Sebaceous Hyperplasia

What is it? Sebaceous hyperplasia refers to enlarged oil glands. It is a very common, benign condition seen in adults. Lesions can be single or multiple and look like yellowish, soft, small papules (bumps) on the face (particularly nose, cheeks, and forehead.) Some of the lesions can have tiny red blood vessels on the surface. Lesions of sebaceous hyperplasia are benign, with no known potential for malignant transformation (becoming cancerous).

Why does it happen? Sebaceous glands are found throughout the skin except on the palms and soles. They exist as a component of the pilosebaceous unit (hair follicle, hair shaft, sebaceous gland that secretes sebum or oil, and the tiny muscle that makes your hair stand up straight.) The largest sebaceous glands and the greatest in number are found on the face, chest, back, and outer arms. Sebaceous glands are sensitive to a hormone called androgen. Although the number of sebaceous glands remains the same throughout life, their activity and size vary according to age and circulating hormone levels. As hormone levels decrease with advancing age, the sebaceous gland can enlarge.

How big can they get? In most cases, sebaceous hyperplasia ranges from 2-mm to 5-mm and rarely gets larger than that.

Is it common? It is very common in aging adults; approximately 1% of the healthy population can have sebaceous hyperplasia.

Are these harmful? No. These lesions are completely harmless.


Sebaceous hyperplasia is completely benign and does not require treatment, except for cosmetic reasons. Lesions tend to recur unless the entire unit is destroyed or excised. Risk of permanent scarring must be considered when treating benign lesions.

Treatment options include cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen), laser treatments, cauterization or electrodesiccation (needle with electrical current), shave excision, and excision.

Dr. Bader prefers intralesional desiccation, when a needle is inserted into each lobule of the gland and gently heated, thus shrinking and destroying the gland.