Derm DMs: What Are the Flesh-Colored Bumps on My Forehead?

November 23, 2020
Samantha Holender
By: Samantha Holender | by L'Oréal
Derm DMs: What Are the Flesh-Colored Bumps on My Forehead?

If you like to get up close and personal with your magnifying mirror, you may come across some unpoppable, flesh-colored bumps now and again. They’re not painful and they don’t get inflamed like pimples, so what exactly are they? After talking to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Patricia Farris, we learned you’re likely dealing with oil gland growths, or sebaceous hyperplasia. Here, we’re breaking down what to know about the sebum-filled glands and how to address them. 

What Is an Oil Gland Growth? 

Normally, sebaceous glands, which are attached to hair follicles, will secrete sebum or oil into the duct of the hair follicle. The oil then gets released through the opening on the surface of the skin. But when these oil glands become clogged, there’s no release for the excess sebum. “Sebaceous hyperplasia is when the oil glands become enlarged and trapped with sebum,” says Dr. Farris. “It’s common in older patients and is the result of decreasing androgen levels associated with aging.” She explains that without androgens, cell turnover slows down and sebum can build up.   

In terms of appearance, the growths, which are typically found on the forehead and cheeks, won’t look like your ordinary inflamed pimple. “They present as small papules that are yellowish or white and usually have a small dell in the center that correspond with the opening of a hair follicle,” says Dr. Farris. And unlike acne, oil gland growths won’t be tender to the touch or cause swelling or discomfort. While sebaceous hyperplasia is easy to distinguish from an acne breakout, it does actually look very similar to basal cell carcinoma, which is a form of skin cancer. Before worrying yourself, make sure to get a confirmed diagnosis, it’s important to consult with a board-certified dermatologist. 

How to Address Sebaceous Hyperplasia 

First things first: There is no medical need to treat oil gland growths. They’re benign and any form of treatment is for cosmetic purposes. If you do want to either reduce your chances of developing sebaceous hyperplasia or treat existing growths, incorporating a retinoid or retinol into your skin-care routine is the most common route. “Topical retinoids are a mainstay of treatment and can smooth the surface of the bumps over time,” says Dr. Farris. “Some of my favorites are the US.K Under Skin Retinol Antiox Defence, SkinCeuticals Retinol .3 and Biopelle Retriderm Retinol.” (Editor’s note: Retinoids can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so make sure to use a sunscreen in the morning and take proper sun protection measures.) 


Now if your lesions are on the larger size and have been on your face for a while, using a retinoid may not be enough. “The oil gland growths can be removed by shave excision, but the most common treatment is electrosurgical destruction,” says Dr. Farris. Essentially, a board-certified dermatologist will use thermal energy or heat to flatten the lesion and make it less noticeable. 


Design: Hannah Packer

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