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Tag Away

Skin tags

Skin tags

Skin tags (acrochordon) are benign growths, often raised on a pedicle with a tiny stem. 46% of the population has one or more of them.  They are usually ignored, but some people think they are ugly and want to get rid of them, and sometimes the lesions rub on clothing and become irritated. Never fear! Tag Away is here!

I saw it advertised on TV.  They said it is “not available in stores.” But they only meant their special TV offer is not available in stores. You can buy Tag Away on Amazon.com, at Walgreens, at Walmart, and elsewhere. Tag Away is an all-natural product that promises to remove unsightly skin tags painlessly. It comes in a 15 cc bottle and is applied with a cotton swab 3 times daily for 3-8 weeks. One website claims:

One of the secrets of this product’s amazing success rate is Thuka [sic] Occidentalis, which is world-renowned for its ability to eradicate even the largest, most unsightly skin tags.

That’s not true. It doesn’t have an amazing success rate, it’s not world-renowned, and there’s no evidence that it can actually remove skin tags of any size.

Evidence

There isn’t any. It has never been tested in controlled trials.

Testimonials

There are the usual testimonials saying that it works, but there are many more testimonials saying that it does not work.  On the Amazon website, negative customer reviews far outnumber the positive reviews. “The only thing this product was capable of effectively removing was money from my wallet!” “Does nothing but smell funny.”  Some said even if it does work, it takes too long and stinks.

It stinks

Customers report a horrible smell. Some called it nauseating. Some said bystanders had asked them “what the hell is that smell?” One compared it to deer urine. One couple reported “The smell is so bad that there is no way you could apply this and leave the house…gave us terrible headaches.”

What’s in it?

The active ingredient is Thuja occidentalis, an essential oil. Other (presumably inactive) ingredients are cedar leaf oil, Melaleuca alternifolia leaf oil, and Ricinus communis seed oil.

Thuja occidentalis is a small tree, also known as white cedar, yellow cedar, arborvitae, and numerous other names. Despite the names, it’s not part of the cedar family.  It has had a number of traditional uses, including teas for constipation and headache and external application for warts, ringworm, thrush, osteoarthritis joint pain, muscle pain, skin diseases, and as an insect repellent.  The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD) says there is insufficient reliable information to determine its effectiveness. It warns against use during lactation and lists reported adverse reactions from oral use including seizures and death.

Melaleuca alternifolia is tea tree oil. It has been used topically for nail fungus, athlete’s foot and acne and is rated “possibly effective.” Topical application can cause irritation and inflammation in some patients.

Cedar leaf oil = Thuja occidentalis. It’s just another name for the active ingredient, yet it is listed as an inactive additive.

Ricinus communis = castor. It has been used topically as an emollient and to dissolve cysts, growths, warts, for osteoarthritis, and to soften bunions and corns, but there is no scientific evidence that it is effective for these uses.

Tag Away is advertised as “homeopathic.” Lists of the homeopathic uses of Thuja are endless, but they don’t mention skin tags. Interesting. I tried to find out what homeopathic dilution they were using, and it took 3 inquiries to the company to get an answer. They eventually divulged that the active Thuja is a 6X dilution. That’s not one of the extreme dilutions where no molecules are left. 6X means there is one part of Thuja to a million parts of water. It seems unlikely that a one to a million dilution would have any therapeutic effect, especially since there’s no evidence that full-strength Thuja has any effect.  They said the other 3 ingredients were not homeopathic dilutions but they had no information about the amounts. The company does not claim that these other ingredients are “active,” but could there be enough to have some kind of positive or negative effect? A concerned consumer would like to know how much was present. If Thuja is the active ingredient, what does it mean when one of the presumably inactive ingredients is also Thuja? Did they realize the homeopathic dilution was insufficient and decide they needed to add more Thuja? And why did they add the tea tree oil and castor? A plausible rationale does not readily come to mind.

Questionable business practices

There is a money-back guarantee but it doesn’t include the $9.95 shipping and handling charge, and it is only for 30 days. They say it takes up to 8 weeks to work. So if you try it for 8 weeks and still have your skin tag, it’s too late to ask for your money back.  By buying the product, you automatically commit yourself to an arbitration agreement that requires dissatisfied customers to submit to binding arbitration rather than attempting to resolve disputes in a court of law. In other words, you give up your right to sue. Customers are only released from the arbitration agreement if they return the product within 14 days.

There have been many complaints about the company, describing questionable business practices. They sell customer information to telemarketers and customers are bombarded with phone calls. Unauthorized charges are made to credit cards. One customer said he was unable to get the recurrent credit card charges blocked and had to close that card number and get a new one.

What other treatments are available?

Skin tags can easily be removed by a dermatologist using excision, ligation, cauterization, or freezing with liquid nitrogen. If they are pedunculated, they can also be removed at home by tying a string (dental floss?) around the base of the stem to cut off blood supply: the dead tissue falls off after a few days. One dissatisfied Tag Away customer reported, “Dental floss worked in about 2 weeks.” Other home treatments mentioned online are vitamin E oil, Compound W, and duct tape, but there’s no evidence that they work.

Amazon.com also sells other products for skin tag removal containing the same ingredients: Tag Be Gone, Tag No More, Miracle of Aloe Miracle Skin Tag Remover, Naturasil, and Tea Tree Oil.

Bottom line

These lesions are easy to treat at home or in a doctor’s office, with results much more rapid than 3-8 weeks. There’s no evidence that Tag Away works, and there are testimonials galore saying it doesn’t work. In my opinion, this product stinks in more ways than one.

Posted in: Herbs & Supplements, Homeopathy

Leave a Comment (20) ↓

20 thoughts on “Tag Away

  1. Jeffrey Rubinoff says:

    And here I was hoping it would remove unwanted metadata from web pages.

    1. benclimbBen says:

      Would be nice :-)

  2. Jules says:

    Dermatologist said a well-santized new razor blade or sharp hairdressing shears (also carefully sanitzed) could snip off a skin tag at home. Clean the area well with alcohol beforehand. Bandaid afterward. Save a trip to the dermatologist. If the skin tag is very large or ‘more mole shaped’ she advises an office appointment. Easy peasy.

  3. Drydoc57 says:

    I tell patients to use thread or unwaxed dental floss (the waxed stuff usually won’t hold a knot). If they have someone they trust small ones can be removed with quick snip at the base.
    As is usual for TV miracle ads -a total rip-off.

  4. kurt youngmann says:

    Has anyone ever bothered to count how many quackish ads for nonexistent or irrelevant conditions we see advertised on television? In the past they were largely limited to late-night TV but now they’re on at all hours. I don’t think there’s a body part, inside or outside, that they don’t tell you causes problems and that they have the solution for it.

    Speaking of junk on television, I’d also like to mention my disgust with Public Television, a network that sells airtime to myriad hucksters of quack modalities – especially during their pledge drives when they offer DVD copies of the programs as thank-you gifts for donations.

    1. Jeffrey Rubinoff says:

      PBS, really?! I left the States 20 years ago and there certainly wasn’t quack time on PBS back then. Just retread British stuff and some cooking and gardening shows.

      1. Sort of not really. The local affiliates run nonsense, but I haven’t seen alt-garbage promoted via PBS’s national feeds. Complementary and alternative poop knows no bounds, maybe infiltration of PBS is a next step.

    2. Janet Camp says:

      It’s the local stations, each of which is independent and buys its own programming, that run this garbage–not PBS, the Corporation. I wish I knew which cities DON’T run this kind of pre-packaged junk. It doesn’t matter anymore, though, because I killed my television some years ago. I watch the occasional program at pbs.org/video, though.

  5. Abel says:

    Topical products are not considered dietary supplements. The Dietary Supplement Health Education Act doesn’t cover them. Any topical product making a drug claim (like ‘Tag Away’) is a Topical Drug which requires special labeling and approval. However, because homeopathy was grandfathered in to the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, homeopathic ingredients already have ‘drug’ approval. Technically a homeopathic drug product needs to be made according to the rules in the HPUS (Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States), which is a tightly held private book, not in regular print. 24 hours of online access is $99! The latest craze in loopholes is to add 1 homeopathic ingredient into a mix of other non-homoepathic herbs and supplements and then market it with strong drug claims. It is not technically legal in my understanding (i.e. the form is different than in HPUS), but the FDA has been lax on enforcement and now this tactic is visible on the shelves of many supermarket pharmacies. Eyedrops, Zicam (the non-homeopathic zinc led to permanent loss of sense of smell for many), Tag Away… Clearly this subverts basic consumer protection laws (and that’s before the arbitration agreement ploy) and deserves some enforcement actions. The FDC Act should also be amended to remove homeopathics as drugs until they are proven safe and effective like regular drugs. I suspect most SBM readers know that already…

  6. Jeremy Praay says:

    Reminds me of “HeadOn”

    1. krissy says:

      “apply directly to the forehead”

  7. Wei says:

    I just pull mine off with my fingers (it helps to have nails).

  8. Steve says:

    I love how the commercial for this “product” is on the SCIENCE channel. Not that I hold any TV channel to any kind of standard, but I think their marketing geniuses maaaay have missed the mark a bit.

  9. pmoran says:

    So many plants have caustic sap or other content that it should not be too difficult to come up with a “natural” agent that actually works. CAM’s notorious “black salve” should do it.

    It would be very desirable to protect the skin around the lesion as normal skin may be at least as sensitive to a destructive product as that over the skin tag.

    As Harriet says there are many simpler and quicker ways of getting rid of them.

  10. Floss or thread is the best. It’s really entertaining to watch the tag alternate from a blood-swollen bulb to a necrotic deflated black balloon. Then, it just falls off without notice.

    1. windriven says:

      “It’s really entertaining to watch the tag alternate”

      I wish I had that kind of patience. I could use the entertainment value.

      I have a ‘side-cutter’ nail clipper. Sharp as a piranha’s teeth. Sterilize in isopropyl and … snip. Oh crap, I think I nicked my carotid …

    2. Janet Camp says:

      When my kids were little, they used to get either grossed out or have fits of giggles when Grandpa Camp came to visit with little tiny knots of dental floss all over his neck. There would be about a dozen of them and it was pretty strange looking. :-)

  11. bill t. says:

    KCET in LA has been heavily promoting Deepak Chopra (“”by consciously using our awareness, we can influence the way we age biologically. . . . You can tell your body not to age”, I assume for a large share of his proceeds.

  12. Daniel says:

    Natural mole removal using apple juice or onions juice is the best way if you want to do it at home with no expenses or surgeries. There are some mole removal creams that work, but tag away is not one of them as you say.

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      Really? I’m intrigued. Can you provide any references showing that apple juice, onion juice or mole remover creams are effective?

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