Sebaceous hyperplasia is a harmless, common skin condition that becomes more common with age. It happens when your sebaceous oil glands make too much oil that gets trapped under your skin and causes bumps. If you decide to treat it, there are many options available.
Keep in mind that oily skin, itself, can be perfectly normal. Your sebaceous glands make sebum, an oily or waxy substance that moisturizes and protects your skin and hair. If there’s too much oil, that can cause issues, like clogged pores, acne, and sebaceous hyperplasia.
Stress, hormones, humidity, and genetics are some of the reasons your skin may make more oil than someone else’s.
Understanding Sebaceous Hyperplasia
Sebaceous hyperplasia is caused by clogged hair follicles. They can get clogged if you have too many sebaceous glands or if your sebaceous glands are overactive, making more oil than your skin needs. Although this can happen anywhere on your skin, it’s most common on the face.
Even though sebaceous hyperplasia poses no health risks, you may not like how it looks. Sebaceous hyperplasia spots are usually 2 to 5 millimeters (.08 to 0.2 inches) in diameter and may be flesh-colored (for all skin tones) or slightly yellow. If the spots last too long, they may have a similar appearance to basal cell carcinoma. If you’re concerned about the appearance of any spots on your skin, talk to your doctor or dermatologist.
Sebaceous Hyperplasia Treatment Options
If your doctor determines that a spot is sebaceous hyperplasia, you don’t have to have it removed. But if you choose to, there’s a range of options. If you choose to pursue surgical removal, scarring is possible.
Retinol. If you want to try an over-the-counter treatment first, look for creams with retinol or vitamin A as an active ingredient. Retinol helps to prevent your pores from getting clogged with too much oil. If over-the-counter options aren’t strong enough, you may still be able to use a cream with prescription-grade concentrations by seeing a dermatologist. Prescription products are stronger and are usually more effective with stubborn cases. Either way, it may take several months before you begin to see results.
If you have darker skin, be sure to start slowly and moisturize to help prevent irritation that could cause darker areas (hyperpigmentation).
Don’t use retinoids during pregnancy
Warm compress. If buildup is trapped under your skin, a warm compress may help open your pores, allowing the oil to release. This at-home treatment won’t solve the problem completely but may make the bumps smaller.
Photodynamic therapy. With this in-office treatment, your doctor will apply a solution to your skin. Sensitive areas like your face may require the solution to sit for 1 or 2 hours. Other areas may require the solution to sit overnight. Once the solution is applied, your doctor uses a special light to treat the spots.
Electrocauterization. Another in-office treatment is electrocauterization. Your doctor uses an electrically charged needle to heat and vaporize each individual bump. You’ll develop a scab after the treatment, but once the scab falls off, the spot should be smaller or gone. You may develop a faint scar from this type of treatment.
Laser therapy. Your doctor uses a laser to remove the top layer of skin, allowing the sebum oil to release and your skin to clear.
Cryotherapy. A special solution is used to freeze the spot. The spot will later dry and fall off, but there may be some discoloration after this procedure.
Risks of Sebaceous Hyperplasia Treatment
Any type of treatment poses health risks. It’s important to know the pros and cons of each treatment option, so you make an educated decision.
Infection. If the removal of your sebaceous hyperplasia spot requires burning or cutting of your skin, there is a risk for infection. Doctors use sterilized tools, but bacteria may enter the wound site after the procedure. Watch your spots for signs of infection, like:
- Pain around the spot
- Pus or oozing liquid that persists
- The wound smelling strongly
- Inflammation, redness, and swelling
- Having a fever
- The wound’s appearance worsens instead of improving
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor right away. Infection is easy to treat if caught early but may lead to more significant scarring if it isn’t addressed.
Scarring. If the spots bother you because of their appearance, you may still want to leave them alone. Sebaceous may improve on its own over time. However, scarring as a result of treatment is permanent.
Oily Skin Treatment at Home
Wash regularly. To care for oily skin, you need to clear it of excess oil. You should wash your face in the morning, at night, and after you exercise.
Avoid overly harsh cleansers, which can irritate skin and trigger oil production. Use a gentle, foaming wash instead. For the same reason, you shouldn’t scrub your face roughly.
Your cleanser should be noncomedogenic (meaning that it won’t cause acne), non-irritating, and non-allergenic. It should also rinse off easily. Gels or bars are more likely to work for oily skin than cream or oil washes.
Exfoliate every few days. Use a gentle exfoliating wash several times a week. Doing so will help rid your skin of dead skin cells, which can trap sebum. When sebum gets caught in dead skin cells, acne can form.
Moisturize. Oily skin needs moisturizer, too, particularly if using products designed to remove oil from the skin. Choose something lightweight and noncomedogenic that won’t clog your pores. In the morning, you might skip the moisturizer and apply sunscreen instead.
Blot as needed. Use blotting papers throughout the day to get rid of buildup and control shine. Hold the paper against your face without rubbing, which can spread the oil.
Remove makeup before bed. Look for noncomedogenic cosmetics that won’t block your pores, and be sure to remove all makeup before bedtime. Use an effective product that doesn’t require you to scrub and irritate your face. Recent micellar water makeup removers have proven effective at removing water-based cosmetics. If they are not strong enough on their own, they can also help remove an oily film left behind by an oil-based makeup remover.
Avoid certain ingredients. You can find skin care products at a range of prices. Pay attention to product labels and ingredients instead of relying on brand recognition. The following ingredients will clog oily skin:
- Cocoa butter
- Coconut oil
- Petroleum jelly
You should also avoid alcohol-based products, as they tend to irritate the skin.
Choose the right products. Check the ingredient lists for things that are proven to fight oil. The following ingredients have reduced oil in clinical trials:
- Green tea
- Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3
- L-carnitine, an amino acid
Licochalcone A, a phenol extracted from licorice root, may help fight acne and manage oily skin. Also, clay facial masks can absorb excess oil.
When using products, follow label directions. If you’re trying something new, use it sparingly to start to make sure that it doesn’t irritate your skin and make conditions worse.
Don’t touch your face. Try not to touch your face throughout the day. Doing so can spread bacteria, dirt, and more oil to areas prone to acne and other irritations.