Sebaceous Cyst Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Pictures

This is a condition where accumulation of a cheese-like substance is found in the outermost layer of the skin, also called the epidermis. They are also referred as epidermal, keratin, and epidermoid cysts.

This is primarily caused by our sebaceous glands which secrete an oily substance for our skin and hair’s lubrication.

If the action of the sebaceous glands is blocked, a cyst can form. The sac is filled with a waxy, oily, or cheesy substance and accompanied with an unpleasant odor.


Click thumbnail to view full-size


Sebaceous cysts are usually found on the face, neck, or trunk of an affected person. Occasionally it can also affect the genitalia.

Cyst formation is usually painless. They can move around and grow slowly. Sometimes they become infected, which can be indicated if the cyst is red, tender, sore, and warm to touch, or if the lump/ bump also includes grayish white, cheesy, foul-smelling drains.

Serious complications such as abscess formation occasionally arise. After a cyst's removal, they may recur, though this is unlikely. A ruptured cyst can lead to abscess formation that is sometime described as boil-like.

Medical professionals can often reach a diagnosis through an examination, though there are instances where a biopsy must be done to rule out other conditions. It is advisable that one should consult a doctor if you find that you have a cyst.


Varying factors are behind the formation of a cyst, which is caused by a blockage of the sebaceous gland.

Some of the causes include:

  • High levels of testosterone
  • Oily skin
  • Skin trauma or a crushing injury
  • Swollen hair follicles
  • Damaged hair follicles
  • Surgical wounds
  • Ruptured sebaceous gland
  • Developmental defects such as Gardner’s syndrome — this rare condition causes growths on the body that may lead to other serious defects. This condition is more common in caucasians than those of African or Asian descent. It can be aggravated when one uses heavy makeup or inappropriate makeup products. Environmental pollution and exposure to grease-releasing products can cause this condition.

Treatment and Prevention

Medical treatments are rarely necessary for this condition. If the cyst is swollen, your attending physician may recommend injections of corticosteroids or triamcinolone acetonide in order to avoid the progression of the inflammation.

A medical procedure will be done on a case by case basis. It is possible the cyst will be treated by cutting into it and expressing the contents. But the downside of this procedure is that the cyst can come back. Oral antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to avoid development of an infection.

There are some home remedies, like using a heating pad on the cyst directly. Application should be for fifteen to twenty minutes, twice a day for ten days.

Make sure that the heating pad is as clean as possible or, even better, sterilized. Avoid squeezing, scratching, draining, opening or puncturing the lump. This is to avoid rupture and complicating the sebaceous cyst.

Always keep it clean—the use of antibacterial soap is a must. Proper bathing is a must to also prevent this condition— using an antibacterial soap is recommended.


Total prevention is impossible since some risks are unavoidable. However, there are some things you can do. These include:

  • Avoiding too much sun exposure and also preventing the use of oil-free skin products.
  • Avoid the use of greasy makeup or the use of heavy makeup. Choose a non-comedogenic product that will not clog the pores.


If your doctor chooses to cut the cyst, the incision will be very small to avoid scarring. They will then remove the contents and the cyst wall. Your cyst should heal normally after that.

There could also be a full removal, which is more effective when the cyst is not inflamed or no infection has developed. Once there is inflammation, prior to the procedure, the doctor would treat it first before undergoing total removal.

The area of the cyst will be anesthetized and it will be entirely removed. This procedure may involve sutures. The removal of these sutures may happen four to six weeks after the excision if the cyst is on the face.

It it is anywhere else, the suture would be removed after two weeks. You might have laser treatment to eradicate the effect of scarring. Usually this procedure is done if there is involvement of the highly sensitive areas of the body such as the face and groin area.

More by this Author

Comments 24 comments

Mastpunjabi profile image

Mastpunjabi 3 years ago from India

Thanks for this wonderful hub. I was researching to know what kind of cyst my father had. But couldn't ask for a better info.

Wayne Maloney 2 years ago

Hi, I have a huge sebaceous cyst on my back, could be the biggest ever, would you like me to email pics so you can use it on your site? Thanks

Gary Coombs 2 years ago

I'm 71 years old and have developed a huge cyst, or pimple on my left cheek. It is pretty painful and is sore down to below my jaw. I lanced it when it was full of pus and blood but it seems to continue to be inflamed and painfully. I know I removed at least part of the core. What could be causing this? I also have been developing similar cysts on my arms and elbows. I have been on dialysis for chronic kidney failure for 1.5 years. Could it be from an infection I may have encountered as a result of the dialysis procedure itself. I am very appreciative having the option of receiving these treatments: The good outweighs the bad. I know I have a compromised immune system. I just wish there were a remedy that could, at least, mitigate these occrancies if not eliminate them permanently. Any comments pertaining to this would be greatly appreciated.

Cynthia 2 years ago

I have one of these on my back. Saw the doctor today. She said nothing to do about it and it won't go away.

valma lakey 2 years ago

I have numerous sebaceous cysts under my skin in my abdomen. Sometimes they swell and are painful. What can I do when they swell like that? I feel when I eat bread too often that is when it swell. How will I know when its ready to be removed what will the symptoms be.

cc 2 years ago

I have one under my right arm and remove it Tuesday but the area is very swollen bigger than before what is the cause

karen fadera 2 years ago

Do the glands hurt when pressed and does it itch

google doctor 2 years ago

i have this cyst knowbody wants to sort it out so im thinking of getting scalpels of ebay, some 101 wild turkey to drink and also use to put on it while i cut it out , i have a hot iron that i will use to seal the wound when finished

cyst buster 2 years ago

i have experienced the same problem i went to the doctor with a cyst on my forehead and he said to me the best way to get rid of it was to hit it with a book,i left the office and went home and started looking for a book.i was not sure what type of book would do it,i found a world book encyclopedia but i thought it maybe too big then i found a paper back novel on journey to the center of the earth, in the end i used a rolled up newspaper and hit it with that

Ceddie 10 months ago

Good day. I am now experiencing a small cyst in the right side of my eyes. But I'm not really sure what is this. It voting ally getting bigger as the time passed

Besarien profile image

Besarien 10 months ago

Great hub! Before excision try a dab of Vicks vapor rub on the area. One on my shoulder went away after a couple days of Vicks after getting bigger and bigger over a period of months. I'd try it first since it is cheap and other people with everything from cystic acne to subcutaneous cysts (ones you can't see under the skin but can feel) have seen excellent results.

BUYNIKON-AW100 10 months ago

I got rid of a cyst I had on the back of my neck for almost 2 years, I tried some home remedies like, heating pad, castor oil, aloe Vera and and few others, non of them worked, I finally got fed up of thinking people are looking at it behind my back, so I tried to pop it that was big mistake the cyst got infected and swollen with such pain that I had to go to the doctor, which I was trying to avoid in the first place, before surgery the doctor informed that he might not be able to stop the cyst from recurring and I might have to come back to have it cut out again, being in pain and having no choice I proceeded with the most painful ordeal I have ever had to go through in my life.

The cyst was taken out but as stated by the doctor the cyst did regrow and was big as ever, I decided I didn't want to have to go through with another of those painful incision and decided to keep searching for a natural pain alternative; that was when I found this organic ointment, it got rid if my cyst in about 2-3 weeks of using it, this ointment formula thing that worked for me and maybe someone who is suffering with this ugly and annoying skin condition.

The site to get it is -

erorantes profile image

erorantes 9 months ago from Miami Florida

Hello, mister medical. I am glad; you wrote this hub about sebaceous glands problems. Some people have serious problems with their skin. It is sad, but thanks to the discoveries. There are many treatments for this skin grows. The solutions to any skin troubles are the dermatologist. Thank you for your great work.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 8 months ago from Queensland Australia

Because this hub appears at the bottom of most of my hubs and gets free promotion even if they aren't related I think it is fair that I advertise mine here as well:

Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 8 months ago from Southern Georgia

Good idea, John! We should all write a crude hub and post the link here. What's fair for the goose.........LOL!

Jodah profile image

Jodah 8 months ago from Queensland Australia

Haha Randy, go for it. I did the same on the "How to Shave a Hairy Butt" hub as well. At least my hub is related.

Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 8 months ago from Southern Georgia

Does anyone besides myself find it sort of fishy that this hub isn't even featured and the author has absolutely no activity recently? Then why is it appearing on a large number of featured hubs? Something smells to high heaven about this and I'm bout ready take names and kick ass about this crap!!

Jodah profile image

Jodah 8 months ago from Queensland Australia

I am behind you Randy. (no pun intended)I read a response from Christie Kirwan on a forum: As you are banned I added it here.

"Hi Moonlake,

Hubbers have brought up this issue before and we contacted Google about it to see why this keeps happening and if anything can be done (the Hubs you are seeing in that section are served by Google's recommendation engine). Google basically told us that these articles are getting the most clicks from readers and that weird and shocking images tend to do well. We want readers to click on those Hubs in order to keep them on HubPages longer reading more content, so while the images are distasteful to us and many Hubbers, Google seems confident that those Hubs are serving their intended purpose."

Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 8 months ago from Southern Georgia

Thanks John, I saw Christy's response as I can still access the forums although I'm still gagged by the moderators. (You can take that however you like) But didn't staff say unfeatured hubs aren't seen by Google? As I said, something isn't right about HP's explanation. I tend to not believe them very much these days, and no, I don't think they give a big dog f*ck about the writers either.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 8 months ago from Queensland Australia

Yes they have said repeatedly that unfeatured hubs are invisible to Google and search something is certainly fishy.

Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 8 months ago from Southern Georgia

Unfortunately, I've never written at one of these sites where the staff tells the truth about things. Sad but true...... :(

KSMcClintock profile image

KSMcClintock 7 months ago from Stevenage, Herts, UK

Your English needs improvement - otherwise I 'spotted' no problems (lol)

Ma How 7 months ago

My husband and now my children have had these cyst. We went to a dermatologist and he lanced them, and yesthe smell is terrible!!my husband has had three large ones removed and left open with dry packing everyday. This dermatology showed me want to look for in these cyst and in blackheads, so now before the cyst get painful and are in a small place, I open them. You sterilize a needle, wash area with betadine, with gloves on, you carefully fink the opening. Place hot packs on site for about 30 minutes, reheating the hot pack warm. Pierce the top of the cyst, it will be seen when you push the skin together, gently squeeze area to see if anything comes out. Try this for a few days along with warm packs and if some of the pain has gone, that is good and if the cyst area is draining well, that's good also. With blackheads it is basically the same procedure, except for the fact it needs to come out soon. The longer it stays, the bigger the blackhead grows. It is like an upside down light build, and must be opened through the top. Sterile items ready and a blemish tool are needed to extract the blackhead. Wash face throughly, Warm packs, alcohol swaps, a sterilized needle and a blemish tool. Clean area with alcohol . Gently place the needle into the black head, take blemish tool and push down. Blackhead should be extracted. Warm backs help pores to open up. Continue to do this for each area, wash face again, clean with alcohol and place cool packs on blemishes to constrict them. Of the blemishes are in other ares, do the same. If you have a zit that has puss on the top, it needs to open so it will drain. Warm cloth, sterilizes needle, sleigh push on both sides with was cloth, then go to cool cloth. This will help with"poxing" the skin and leaving scares.

Allergist 6 months ago

The root cause of pimples, boiled and cysts is dairy. Cut out everything with milk I. It, or made from milk, or containing milk products and your cysts, pimples, boils, and those annoying little bumps on the backs of the arums, legs, and whiteheads will disappear, as will dry skin. Give it two weeks to see a difference. I guarantee you will be pleased.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article