There are many reasons for small bumps on the forehead. Although a person may not like the way they look or feel, they are often harmless.

People often associate forehead bumps with acne. However, there are several causes, such as milia, contact dermatitis, and folliculitis.

Forehead bumps are not usually serious, and there are many treatments to help remove them, depending on the cause.

This article explores common causes of small bumps on the forehead. We will also look at the potential home and medical treatments, and when a person should speak with a doctor.

Small bumps on the forehead can vary in appearance depending on their cause. They might be white or red and soft or firm.

These bumps may occur exclusively on the forehead, or they may also present on other body areas.

In some people, the bumps may:

  • itch
  • burn
  • become sore

There are several causes of forehead bumps, including:


Milia, also known as milk spots, are small, pimple-like cysts that occur when dead skin cells build up underneath the skin. They tend to develop in clusters on the face, usually around the eyes, but they can also appear on the forehead.

They are typically:

  • firm
  • dome-shaped
  • white or yellow in color

In some people, milia can develop for no reason. With others, injury, blistering, or burning might cause them. They also tend to be common in newborns.


Acne can cause spots and bumps anywhere on the body, including the forehead. It occurs when dead skin cells mix with the skin’s natural oils and clog pores.

Acne bumps may look like small whiteheads, blackheads, or larger cysts. There might be a few individual bumps, or they may appear in a cluster.


Folliculitis is a skin infection that occurs when damaged hair follicles allow bacteria to get into the skin. A person can then develop an infection on most areas of the skin, including their forehead.

These spots will usually look like acne and may have red rings around them. They may also be itchy or tender.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritating substance. This substance may damage the skin cells or trigger an allergic reaction.

This condition can cause the skin to become red or swollen, while small, red bumps and spots may appear. These spots may burn or itch.

Common causes of contact dermatitis on the face include certain types of skin care products. Medicines that people apply directly to the skin could also trigger a reaction.

Milia are usually harmless and may improve without treatment, although it may take several weeks.

Some over-the-counter (OTC) creams and lotions may help mild or moderate acne. Ingredients to look out for include:


Retinoids are a vitamin A treatment that helps skin cells grow and repair. Some cream, gel, and liquid skin care products contain retinoids.

Sometimes, products containing retinoids may cause side effects such as dryness, redness, and itching.

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid may reduce swelling and redness and help unblock pores. However, it may take several weeks to work.

Some people using salicylic acid may experience side effects such as skin irritation or stinging.

Azelaic acid

Azelaic acid is a chemical that may reduce swelling and redness. However, it can sometimes change skin color in people with dark complexions.

Possible side effects of azelaic acid include:

  • burning
  • stinging
  • itching
  • tingling
  • dryness

If milia do not improve, dermatologists may recommend tretinoin cream, a type of retinoid available as prescription medicine. However, it is not suitable for use during pregnancy.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), doctors may also recommend prescription-strength retinoids or other acne treatments in severe cases. Other options might include antibiotics or steroid injections.

Oral contraceptives may help people with acne during their menstrual cycle.

Doctors may also recommend a steroid cream for contact dermatitis. In more severe cases, they may prescribe a short course of steroid tablets or injections.

The following cosmetic procedures are available to treat forehead bumps. However, they are not suitable for pregnant people.


Sometimes, if milia do not improve, dermatologists might suggest cryotherapy. This technique involves freezing the skin to release the dead skin cells that comprise the milia. The procedure takes around 1–3 hours and may feel uncomfortable, with people typically needing 1–3 days of recovery time.

Photodynamic therapy

People with severe acne sometimes undergo photodynamic therapy, which uses light to destroy damaged skin cells. Doctors usually recommend this procedure for skin cancer, and it can take anything from 30 minutes to 18 hours.

Possible side effects of photodynamic therapy include:

  • burning
  • discoloration
  • blisters
  • scabs

Most people will experience dryness and sunburn in the affected area following treatment. However, OTC medications may help alleviate the pain. Doctors advise people to stay out of the sun for 24–48 hours after photodynamic therapy.

Chemical peels

Chemical peels are another option for acne. The procedure involves a dermatologist using a chemical solution to remove the top layers of skin.

People undergoing this procedure will usually have some redness afterward. Doctors advise people to stay out of the sun for a few days or weeks after a chemical peel.

Folliculitis usually gets better without treatment. However, applying a warm compress for 15–20 minutes, three to four times a day, may ease symptoms.

Sometimes, shaving, plucking, or waxing can cause folliculitis. In this case, experts recommend avoiding such activities for at least 30 days.

There are simple steps for people to help stop acne from getting worse or returning.

They can keep the skin clean to ensure pores do not become blocked.

The AAD also recommend washing and moisturizing every day after waking up, before going to bed, and after sweating, which eliminates dead skin cells that contribute to acne.

Items, such as pillowcases and hats, may transfer sweat on to the face, blocking the pores and making acne worse. A person should always use clean pillowcases, sweatbands, and headbands.

Most small forehead bumps, including milia, acne, and folliculitis, will go away without treatment. However, their symptoms may sometimes cause discomfort.

People should speak with a doctor if symptoms interfere with their everyday life.

A person should seek emergency medical care if a procedure or medical treatment triggers symptoms, such as:

  • swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, or eyes
  • trouble breathing or swallowing
  • rash or hives
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • fatigue or extreme tiredness
  • headache
  • hearing loss
  • buzzing or ringing in the ears
  • fast breathing
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea

Various skin conditions may cause small bumps on the forehead. However, these bumps are usually harmless.

Maintaining healthy skin may help avoid many of the causes of forehead bumps. OTC and prescription medications and cosmetic procedures are available if these bumps do not improve without treatment.

If a person has concerns about their skin bumps or any related symptoms, they should speak with a doctor.