Solutions for Sebaceous Hyperplasia

If you have struggled with oily or combination skin for most of your life and are now over the age of 40, you may have noticed a series of small, stubborn, crater-like bumps with a whitish rim popping up randomly on various parts of your face. While these bumps may appear to be a type of blackhead or breakout, you've probably found that they just don’t go away, no matter what you do. These irksome mounds are most likely a disorder called sebaceous hyperplasia, and they aren’t just any old blemish or clogged pore. Once one shows up, it is extremely difficult to get rid of—that is, until now.
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Recommended Products for Sebaceous Hyperplasia

What is Sebaceous Hyperplasia?

Sebaceous hyperplasia is the technical name for a benign bump on the skin that forms over time as a result of damage, leading to an ongoing problem with over-productive oil glands. These damaged oil glands can become enlarged and clogged in a very specific manner, displaying a soft or firm white or yellowish outer rim with a depressed center. The depressed center of these bumps is one of the primary ways you can tell you're dealing with sebaceous hyperplasia, and not with something else such as a whitehead (milia).

It's not uncommon to have several of these bumps at once, sometimes spaced apart, but they can be clustered, too. Sebaceous hyperplasia is most often seen on the forehead and central part of the face, but can appear anywhere on the body, especially in areas where the skin has more oil glands.

Cumulative sun damage is considered to be a co-factor of this condition because sunlight further damages skin and oil glands—one more reason to make sure you're protecting your skin every day with a well-formulated sunscreen!

How to Get Rid of Sebaceous Hyperplasia

Treating sebaceous hyperplasia usually requires a visit to the dermatologist, but now there are also products you can use at home to get these unsightly bumps under control—and have the smooth, even-tone skin you want!

A dermatologist has several options for treating sebaceous hyperplasia. Before you consider any of these, you need to know that, like acne, sebaceous hyperplasia cannot be cured, only controlled. The bump can be reduced or eliminated, but the affected oil gland likely will produce a new bump if treatment isn't maintained. Therefore, even if you decide to see a dermatologist for treatment, you'll want to ensure your at-home skin-care routine includes products to keep these bumps at bay.

When you visit a dermatologist for sebaceous hyperplasia, he or she may offer the following treatments, alone or in combination:

  • Facial peels—This involves using salicylic acid or trichloroacetic acid.
  • Electric needle—This causes the bump to break down and ooze, forming a scab that falls off in a week or so.
  • Photodynamic therapy—This is a light-emitting treatment where the skin is pre-treated with a special gel that reacts with the light. This often requires several office visits.
  • Liquid nitrogen—This option is risky because if it penetrates too deeply, you may be left with a scar or loss of skin pigment.
  • Prescription retinoid or azelaic acid—This treatment is intended to reduce the appearance of the lesions, but it won't eliminate the problem.
  • Surgical excision of the bump—This may lead to scarring, but the bump won't recur in the excised area. This is considered a last-resort option.
  • Antiandrogen medication—This reduces the hormone testosterone, which may be stimulating enlargement of the oil glands. Examples of these medications are spironolactone or flutamide. This, like surgical excision, is a last resort.

NOTE: Some sebaceous hyperplasia bumps can resemble a type of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma. Your dermatologist will need to examine the area to make an accurate diagnosis.

The Best Products for Sebaceous Hyperplasia

What about options outside the dermatologist's office? Although treating sebaceous hyperplasia yourself can be frustrating, there are a few key products to consider. Chief among them is a product we're very proud of, and that's our Resist BHA 9 for Stubborn Imperfections. This clear, liquid-like solution contains a potent concentration of salicylic acid. Despite its strength, it's still extremely gentle due to its time-release formula. Salicylic acid penetrates the oil buildup, increases cell turnover by exfoliating the surface of the skin as well as inside the pore to unclog these bumps, and reduces inflammation, all of which diminish these bumps.

You also can consider products that contain lower amounts of salicylic acid, but most cases of sebaceous hyperplasia won't respond as well to these lower strengths; however, for daily maintenance all over the face they can be extremely beneficial. 

Other products to consider are those containing retinol. Research has shown that retinol, which is another name for vitamin A, in either skin-care products or in prescription medications such as Renova or Retin-A, can also be effective in reducing sebaceous hyperplasia. Retinol works to control the growth of skin cells that can clog the pore lining, plus it encourages normal oil production.

These factors plus retinol's anti-inflammatory action make it a powerful option to combine with salicylic acid for treating sebaceous hyperplasia. Pairing Paula's Choice Resist BHA 9 with Resist Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum can be just the 1-2 punch these stubborn imperfections need! You can also check out the other retinol serums we recommend on Beautypedia.

Another skin-care ingredient that may help improve sebaceous hyperplasia is the B vitamin niacinamide. This cell-communicating ingredient offers multiple benefits to skin, such as reducing the inflammation and oil proliferation that accompanies sebaceous hyperplasia. Before applying Paula's Choice Resist BHA 9 and Resist Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum, apply a niacinamide-rich toner such as Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner. This trio, which can be used once or twice daily after cleansing, should significantly reduce sebaceous hyperplasia!

What about scrubs? No scrub in the world, regardless of claim or price, can remove these bumps. Sebaceous hyperplasia forms deep within the skin right at the base of the oil gland itself, and scrubs simply can't reach the source of the problem. Warning: If you zealously try to scrub away these bumps, over-scrubbing the skin can lead to other skin issues, such as dryness and irritation.

Sources for the information above: The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, November 2011, pages 22–29, and July 2010, pages 32–43; Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, March 2011, pages 328–333; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, April 2004, pages 88–93; and www.emedicine.medscape.com

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

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