What Is Sebaceous Hyperplasia? And What Causes It?

Sebaceous glands are attached to hair follicles all over your body. These glands secrete an oily substance called sebum onto the surface of your skin. Sebum creates a slightly greasy layer on your skin to help keep it flexible and hydrated.

Sometimes, sebum becomes trapped inside the sebaceous glands, causing them to swell and form small bumps that are visible on your skin. This condition is known as sebaceous hyperplasia.

Who Gets Sebaceous Hyperplasia?

Sebaceous hyperplasia is most common in middle-aged or older adults, but it can happen at any age. People with fair skin – especially those with excessive sun exposure – are more likely to get sebaceous hyperplasia as well.

Approximately 15% of people who take an immunosuppressant medication called cyclosporine (often used after organ transplants) develop sebaceous hyperplasia. So can people with Muir-Torre syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that increases the risk of certain cancers. If you have this syndrome, contact your Forefront dermatologist right away. The presence of sebaceous hyperplasia could indicate a tumor.

What Are Sebaceous Hyperplasia Symptoms?

The main symptom of sebaceous hyperplasia is the appearance of small, shiny bumps under the skin. The bumps may have a slight indentation in the center or a white or yellow border.

Sebaceous hyperplasia typically occurs on the face, but it can be on any part of the body. The bumps are usually small and do not cause any pain. Some bumps appear on their own, while others are in small clusters.

Is Diagnosing Sebaceous Hyperplasia a Challenge?

You may be thinking, “This sounds a lot like acne.” And yes, it can be difficult to distinguish sebaceous hyperplasia from acne, especially without a dermatologist’s help.

Acne forms when your follicles are blocked and oil builds up under your skin, while sebaceous hyperplasia occurs in the sebaceous glands themselves. The two conditions often look similar. However, whiteheads or blackheads caused by acne usually have a raised center, while bumps from sebaceous hyperplasia are indented. Your Forefront dermatologist can explain more.

What Are My Sebaceous Hyperplasia Treatment Options?

Sebaceous hyperplasia is harmless in most cases and does not require treatment unless the bumps are growing or bleeding.

Ask your Forefront dermatologist about medication for sebaceous hyperplasia. Regular application of prescription-strength retinol can help reduce the bumps, as can oral retinoids (such as isotretinoin). If your bumps are unsightly or embarrassing, you may prefer to have them removed.

What Procedures Can Remove Sebaceous Hyperplasia?

At Forefront Dermatology, your options for sebaceous hyperplasia removal include:

Electrocautery – Uses an electric needle to burn the bumps, which scab over and fall off
Cryotherapy – Freezes the bumps, so they quickly fall off
Laser treatment – Smooths the skin and removes trapped sebum
Photodynamic therapy – Applies a drug activated by light

Can Sebaceous Hyperplasia Return After Treatment?

You may have to do several rounds of treatment to see results. And when treatment stops (especially oral retinoids), the bumps can return.

What Are the Risk Factors for Sebaceous Hyperplasia?

There’s no way to prevent sebaceous hyperplasia, but you can reduce your risk of getting it. Sebaceous hyperplasia is linked to sun exposure, so stay out of the sun as much as possible. In the sun, be sure to wear sunscreen with at least 30 SPF.

Washing your face with a cleanser that contains salicylic acid or retinol can also help prevent your sebaceous glands from clogging.

What Can I Expect During a Sebaceous Hyperplasia Treatment?

Some of the procedures listed above can cause discoloration in the affected area. Talk to your Forefront dermatologist if you want to remove the bumps, so we can help you find the right treatment option for your skin type.

Visit a Dermatologist for Sebaceous Hyperplasia Treatment

Our board-certified dermatologists are ready to provide you with skin care solutions that meet your needs and goals. Find a Forefront Dermatology office near you and schedule a consultation today.

Say goodbye to sebaceous hyperplasia. Book a consultation with a skin specialist today.

Interested in Sebaceous Hyperplasia Treatment? Book a consultation with a skin specialist today.


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Please confirm your desired treatment is offered at your preferred location when scheduling.

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