Sebaceous hyperplasia causes small bumps to appear on the skin when sebaceous glands become enlarged. Treatments can include removal, medications, and home remedies.

Sebaceous glands secrete an oily substance called sebum. This helps protect the skin from the outside environment.

Due to an overgrowth of oil-producing cells, sebum can become trapped inside the gland, causing it to swell and form a bump under the skin. This is known as sebaceous hyperplasia.

These bumps are harmless and often appear on the forehead and cheeks. However, sebaceous glands exist all over the body, so bumps can form almost anywhere. They are more common in adults, but they can show up at any age.

There is currently no cure for sebaceous hyperplasia. However, some medications and home remedies may be able to reduce the appearance of these bumps. Cosmetic procedures can also remove them.

In this article, learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options associated with sebaceous hyperplasia.

Sebaceous hyperplasia is a condition that causes bumps to appear on the surface of the skin. Some people may want to have these bumps removed for cosmetic reasons.

The images below show some examples of how sebaceous hyperplasia can present.

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Sebaceous hyperplasia is a skin condition that can occur as people age. It is caused by harmless enlarged glands that produce oil. For cosmetic reasons, some people may want these lesions removed.
Klaus D. Peter/Wikimedia Commons
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This image is an up-close view of sebaceous hyperplasia.
Toshitsugu Sato/Wikimedia Commons
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This image shows sebaceous hyperplasia on the face.
© 2016 The Korean Dermatological Association and The Korean Society for Investigative Dermatology/NCBI

Enlarged sebaceous glands cause sebaceous hyperplasia. These glands become enlarged when the cells that form the gland, known as sebocytes, overgrow and overproduce sebum. This leads to a buildup of oil.

A genetic condition called Muir-Torre syndrome can also cause sebaceous hyperplasia in rare cases. However, the presence of sebaceous hyperplasia is not a diagnostic measure of Muir-Torre syndrome.

People with this syndrome should take special care to receive a proper diagnosis of sebaceous hyperplasia, as it may indicate a tumor.

Sebaceous hyperplasia is harmless in most cases. However, if the bumps are unsightly or embarrassing, a person may choose to have them removed.

Doctors can offer various methods of removal, but a person may require multiple sessions to complete the procedure.

Some possible treatments for sebaceous hyperplasia include the following.


Retinol is a form of vitamin A that may help with a range of skin-related issues. Doctors often recommend prescription retinoids for people with sebaceous hyperplasia. However, these may require regular applications to work as intended.

One 2015 study suggests that the regular application of retinoids can be an effective treatment for sebaceous hyperplasia. However, the bumps may also return if a person stops using the treatment.

Doctors can also treat the condition with oral retinoids such as isotretinoin. In the same 2015 study as above, 20 participants with sebaceous hyperplasia who used 1 milligram of isotretinoin per kilogram of body weight per day for a period of 2 months all showed a significant decrease in the number of lesions on their bodies.

Around 2 years after the end of this study, the participants had few recurring lesions, with the average number being only four.

However, other medical literature does not necessarily support this conclusion. Some research indicates that oral isotretinoin treatment may need to be ongoing. If a person stops the treatment, sebaceous hyperplasia may reoccur.

In many cases, doctors prescribe this treatment for severe forms of hyperplasia. More research may be necessary to determine the long-term efficacy of this treatment for this condition.

Facial peels

A facial peel may contain chemicals such as acid.

Chemical facial peels can cause irritation, discoloration, and sensitivity. If a person does not receive proper aftercare, this can aggravate sebaceous hyperplasia.

Laser therapy

A dermatologist may recommend removing lesions using CO2 laser therapy. This can reduce the thickness of the lesions and result in smoother skin without causing notable scarring.


A doctor can remove sebaceous hyperplasia bumps in a process called cryotherapy. The doctor will freeze the bumps, causing them to dry up and drop away.

However, cryotherapy can potentially cause changes in skin color in the affected area.


Electrocautery involves using a charge of electricity to burn the bumps. The skin will then scab over and fall away, leaving behind a smooth area.

Electrocautery may cause skin pigment changes in the affected area and has the potential to leave indented scars if a person does not perform it correctly.

Photodynamic therapy

Photodynamic therapy involves applying a drug to the affected cells that makes them sensitive to light. Controlled exposure to intense light can then kill the cells.

The skin may become extremely sensitive after this treatment, possibly leading to redness, irritation, and peeling.

Antiandrogen medications

There may be a link between sebaceous hyperplasia and increased testosterone. Therefore, some doctors may recommend antiandrogen medications for females with severe symptoms who do not respond well to other treatment methods.


If sebaceous hyperplasia is severe or persistent, a doctor may suggest surgically removing the bumps.

This will prevent them from returning, but it can cause scarring. For this reason, doctors usually consider it a last resort.

The main symptom of sebaceous hyperplasia is the appearance of small, shiny bumps under the skin. A bump can have a slight indentation in the center and a white or yellow outer edge.

Although it typically occurs on the face, some reports detail cases of sebaceous hyperplasia occurring across many parts of the body. Bumps may appear on their own or in small clusters.

It may be difficult to distinguish the condition from acne. Acne forms when a person’s follicles become blocked and oil builds up under the skin, whereas sebaceous hyperplasia occurs in sebaceous glands themselves.

Learn more about acne here.

The two conditions may appear similar, but a whitehead or blackhead due to acne will usually have a raised center, while bumps from sebaceous hyperplasia will be indented. These bumps are typically small and cause no pain.

Many people with oily or combination skin may notice these bumps as they age.

Some home remedies can also reduce the appearance of bumps due to sebaceous hyperplasia. However, most home remedies are based on anecdotal evidence and do not have backing by human clinical trials.

Over-the-counter medications, creams, and face washes that contain retinol may help clear clogged sebaceous glands.

Some people may find that regularly washing the skin with a cleanser containing salicylic acid can help dry-oily skin and prevent clogged glands.

Dermatologists often visually diagnose sebaceous hyperplasia. They can distinguish sebaceous hyperplasia from other more serious conditions that may bear a resemblance to it, such as basal cell carcinoma.

Bumps that are due to basal cell carcinoma are typically larger and may have a darker or more pronounced color than the surrounding skin.

If a doctor is uncertain about a diagnosis, they will usually take a sample and send it to a laboratory for testing.

There is no way to prevent sebaceous hyperplasia. However, a person may be able to reduce the appearance of any bumps that appear.

It is also important to note that exposure to UV rays is considered a cofactor in sebaceous hyperplasia. To reduce their exposure to UV rays, a person can reduce the amount of time they spend in direct sunlight and protect their skin with sunscreen.

That said, sebaceous hyperplasia can still occur in skin with very little UV exposure.

Sebaceous hyperplasia predominantly occurs in older adult males. The activity of sebaceous glands is affected by hormone levels and age. As a result, this condition can occur without outside influence.

Increased exposure to UV rays and a person’s genetic history may increase their risk of developing the condition. However, scientists have not proven that these factors directly cause sebaceous hyperplasia.

Some researchers have linked some cases of sebaceous hyperplasia to long-term treatment with cyclosporine following organ transplants. Cyclosporine is a medication that reduces the activity of the immune system.

Sebaceous hyperplasia presents as small, inflamed bumps on the skin. It is typically harmless. A buildup of oil and subsequent inflammation of sebaceous glands causes the condition.

Because the bumps may be unsightly or embarrassing, some individuals may wish to reduce the appearance of these bumps or get rid of them completely.

Home treatments can sometimes help diminish bumps or prevent them from developing, but only medical interventions can remove them.