armpit area.
  • Mid-sized skin tags:  single or in groups, approximately 2 mm wide and 5 mm long, can occur on other areas of the body.
  • Large-sized skin tags: Tags with pronounced stalks with a fibroid, bag-like, nevoid (pigmented and raised) appearance, usually located in the genital area.

Smaller skin tags do not cause discomfort unless they become irritated or twisted.

However, they can cause significant discomfort when they get really big.

Usually these bigger skin tags are usually located in the armpits and genital area.


Diagnosis of skin tags and genital warts

A healthcare provider can usually diagnose genital warts and skin tags by physical examination.

For genital warts, additional tests such as a biopsy, Pap smear, or DNA/HPV test may be required to confirm the diagnosis.

Skin tags can often be identified visually, but a biopsy might be necessary if the growth is atypical or suspicious.

Treatment of genital warts and skin tags

Genital Warts

Several options exist to treat genital warts, including prescription medications such as imiquimod and podofilox.

These medications are applied topically or directly on the warts.

In-office procedures, like cryotherapy (freezing), electrocautery (burning), or laser therapy, can also remove the warts.

However, these treatments do not eliminate the underlying HPV infection.

Skin Tags

Skin tags usually do not require treatment unless they cause discomfort or cosmetic concerns.

In such cases, they can be removed by a healthcare provider using methods like snipping with sterile scissors, cryotherapy, or electrocautery.

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Prevention of skin tags and genital warts

Genital Warts

Preventing genital warts involves reducing the risk of HPV infection.

This can be achieved by practicing safe sex, using condoms and dental dams, limiting the number of sexual partners, and getting the HPV vaccine.

Skin Tags

There is no surefire way to prevent skin tags, but maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood sugar levels (read my article on hyperglycemia vs hypoglycemia), and avoiding tight clothing that causes friction may help reduce the likelihood of their formation.

Complications of genital warts and skin tags

Genital Warts

While genital warts themselves are not life-threatening, they can cause emotional distress and may increase the risk of certain types of cancer, particularly in women.

As I mentioned earlier, persistent HPV infection can lead to cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, or penile cancer.

Regular check-ups and screening tests are essential for early detection and prevention.

Skin Tags

Skin tags are harmless and rarely cause complications.

However, they may require medical attention if irritated, twisted, or infected.

Additionally, the presence of multiple skin tags may be an indicator of an underlying condition, such as diabetes or metabolic syndrome! 

If you have not been diagnosed with diabetes and do not check your blood sugar levels regularly, I highly recommend you talk to your doctor.

Your risk is higher if you have a family history of diabetes.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes and have been prescribed a medication such as metformin, taking it as directed by your doctor is very important!

You can read more about metformin in my article here.

You should also know what your hemoglobin A1c level is.

Read about it here.

Private lab testing for sexually transmitted infections

Several companies offer confidential and discrete tests for sexually transmitted diseases and other medical problems.

If you suspect that you may have a sexually transmitted infection and want to test for it but want to keep your information private, I highly recommend

On Trustpilot, the company has earned an incredible 4.9 out of 5 stars with over 4,000 reviews!

On the Better Business Bureau website, Healthlabs averages 4.84 out of 5 stars!

Benefits of using this company:

  • Discrete ordering and testing (no one reads your lab report but you, and only you).
  • Direct-to-consumer lab testing – No doctor referral or insurance necessary.
  • 4,500+ CLIA-certified across the U.S.
  • Extremely discounted pricing (less expensive than some at-home tests!).

Order your lab in 3 easy steps:

  • Step 1: Order and pay for your tests on the website.
  • Step 2: Visit a local lab near you (same one your doctor uses) for testing.
  • Step 3: Receive your results (only you, no one else sees your results, not even your doctor) in 1-3 days in your secure account.

Although they may not offer a specific test for HPV, the STI tests cover the other common infections such as Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Syphilis, etc.

If you just want to know for peace of mind, this is a good place to start.

They even test for HIV types 1 and 2.

To learn more, click here to be brought to their STI panel page.

If you want to understand the difference between these two types of tests, I recommend reading my article “at-home vs clinical testosterone tests.”

You can order many more tests discretely through, such as inflammation, heavy metals, and toxins.

Feel free to explore them all on the official website.

At-home tests for HPV in women

myLAB Box is a company that specializes in providing at-home testing kits for STIs and other medical problems.

Currently, the company is offering an HPV at-home test for women only.

The company has an “A” rating with the BBB and has earned 4.8 out of 5 stars on

Customer reviews are positive for the most part.

The main concern with this company seems to be a slow response to customer questions and concerns sometimes.

However, their responses are professional, and they seem committed to resolving concerns fully.

Click here to learn more and order the women’s HPV testing kit from the company website.

Home Remedies for genital warts and skin tags

Genital Warts

There are no proven home remedies for genital warts.

It is crucial to seek professional medical advice for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Using over-the-counter wart treatments or trying to remove them at home can cause further complications and spread the infection!

Talk to your doctor! You must have medical oversight for this.

Skin Tags

Some people use home remedies to remove skin tags, such as tying a thin string or dental floss around the base of the tag to cut off blood flow.

The wart then shrivels up and eventually falls off.

Other treatment options are the application of apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, freezing kits, and removal creams.

The short video below explains how you can use apple cider vinegar to remove skin tags:

However, it is important to note that using these products can cause irritation and allergic reactions in some people.

It is always better to err on the safe side and consult your doctor for the safe and effective removal of your skin tags.

When to See a Doctor

If you suspect you have genital warts or are experiencing discomfort from skin tags, it is essential to see a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Early intervention can help prevent complications and address any underlying health concerns.


Are genital warts and skin tags the same thing?

No, genital warts and skin tags are different conditions. Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and are sexually transmitted, while skin tags are benign growths that result from skin friction and other unknown factors.

Can skin tags turn into genital warts?

No, skin tags cannot turn into genital warts, as different factors cause them.

How can I tell the difference between a genital wart and a skin tag?

While both may appear as small skin growths, genital warts are often clustered, cauliflower-shaped, and may cause discomfort. Skin tags, on the other hand, are soft, painless, and connected to the skin by a thin stalk. Your doctor can provide a definitive diagnosis.

Can genital warts be cured?

While there is no cure for the HPV infection that causes genital warts, the warts themselves can be treated and removed. However, the virus may remain dormant in the body and cause future outbreaks.

Do I need to treat my skin tags?

Skin tags usually do not require treatment unless they cause discomfort, irritation, or cosmetic concerns. In such cases, a healthcare provider can safely remove them.


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