Sebaceous Hyperplasia: Causes and Treatment

Sebaceous hyperplasia is an enlarged sebaceous gland. It appears as a small and shiny small bump and has a slightly visible indentation in the center. Check out what causes it and how to remove it.

woman with sebaceous hyperplasio on forehead

There are tiny glands under the skin known as sebaceous glands. These glands are responsible for producing oil that keeps the skin lubricated. However, in some cases, there is an overproduction of oil that then becomes trapped in the glands which results in a bump under the skin. Such a condition is known as sebaceous hyperplasia. So, how is it diagnosed and treated?

What is Sebaceous Hyperplasia?

As mentioned, sebaceous hyperplasia is caused by the overabundance of oil that then accumulates under the skin. This condition appears as either a single bump on the surface or multiple lumps in clusters.

While it usually forms on the face, such as the nose, cheeks, and forehead, sebaceous hyperplasia can also develop on the areola, vulva, scrotum, penis, shoulders, chest, and back. The bumps that appear in these areas are considered harmless. Moreover, it commonly affects middle-aged to elderly individuals.


Numerous factors heighten the risk of the development of this condition. Individuals over the age of 40 and are fair-skinned are likely to develop sebaceous hyperplasia, especially if their skin is frequently exposed to sunlight. 

Continuous exposure to the sun can lead to the early development of sebaceous hyperplasia or may aggravate the condition further.

Individuals with a family history of the condition are also at a higher risk of getting sebaceous hyperplasia. Individuals taking immunosuppressant medications known as cyclosporine are at higher risk. People with a suppressed immune system are at greater risk as well.

Muir-Torre syndrome, which is a rare genetic disorder, can also result in this condition. Moreover, individuals diagnosed with this condition must take precautions, especially when it involves diagnosing sebaceous hyperplasia as it could indicate the presence of a tumor.


Sebaceous hyperplasia’s primary symptom is the appearance of bumps under the skin. These bumps are small and shiny, and appear to have a slightly visible indentation in the center. Moreover, the edge of the bump appears yellow or white. Some individuals may mistake the bumps for acne, such as blackheads or whiteheads. However, unlike acne, the bumps are painless and, as stated above, the center is indented. The diameter of the bumps may vary from 2 to 9 mm.


Sebaceous hyperplasia can be diagnosed visually by dermatologists. However, when the diagnosis is uncertain, a biopsy is recommended. As per sebaceous hyperplasia might be mistaken for basal cell carcinoma, a severe skin condition.

Basal cell carcinoma also causes bumps to appear under the skin. However, the bumps are darker, and the color surrounding the skin is more pronounced than that of sebaceous hyperplasia.

Here is what hyperplasia is, it causes, and ways to treat it.


In most cases, sebaceous hyperplasia is harmless, but it may appear embarrassing for some individuals. There are many methods to remove these bumps, but it may require more than one session to remove all of them entirely.

1. Facial Peel

Facial peels may help remove the bumps, but some peels contain chemicals like salicylic acid which may result in sensitivity, redness, and irritation. Moreover, facial peels that use chemicals may aggravate the condition further, especially if appropriate aftercare is not given.

2. Retinol

One form of vitamin A, retinol, helps treat numerous issues related to the skin. For individuals with sebaceous hyperplasia, prescription retinoid is recommended. However, the application must be regular for it to work on the bumps as it may return if the treatment is suddenly discontinued.

3. Cryotherapy

Another process to remove sebaceous hyperplasia is known as cryotherapy. It involves freezing the bumps and causes it to dry up and then drop away. However, an individual should expect discoloration in the area where the process is applied.

4. Laser Therapy

The removal of the sebum trapped in the gland under the skin is another treatment method. This requires the use of a laser, but before the therapy is done, it is tested on a small patch on the skin to guarantee that no adverse reactions may occur.

5. Electrocautery

Another treatment method is the use of electricity known as electrocautery. In this process, the bump is burned with a tolerable charge of electricity. After a few days, the skin forms a scab that falls away to reveal smooth skin. However, extra care must be given during and after the treatment as the scabs might leave marks as the skin heals.

6. Surgery

For persistent or severe sebaceous hyperplasia, doctors recommend surgery. While this is a permanent solution for this condition, it is considered the last resort as it may lead to scarring.

7. Photodynamic Therapy

For this treatment method, a drug is applied to the affected area which makes the cells under the skin sensitive to light. Afterward, a strong light is used in the area which destroys the cells that cause the overproduction of oil. Take note that after this treatment, the skin becomes extremely sensitive and may exhibit peeling, irritation, and redness.

8. Antiandrogen Medications

Studies claim that there is a link between increased testosterone and sebaceous hyperplasia. Thus, some healthcare professional recommends antiandrogen medicines for women who exhibit severe symptoms of sebaceous hyperplasia. It is also a recommended treatment for individuals who do not respond to the therapies mentioned above.

Home Remedies

Numerous home remedies are also readily available to reduce the appearance of the bumps. Facial washes, creams, and over-the-counter medications that contain retinol clear sebaceous glands under the skin.

Other individuals also claim that the regular use of a cleanser that contains salicylic acid helps. It not only prevents clogged glands but dries up oily skin. Trapped sebum may also be drawn out with the aid of a warm compress. After cleansing the face with a medicated soap, place a warm compress on the face.

The warm compress might not remove the bumps, but it aids in reducing inflammation and swelling, and dissolve the buildup of oil under the skin. Sebaceous hyperplasia can be aggravated further by constant exposure to the sun. It is advised to keep the skin protected from harmful UV rays or minimize sun exposure.

Since sebaceous hyperplasia can run in the genes, there is no definitive method to prevent this condition. The home remedies mentioned above might help reduce its symptoms as well as its appearance.

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