Rare is the person who has never had a raised bump of some kind on their face or neck. There are many common face bumps, and generally, they remain harmless. Some resolve on their own. Some need medical intervention. All should be left alone by untrained hands. In other words, never pick, pop, squeeze or scrape any of them. Leave that job to your dermatologist or trained esthetician.
Further, if you have an unfamiliar bump of any kind, don’t waste precious time self-diagnosing the issue. The bump may not be what you think it is. Harmless bumps may not be harmless. Proper treatment always requires a proper diagnosis. See your dermatologist or PCP to triage the situation. It will save you so much time, money and quell prolonged suffering.
Following is a very short list of common face bumps:
- Comedones (comedo – singular)
Comedones are a form of acne and manifest as flesh colored bumps (papules) that are found at the opening of pores. Each appears to have a solid core. The “core” is actually a build up of dead skin cells and sebum trapped around a hair follicle (cornification). Excessive sebum production, hormones, and certain dietary factors (diets high in dairy, sugar, fats) also contribute to the development of comedones (comedonal acne).
- If the “core” appears white it is called a closed comedo or whitehead.
- If the core has oxidized, it turns black and is called an open comedo or blackhead.
- Solar comedones occur on the chin and cheeks of older people and are caused by sun damage.
- You can get comedones from hair products. It’s called “pomade acne” and happens anywhere styling products, coconut oil or cocoa butter occlude pores. Foreheads, temples, hairlines, upper back are common areas for pomade acne.
- Comedonal acne is more common in smokers than in non-smokers.
Treatments and Products
Your daily skin care routine is the most important thing you can do for skin clarity and health. Be sweet and gentle to your skin. Overdoing it with anything, such as over-drying, over-washing, over-exfoliating, over-moisturizing, will backfire on you. For example, over-washing and over-exfoliating not only increase sebum production, but also, they break down skin’s protective barrier, opening skin to a host of issues.
Basic AM + PM skin care routine:
- Gently cleanse skin. Chemical exfoliation is preferred over physical exfoliation.
Our Faves: Epionce Gentle Foaming Cleanser, Epionce Lytic Gel Cleanser, Epionce Purifying Cleanser, Age Management 8% Glycolic Cleanser, Skin by Design Benzoyl Peroxide with Aloe Cleanser, Thylox Acne Treatment Soap
- Use a comedolytic product (products that break up pore plugs): Salicylic Acid, Azelaic Acid, Retinoids, Benzoyl Peroxide, Sulfur, Glycolic Acid
Our Faves: Epionce Lytic Treatments (Lite Lytic, Lytic, Lytic Plus, Lytic Sport), Skinbetter Science AlphaRet and Intensive AlphaRet, Skin by Design Gly/Sal Pads, Epionce Spot Treatment
- Use a light moisturizer when and where needed.
Our Faves: Epionce Renewal Lite Facial Lotion, Epionce Renewal Lotion
- Use sunscreen every single day. Unprotected sun exposure drives inflammation and contributes to the build up of dead skin cells.
Our Faves: Elta MD Clear, ISIDIN (Clear and Tinted), Skinbetter Sunbetter (Stick and Compact), Epionce Daily Shield
See a dermatologist if your comedonal situation doesn’t improve. Definitely see a dermatologist if the situation worsens. Medical intervention for any stage of acne is strongly recommended to get to the root of the issue.
- Inflamed Pimples (Pustules)
These fluid filled (pus-filled) bumps are usually red and painful. Inflamed bumps should never, ever be popped, picked, squeezed, scraped or scrubbed. Think of each red bump as a “contained” infection. If the container is disrupted, the infection spreads, driving more inflammation, creating more inflamed pimples, increasing the chances of scarring and prolonging your suffering.
Treatments and Products
Topical and oral medications are very likely required. Cut to the chase, and see a dermatologist.
Basic Am + PM skin care routine:
- Gently cleanse skin with hands only. No cleansing gizmos. No face wash cloths. No scrubs.
Our Faves: Epionce Gentle Foaming Cleanser, Epionce Lytic Gel Cleanser, Epionce Purifying Cleanser, Skin by Design Benzoyl Peroxide with Aloe Cleanser, Thylox Acne Treatment Soap
- Use a comedolytic product (Skinbetter AlphaRets or Epionce Lytics) and/or any prescribed topical medications as directed.
- Use a light moisturizer when and where needed. Our Fave: Epionce Renewal Lite Facial Lotion
- Use sunscreen every single day. UV rays drive inflammation and contribute to the build up of dead skin cells which in turn trap sebum and dead cells. Our Faves: Elta MD Clear, ISIDIN
Read more about acne basics here.
- Milia (milium – singular)
Milia are harmless keratin filled cysts that form just under the skin, not in a pore. They present as tiny pearly white to yellowish seed-like bumps.
Milia can appear spontaneously and clear up on their own. This type of milia is called “primary milia.” Common areas for primary milia include eyelids, under eyes, cheeks, nose and genitals.
Milia also can happen in response to skin trauma. This type of milia is called “secondary milia.” Common causes include blistering rashes, burns (lasers and chemical burns included), inflammatory skin conditions, skin abrasions, friction, too much sun and excessive use of heavy skin care products.
Treatments and Products
- Avoid excessive use of heavy, occlusive moisturizers.
- Gently, but thoroughly, cleanse skin of any cosmetic residue before bedtime.
- Regular use of chemical exfoliants is recommended: retinoids, azelaic acid, AHA’s help clear out milia and minimize the chances of developing milia.
Our Faves: Skinbetter AlphaRets and Epionce Lytics, prescription retinoids
Professional extractions (aka de-roofing), cryotherapy and electrosurgery are effective for removal. Attempting to remove milia yourself can be dangerous, as the possibility of infection and scarring increase when removal is not performed by a medical professional.
- Keratosis Pilaris
Keratosis Pilaris (KP) is basically a dry skin condition where dry skin cells (keratinocytes) build up and plug hair follicles. In these areas, skin becomes rough, dry and bumpy, much like sandpaper. This condition is harmless, but can be annoying. KP also can worsen during dry, cold seasons and climates.
KP manifests symmetrically on cheeks, upper arms, thighs and buttocks.
Treatments and Products
While there is no cure, there is something you can do to help prevent and alleviate KP:
- Avoid triggers. Over-washing, not using moisturizers and unprotected sun exposure are triggers. Reminder: KP is basically a dry skin condition.
- Using AHA products also is helpful.
Our faves products: Epionce Milky Cleanser, Skin by Design Gly/Sal Pads, Epionce Lytics, Epionce Enriched Body Cream, Epionce Renewal Body Lotion, Epionce Renewal Calming Cream, Epionce Priming Oil, Skinbetter TRIO
Our fave treatments: DiamondGlow, Chemical Peels
We’re talking about the benign ones here – standard pigmented lesions that are brown, tan or even dark reddish. They are common. They seem to randomly happen and multiply over time. Of course, you may not be sure which are benign and which are harmful. See your dermatologist for a basic skin check to be certain. Skin checks are important.
If a mole changes in any way, see your dermatologist.
If the mole grows, becomes raised, painful or itchy, see your dermatologist immediately.
- Skin Tags
Common, harmless, sometimes annoying, skin tags present as skin colored lesions that seem to hang from stalks or threads. These dangly lesions are basically non-cancerous tumors of the skin. Skin tags consist of loose collagen fibers, blood vessels and an epidermal layer.
They most commonly develop in skin folds or areas of high friction between skin and skin or skin and clothing. A few common areas include armpits, under breasts, neck creases. Other common areas include eyelids, upper chest, groin.
Treatments and Products
There are no products, creams, lotions or potions to get rid of skin tags.
Removal should only be performed by a dermatologist.
- Ingrown Hairs
An ingrown hair is what happens when a hair grows back into skin. It can look red, inflamed and much like a pimple. Some are itchy and uncomfortable. Some can become infected and painful.
Ingrown hairs most commonly occur in people with coarse or curly hair, but these annoying bumps can happen to anyone.
Interestingly, hair removal treatments can be the culprits of ingrown hairs. Shaving (razor bumps), waxing, threading, epilating, tweezing, sugaring top the list. Add tight clothing to the hair removal offenders, and ingrown hairs are so much more likely to happen than if loose, natural fiber clothing is worn. Simply, tight clothing can trap hairs as they re-grow.
Treatments and products
- Start fresh. Stop all forms of hair removal (excluding laser hair removal).
- If an ingrown hair is red, inflamed, warm and tender, do not attempt to extract the hair yourself. Inflamed hair follicles (folliculitis) can be infectious. Stop the spread. Call your dermatologist.
- Before attempting hair removal again, gently exfoliate to soften skin around the hair follicle.
- If shaving, always use a lubricant (shaving creams or gels).
- Always use a sharp razor. Even leaving your razor in the shower between shaves will dull the blade.
- Never press a razor into the skin. Gently graze the skin, shaving in the direction of hair growth.
- Always moisturize.
- Nip the chances of ingrown hairs with laser hair removal.