Sebaceous hyperplasia: overview and more


Sebaceous gland hyperplasia is a very common non-contagious disease in which small bumps appear on the skin. Most of the time they are flesh colored and can be smooth or slightly uneven and rough.

As a general rule, sebaceous gland hyperplasia does not go away without treatment. However, the bumps can be left without worry.

This article looks at the symptoms and causes of sebaceous hyperplasia and how healthcare professionals diagnose and distinguish it from certain types of skin cancer. You will also learn about the different treatment options, including medications and procedures.

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Symptoms of sebaceous hyperplasia.

Sebaceous hyperplasia can appear as a single lump or multiple lumps in a group or line.

Its size varies from 1 or 2 millimeters to several millimeters. Although they are usually the same color as your skin, they can also take on a white or slightly yellowish tint.

The bumps don't hurt or itch, but they may bleed if you hit or shave them.

Sebaceous gland hyperplasia most often develops on the face, especially the forehead, cheeks, and nose. Babies also often have bumps on their upper lip.

Although it can appear in other places, such as the back and chest, shoulders, areola, penis, scrotum, and vulva, it is much less common.

The lumps with hyperplasia of the sebaceous glands usually remain when they appear. An exception? Newly born. Its bumps usually recede and disappear within a few months of life.

Acne or sebaceous gland hyperplasia?

Sebaceous hyperplasia is often confused with comedogenic acne because the bumps are very similar to non-inflamed acne rashes.

But take a closer look: if you see a depressed or pitted area in the center of a lump, or small blood vessels (telangiectasias) inside, it is unlikely that you are dealing with an acne breakout.


Lumps with hyperplasia of the sebaceous glands are not rashes or neoplasms. Rather, they are enlarged sebaceous glands – tiny glands under the surface of the skin that you would not have noticed if it weren't for this condition.

Oil glands are found throughout the body, except for the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Their job is to create an oil called sebum that keeps the skin smooth and healthy.

With sebaceous gland hyperplasia, there is an excess of sebocytes, special cells that make up the sebaceous glands. These cells enlarge the sebaceous gland, as a result of which it is enlarged several times compared to its normal size.

Now, instead of being a tiny gland under the surface of the skin, it is large enough to create a bump that can be easily seen.

There are several factors that contribute to sebaceous gland hyperplasia. The most important are hormonal changes.

There also appears to be a genetic link. If someone in your family has sebaceous hyperplasia, they are also more likely to develop it.

In some cases, sebaceous gland hyperplasia may be associated with sun exposure.


Androgens, particularly testosterone , stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more fat. The significant role of these hormones is evident during puberty, when a large increase in androgens leads to the fact that many adolescents have very oily skin.

Androgens decrease with age. This slows down the sebaceous glands and, as a result, the production of oil.

Cell turnover, the rate at which dead cells in the sebaceous glands are replaced by fresh cells, also slows down. The cells return to the gland, causing it to enlarge.

Risk factor's

Sebaceous gland hyperplasia is more common with age. Usually this doesn't show up until middle age or later.

The disease affects both men and women in roughly the same way. This is most often seen in fair or fair skinned people.

It is also much more common in people who take the immunosuppressant drug cyclosporine for a long time, such as transplant recipients.

Some people develop sebaceous hyperplasia at a much younger age if there is a strong family history of the condition, although this is less common.

Newborns who develop this condition do so due to the transfer of hormones from mother to child. It often appears along with acne in children.


Sebaceous gland hyperplasia develops when the sebaceous (sebaceous) glands become enlarged, probably due to age and changes in hormone levels. Increased sun exposure and certain genes or medications such as cyclosporine can also contribute to the development of this condition.


A simple visual examination by your healthcare professional is usually sufficient to diagnose sebaceous hyperplasia. However, if there are any questions about the diagnosis, your doctor may order a skin biopsy to rule out skin cancer.

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish sebaceous hyperplasia from a similar (but more serious) skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma .

Basal cell carcinoma often appears on the head or neck and appears as a shiny, bulging, round lump, scar, or ulcer.

Basal cell carcinoma.

Scientific photo library – DR. P. MARAZZI / Getty Images

A biopsy can also help rule out a rare type of skin cancer called sebaceous carcinoma. This slow-growing cancer is a hard, yellowish bump, often on the eyelid. It may bleed and look like a pimple or sore that doesn't heal, doesn't heal, and comes back.

Patients with Muir-Torre syndrome, a rare inherited disorder that is a variant of Lynch syndrome, are at special risk of developing sebaceous carcinoma.


A doctor diagnoses sebaceous gland hyperplasia simply by looking at the appearance of the bumps. Sometimes a biopsy is required to rule out mimicking more serious conditions, such as skin cancer.

Watch out

Adults can choose to treat the bumps for cosmetic reasons or leave them alone. There is no medical need for the treatment of sebaceous gland hyperplasia.

Compressing the bumps of sebaceous hyperplasia will not help, as there is nothing inside that can be removed. In fact, it can lead to swelling or bleeding from the bumps.

If you want to be treated, there are many options to choose from. The results you get depend more on factors such as the number of bumps you have, your age, and skin type (such as color and how it reacts to sun exposure) than the specific therapy used.

Prescription drugs

Prescription medications, such as topical retinoids and azelaic acid, can help prevent the formation of new patches of sebaceous hyperplasia by accelerating the natural renewal of skin cells.

They can also make existing bumps smaller, although these topical treatments probably won't remove them completely.

For severe cases of sebaceous hyperplasia, your doctor may prescribe Accutane (isotretinoin) , an oral medication that narrows the sebaceous glands. Although the lumps are effective, they can come back after you stop taking the medicine. Accutane should also not be used during pregnancy.

Finally, anti-androgen medications, such as certain birth control pills and aldactone (spironolactone) , can be used for women with sebaceous hyperplasia. These drugs work by blocking the action of testosterone on the skin.


To treat sebaceous hyperplasia, you can perform various procedures in the office.

Some people choose these therapies right away, as they tend to provide a quicker and more obvious reduction in bumps. However, there is a risk of skin discoloration or scarring and the condition may recur.

These procedures include:

  • Laser resurfacing : A The laser sends a wave of light to the skin that attacks, heats up, and destroys the enlarged oil glands.
  • Photodynamic therapy: A chemical that absorbs light is applied to the skin. Then a light treatment is performed to reduce the number and size of the sebaceous glands.
  • Cryotherapy: Liquid nitrogen is sprayed over the affected area of the skin to freeze the bumps so they dry out and fall off.
  • Moxibustion or Electrodesiccation – A sharp needle is electrically heated and inserted at each stroke to dry quickly.
  • Excision – The bumps are shaved off or removed.

Over the counter drugs

Some have used over-the-counter face washes or face scrubs that contain salicylic acid to reduce the appearance of lumps. Others have used face creams that contain retinol to clear clogged oil glands.

There is no scientific evidence to support the use of these or other over-the-counter products for the treatment of sebaceous hyperplasia; any support you hear is anecdotal.

However, when used as directed, there is nothing wrong with trying them if you want.

Home remedies

Even if sebaceous hyperplasia persists, applying a warm compress to the bumps can help reduce their size and reduce inflammation.

Finally, since sun exposure can play a role in the presence of sebaceous hyperplasia, wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 a day can help prevent the condition from developing or worsening.


Sebaceous gland hyperplasia is a purely cosmetic problem. Since it is completely harmless, many people choose not to treat it. For those who want it, skin care products, medications, and treatments like laser resurfacing can help.


Sebaceous gland hyperplasia is characterized by the formation of small painless bumps in areas of the body where many sebaceous glands are located, such as the face.

This harmless skin condition can usually be diagnosed with a simple visual examination, although a biopsy is sometimes done to rule out skin cancer.

Any treatment for sebaceous gland hyperplasia is purely cosmetic.

Get the word of drug information

If you have a lump, injury, or any other unknown skin problem, it's always important to see your doctor for a correct diagnosis. This is especially true if sebaceous hyperplasia is suspected, as the bumps can be incredibly similar to skin cancer.

If you are diagnosed with sebaceous hyperplasia, rest assured that these lumps are probably much more obvious to you than to anyone else.

With that said, wellness is part of your overall wellness. If you think treating your condition can help you feel less self-conscious, talk to your doctor about your options.

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