Sebaceous hyperplasia causes small bumps to appear on the skin when sebaceous glands become enlarged.

Sebaceous glands secrete an oily substance called sebum. This helps to protect the skin from the outside environment. Sebum can become trapped inside the gland, causing it to swell and form a bump under the skin. This is known as as sebaceuous hyperplasia.

These bumps are harmless and often appear on the forehead and cheeks. However, there are sebaceous glands all over the body, and the 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 reduce the appearance of bumps. Cosmetic procedures can also remove them.

Share on Pinterest
SDI Productions/Getty Images

Enlarged sebaceous glands cause sebaceous hyperplasia. These glands become enlarged due to irregular sebum production and a subsequent buildup of oil.

A genetic disorder called Muir-Torre syndrome can also cause sebaceous hyperplasia in rare cases. However, the presence of sebaceous hyperplasia is not a diagnostic measure of the condition. People with the syndrome should take special care to have sebaceous hyperplasia properly diagnosed, as it may indicate a tumor.

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. While this typically occurs on the face, reports have detailed cases of sebaceous hyperplasia across many parts of the body.

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 the sebaceous gland itself.

Learn more about acne here.

The two conditions may appear similar but can be visually distinguished. For example, a whitehead or blackhead caused by acne will usually have a lifted center, while bumps caused by sebaceous hyperplasia are indented. These bumps are typically small and cause no pain.

Many people with oily or combination skin may notice these bumps as they age. Bumps may appear on their own or in small clusters.

Sebaceous hyperplasia is harmless in most cases. However, if the bumps are unsightly or embarrassing, a person may choose to have them removed. Various methods are available, but a person may require multiple sessions for complete removal.

Possible treatments include:

Retinol

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

Studies show 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.

Facial peels

A facial peel may contain chemicals such as salicylic acid. Chemical facial peels can cause irritation, redness, and sensitivity. This can aggravate sebaceous hyperplasia if a person does not receive proper aftercare.

Laser therapy

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

Cryotherapy

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.

Learn more about cryotherapy here.

Electrocautery

Electrocautery involves using a charge of electricity to burn the bump. 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 can potentially leave indented scars if not performed properly.

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 treatment, leading to redness, irritation, and peeling.

Surgery

If sebaceous hyperplasia is severe or persistent, a doctor may consider surgically removing the bumps. This will prevent them from returning, but it can cause scarring and is usually considered a last resort.

Antiandrogen medications

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

Some home remedies can also diminish bumps caused by sebaceous hyperplasia. However, most home remedies are based on anecdotal evidence and not backed up by human clinical trials.

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

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

Warm compresses may also draw out any trapped sebum. While a warm compress may not get rid of bumps altogether, they may help reduce swelling and inflammation.

A dermatologist will often visually diagnose sebaceous hyperplasia. They will distinguish sebaceous hyperplasia from other more serious conditions which may bear a resemblance, such as basal cell carcinoma.

Bumps caused by 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 lab for testing.

There is no way to prevent sebaceous hyperplasia. However, a person may be able to reduce the appearance of their sebaceous glands.

Exposure to UV rays is considered a cofactor in sebaceous hyperplasia. To reduce this exposure, a person can lessen their time spent in direct sunlight or protect their skin with sunscreen. However, sebaceous hyperplasia can still occur in skin with no 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, hyperplasia can occur without outside influence.

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

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 red bumps on the skin and is harmless. A buildup of oil and subsequent inflammation of sebaceous glands causes the condition.

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

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