Dermatologist Tips to Treat Sebaceous Hyperplasia

ask a dermatologistDear Dr. Bailey,

I am a 62-year-old woman with rosacea – I have had it for most of my life. My skin is still a mess, but I am hoping the products I purchased online from you will help me with that. My question is how to get rid of sebaceous hyperplasia papules (or at least STOP new ones from appearing). They are out of control, every time I look in the mirror I have more! I’ve had them removed by laser in the past but they return with a vengeance. My skin is very oily. HELP!!!

Thank you,
Mary Jo

Hello Mary Jo,

This is a tough problem. There is actually no known way to stop or control the development of sebaceous hyperplasia papules from forming. That said, I never give up. I agree, they are very annoying and I can hear your frustration almost as though you were speaking to me in the same room.

Sebaceous hyperplasia papules are benign growths of the otherwise normal oil glands. Every pore has an oil gland and most of the time these glands are microscopic and invisible to the naked eye. For some reason, in some people, oil glands start growing into little benign “tumors” called sebaceous hyperplasia papules. 

We don’t know why sebaceous hyperplasia happens, but the growths are more likely to occur in people prone to rosacea, especially those with oily skin and large pores. My approach to helping someone in my practice whose skin is a “sebaceous hyperplasia former” is to try to counter these characteristics. I do it with skin care, diet, and procedures.

Skin Care: 

I always recommend my Redness Relief Kits:

Facial Redness Relief Kit – Paraben Free with Resveratrol

Skin Care for Facial redness relief

Facial Redness Relief Kit

skin care products to treat facial redness

I try to find a tolerable deep pore cleaning product for their skin type. Options include:

  1. benzoyl peroxide,
  2. glycolic acid,
  3. glycolic acid with salicylic acid in an oil removing preparation, and
  4. tretinoin cream.


Benzoyl Peroxide, Acne-Treatment Lotion for Sensitive Skin

dermatologist recommended acne products benzoyl peroxide

These are all potentially irritating products and it is an experiment to find the right one for an individual’s skin type and tolerance. My acne products contain the first 3 ingredients. Tretinoin is prescription.

I recommend a Clarisonic Skin Cleansing Brush System because it helps deeply clean oil and debris from the pores. buy clarisonic online

I consider using a permethrin cream to address demodex mites. Yes, really! Almost everybody has them in their pores and some actually live in the oil gland. Who knows, they may play a role. This treatment requires a prescription product that is very “off label” so it needs to be discussed with the treating dermatologist. Benzoyl peroxides may help with demodex and that is an OTC option.


I always recommend dietary changes because I see less sebaceous hyperplasia papules in people who eat a very healthy diet. That means less rich foods and more vegetables. A summary of my recommendations can be found in the post titled The Best Diet for Healthy Skin in 2012.


In fair-skinned patients, if appropriate, I recommend a series of IPL treatments because IPL helps with rosacea and, in my experience, it can even reduce the appearance of sebaceous hyperplasia papules. (This is my observation, though it’s hard to understand why it works.)

I also treat the existing sebaceous hyperplasia papules as they arise. My treatment preference is electrocautery with a low current and fine epilating needle. I find it works beautifully, does not leave marks, and shrinks the charming and exuberant sebaceous lobules such that they are barely visible.

Great question about a frustrating condition. I hope my information helps.

Warm Regards,

Cynthia Bailey MD, Dermatologist

Disclaimer: Please realize that availing yourself of the opportunity to submit and receive answers to your questions from Dr. Bailey does not confer a doctor/patient relationship with Dr. Bailey. The information provided by Dr. Bailey is general health information inspired by your question. It should not be a substitute for obtaining medical advice from your physician and is not intended to diagnose or treat any specific medical problem (and is not an extension of the care Dr. Bailey has provided in her office for existing patients of her practice). Never ignore your own doctor’s advice because of something you read here; this information is for general informational purpose only.

If you found this helpful, subscribe to my blog -- it's free. I write two articles per week on skin care and skin health and you can have them delivered to your email inbox. Get your skin care information straight from the dermatologist. Join my intelligent skin care revolution. Just enter your email address:


3 Responses to “Dermatologist Tips to Treat Sebaceous Hyperplasia”

  1. Devra Wathen September 26, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    Aloha Mary Jo,
    I too had a friend that suffered as you with the same skin conditions-everything Dr Bailey suggested she did, but she did add one thing; she actually got a professional facial weekly to help keep her pores clean for 8 weeks straight, changed her diet and went gluten free and lots of veggies/fruit and supplements for healthy skin. After the 8 weeks she went for facials the next 2 months every other week. Your estetichian has to be really good at knowing how to do proper extractions-so you might want to look into a Dr’s office such as Dr Bailey to have these type of facials. Biggest of all she avoided the sun big time and found it aggravated her roscea seriously
    These are just additional suggestions-I wish you well and Aloha Devra

  2. Susan C Whelan September 26, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    I love your column, Cynthia, and wish that I lived in CA so that I could consult you.

    My skin is very like the writer’s except that I do not have rosacea. Couldn’t live without my Clarisonic, a 2% BHA toner and 5% benzoyl peroxide but sebaceous hyperplasia has plagued my complexion for two decades. When Paula Begoun of Paula’s Choice Cosmetics announced nearly eighteen months ago that she was working on a BHA product that would combat sebaceous hyperplasion and other stubborn imperfections. I anxiously watched her website for news and ordered some the day it was announced.

    Paula’s Choice BHA9 arrived in my mailbox a week ago. I can’t quite believe my eyes, but IT’S WORKING! (sorry for shouting.) I apply a tiny, pea-sized amount every night and every morning, those nasty little bumps appear slightly, infinitesimally smaller. I really believe that they will flatten out after a few months of applying this incredible spot treatment. If there is another product like this available, I’ve never seen or heard of it and, believe me, I’ve looked. Even better, there has been no irritation! Please consider checking this out for yourself. For someone suffering from at least three dozen of these ugly little bumps, this product is the answer to a prayer.

    Thank you for writing your newsletter. To those of us “of a certain age,” discovering sources of information like your newsletter and website still seems like a small miracle. The internet, used well, has enriched my life beyond anything I could ever have dreamed. Between you and Paula (despite her lack of a medical degree), I feel well-informed on how to best care for my troublesome 62-year-old skin.

  3. Cynthia Bailey MD September 27, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    Hello Susan,
    This is indeed intriguing! It opens up all sorts of questions such as how does salicylic acid impact an actual structural benign tumor under the skin without collateral damage to the overlying skin – are these tumors dynamic such that they can shrink without being surgically removed or destroyed? We’re starting to look at the role of demodex on the sebaceous gland in rosacea, what is the role of salicylic acid on demodex? I’m also intrigued by the concentration of salicylic acid used in this product and the penetration enhancing vehicle. I would love to see a bona fide study showing the effect of topical application of this product on sebaceous hyperplasia papules. Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience, very interesting.
    Cynthia Bailey MD