Have you ever checked your face or makeup in the mirror only to find small bumps that you have no idea what bump it is and why it got there? While you may be tempted to go in on your face, the good news is that you’re not alone, and most of these bumps – which have different textures, colors, and shapes – are entirely harmless. While you may quickly identify some of these small bumps as acne, others may require a doctor and some detective to discover what they really are. In some instances, the bumps could indicate an ailment or something a little more concerning.
Generally, suppose a bump on your face is not turning darker, bleeding, or changing in a concerning way. In that case, it probably requires no medical intervention, Joel Schlessinger, M.D., a RealSelf Advisor and dermatologist, explains. You can manage some bumps like acne at home or with your dermatologist’s help through a skincare regimen, he adds.
But, “if a bump rapidly increases in size, bleeds, or changes in shape or color, it’s time to visit a board-certified dermatologist to have it examined,” Dr. Schlessinger explains. Those indicate that the bump could be due to an underlying health issue (we’ll talk more about this shortly), so it’s essential to get it checked.
Obviously, you may find scheduling an in-person appointment uncomfortable right now because of the pandemic. Several physicians, as well as dermatologists, can provide care virtually, based on your specific concerns. If possible, call your primary care physician or a dermatologist to examine the bump if you’re worried that it is abnormal.
However, most little bumps are harmless. So, if you want to know the type of bump on your face and whether you should schedule an appointment with your doctor or not, the following information may help.
This fatty tissue can grow almost anywhere on the body, but they grow mostly on the armpits, neck, shoulders, back, and chest. Although they take months or years to grow, you’ll notice them under the skin as an elastic bulge that is usually less than 2 inches and feels like it can move; Jerome Garden, M.D., dermatologist, and director of the Physicians Laser and Dermatology Institute in Chicago, explains. “Occasionally larger lipomas do occur, with some reaching almost 8 inches across, although this is rare.”
Fortunately, lipomas are almost always benign. However, liposarcoma is an extremely rare form of cancer that grows within the fatty tissue and may resemble a deep lipoma. So, if a lipoma (or something that looks like it) is rapidly growing or painful, allow your dermatologist to check it out to determine if it has to be biopsied.
How To Prevent And Treat Lipomas
Although the cause of lipomas is still unknown, some individuals’ genetic conditions make them susceptible to the formation of dozens of lipomas, Dr. Garden explains. In most cases, this condition does not require treatments, but if it is causing pain or discomfort, the patient may choose to have it removed surgically.
2. Bumps Caused By Ingrown Hairs
You might have experienced the ingrowth of hair on your face or body at some point due to hair removal. When hair grows, it grows up above the skin. But if the hair begins to curl instead, it can get stuck and lead to a small reddened bump that may be filled with pus. Although no one is entirely immune, people with thick, curly hair has a higher tendency to develop bumps due to ingrown hairs than those with fine, thin hair.
How To Prevent Or Treat Bumps Caused By Ingrown Hair
According to Dr. Garden, the best way to avoid bumps related to ingrown hair is by not plucking, shaving, or waxing, but this option is not always practical for people who are dedicated to hair removal. You can also limit ingrown hairs by washing the skin regularly with mild soap and by rubbing lubricating shaving cream on the skin before you shave.
Replace your razor with a fresh one, especially if it’s several uses old. That is because dull blades cannot make clean and precise cuts, and that can elevate your chances of getting ingrown hair, Dr. Garden explains.
You can also try laser hair removal, a long-term solution that completely removes hair at a deeper level, thereby causing damages to the hair follicle. This option’s result is often semi-permanent, but it is less effective on very light-colored hair or blond. Since powerful lasers involve risks, such as scarring, burns, and skin discoloration, seeking out a board-certified dermatologist experienced with lasers is essential, Dr. Garden explains.
3. Bumps Caused By Rosacea
According to Dr. Garden, rosacea is a chronic inflammatory condition that naturally appears on the face. It can lead to a background redness of the lower forehead, chin, nose, and cheeks, in addition to acne-like bumps in some patients.
How To Prevent And Treat Rosacea
Sadly, the cause of rosacea is unknown, and no total cure has been found for it yet. However, you can reduce the inflammation that leads to bumps and redness. People with this skin condition typically have more sensitive skin in the affected area of the face, so replacing harsh soaps with light moisturizers and gentle cleansers is helpful, Dr. Garden explains. “Protection from the sun is also essential as the sun’s UV radiation can worsen the inflammation.”
Moreover, some triggers like specific makeup or skincare ingredients, exercise, and alcohol can lead to this inflammatory condition. So, you need to understand how you react to these triggers and manage your exposure to them as much as you can.
Your dermatologist may direct you towards other treatment options, such as oral antibiotics, topical prescriptions, and azelaic acid. Many skin conditions like lupus, eczema, and acne can mimic rosacea. That is why consulting with a board-certified dermatologist who is experienced in identifying bumps is essential before self-treating it at home.
4. Bumps Caused By Eczema
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition that typically appears before age five, but technically, patients can develop this condition at any age. According to Jeremy A. Brauer, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist, “Eczema usually show up as crusted or oozing bumps, plaques or patches and, if chronic, even as thick scales, and it is as a result of the interaction between both environment and the genes.”
Although there are many different eczema types, the condition generally occurs when the top layer of the skin cannot retain moisture and protect your body from environmental elements, allergens, and irritants.
How To Prevent And Treat Eczema
Although you cannot prevent this skin condition, the good thing is that you can manage the flare-ups. It would be best if you consult your doctor to confirm that you have this skin condition so that he/she may help in finding the most appropriate treatment for you. Your doctor may prescribe injected, topical or oral medications, and his or her choice is generally affected by several factors such as your age and symptoms. In most cases, an alteration in environmental factors – changes in bathing habits, avoidance of known triggers – can alleviate symptoms, Dr. Brauer explains.
According to Brauer, eczema patients should opt for short, lukewarm showers with gentle fragrance-free products and follow it up by moisturizing their body. He also recommends washing hands less frequently or using moisturizer afterward, and washing clothes with a detergent like Seventh Generation Free and Clear for sensitive skin. The Cleveland Clinic also suggests using cortisone cream to alleviate symptoms, applying moisturizing cream several times a day (which is more effective than lotion), and using a humidifier at night.
5. Allergic Reaction
At times, you may have bumps on your face or other parts of your body because you’re allergic to a product you applied or to something you wore or ate. In some instances, you may have hives (marks on your body also known as urticaria), which is characterized by welts or itchy, reddened bumps that suddenly show up after you’re exposed to an allergen.
Dr. Schlessinger suggests treating the hives at home if they are mild by applying a cool compress to the site, applying over-the-counter allergy medication, or with a cool bath. If they are more severe or you have trouble breathing, swelling, or experiencing shortness of breath, call your doctor immediately or an emergency room if you have none.
Irritant contact dermatitis is another common skin sensitivity or allergic reaction that appears on the skin. It’s obviously different from hives since it appears as an overall redness instead of specific welts. It happens due to direct skin contact with things like ingredients in makeup or skincare products, jewelry, or poison ivy.
How To Prevent And Treat Allergic Reactions
If you can identify the source or cause of your reaction, you should definitely stop using or coming in contact with it. To pinpoint what’s behind the allergy, it would be best to think about any recent changes in products you use, such as new deodorant, body wash, or detergent. Then try to avoid scratching the affected area so that your skin can begin to heal. You can take an over-the-counter hydrocortisone treatment cream or use an oral antihistamine, Dr. Schlessinger suggests.
If those strategies do not work, consult your dermatologist, who may recommend a corticosteroid shot or anti-itch medication to relieve the inflammation.
6. Skin Tags
Skin tags are benign skin growths connected to the skin on your face or body via a stalk. They are typically oval-shaped, soft to the touch, and often show up on the underarms, groin area, eyelids, upper chest, and neck, Dr. Schlessinger explains. According to Mount Sinai Health, experts believe that skin tags (which generally affect older adults) may form when skin rubs together.
How To Prevent And Treat Skin Tags
As long as they do not become painful or infected, change color, or grow rapidly, skin tags are entirely harmless. However, you should call your dermatologist to examine it if it presents any concerning changes (like that of moles). You don’t have to remove your skin tags if they are not bothering you. But a dermatologist can remove it for aesthetic purposes by cauterizing it with heat or cutting it off, Dr. Schlessinger says.
7. Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra (DPN)
These are entirely benign and harmless spots that are common in darker skin tones that often run in families. Technically, they are not moles and are non-cancerous, Dr. Garden says. DPNs are an extremely superficial accumulation of epidermal cells and often begin to show up in your 20s, while moles are deeper in the skin, he adds. DPNs can be tiny and don’t grow much larger than a few millimeters, but an individual’s face can have dozens of these spots.
How To Prevent And Treat DPN
Contact your dermatologist to confirm if you have DPN. Wear sunscreen and practice sun protection to prevent DPN from forming or becoming more visible. Sunscreen is an essential aspect of any skincare regimen to prevent skin cancer, so finding one you like is critical.
You can try an over-the-counter wash with glycolic acid or salicylic acid, which are mild chemical exfoliants that can make these spots a bit smaller or thinner if you already have bumps, Dr. Garden adds. “Moreover, prescription-strength retinoids can also potentially reduce the appearance of DPNs, even though it may not remove them.”
A board-certified dermatologist can also remove these spots gently with cautery or laser. However, people with dark skin may want to speak to a doctor about the best treatment for them as they can develop hyperpigmentation from the use of lasers.
Most of the time, moles are perfectly normal and harmless. They are quite common and usually appear as red, brown, or flesh-colored bumps or spots on the face and other body parts. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), almost every single person has at least one mole.
These spots or bumps form when melanocytes, the skin cells that produce melanin, grow in clusters or clump together instead of spreading out. The AAD explains that specialists are not entirely sure of what causes the formation of moles, but exposure to sunlight is believed to increase the number of moles on your skin.
Dr. Schlessinger says that “moles can be raised or flat and are typically round-shaped if harmless.” It is normal for them to darken or lighten as you age, the AAD explains. A mole does not have to be removed or treated if it does not pose any risk for cancer.
How To Prevent And Treat Moles
Moles generally require no treatment. According to the AAD, dermatologists will remove it for cosmetic reasons if they suspect that it could be skin cancer or if it rubs against clothes and that bothers you. Dr. Schlessinger warns that if a mole begins to grow in size or change, it could be an indication of something more serious, especially skin cancer. If a mole is over a quarter of an inch in diameter, changes or has an uneven color, has an irregular border, or has an asymmetrical shape, it is also a cause for concern, the Mayo Clinic says.
Wearing sunscreen may help to prevent moles formation. If you observe any dark coloration, irritation, or bleeding associated with a mole anywhere on your skin, contact a dermatologist immediately to rule out melanoma.
9. Keratosis Pilaris
These small, goosebump-like markings often appear on the upper arms and thighs but can also occur on your face, Dr. Schlessinger says. They are usually more prevalent in children, although they can appear at any age and they can also sometimes be hereditary.
Dr. Schlessinger explains that people can confuse this skin condition with pimples or goosebumps, but they appear when small plugs of dead skin cells block the hair follicle. They require no treatment as they pose no risk to your health, but you can improve your keratosis pilaris bumps by regularly exfoliating your skin.
How To Prevent And Treat Keratosis Pilaris
According to Cleveland Clinic, doctors are not sure why some individuals, like people with eczema, tend to get keratosis pilaris bumps, so it has no real method of prevention. Many people discover that their condition improves as they age. In the meantime, Dr. Schlessinger suggests using a wash containing glycolic acid that exfoliates to give you a pronounced reduction in bumps. Cleveland Clinic recommends keeping your skin moisturized with a lotion containing AHAs, like Am Lactin ($9, Amazon), since dry skin can make the bumps worse.
According to Dr. Schlessinger, milia are keratin-filled cysts that often appear close to the nose, cheeks, and eyes, are common in newborns, and can pop up on any skin color or type. “They usually occur without any specific reason even though they are more common in people whose pores are chronically clogged with oil-based skincare and makeup, those who have undergone skin trauma like burns, or people who have excessive sun damage, and those with a skin condition like rosacea.”
How To Prevent And Treat Milia
Milia are not harmful since they are dead skin cells that are stuck under your skin. If you want to remove them, Dr. Schlessinger suggests using products with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) – such as lactic or glycolic acid – to exfoliate the skin. Moreover, milia can be removed by a dermatologist with a small incision.
11. Inflamed Pimples
When you have a painful bump on your face, sometimes with a big white head and perhaps a reddened circle that surrounds it, then you know you’ve got the inflamed pimples. This skin condition happens when the bacteria in our skin’s pores begin to blend with the excess buildup of oil and dead skin cells that causes acne. Inflamed acne is usually swollen, painful, red, and sometimes contains pus.
If you have inflamed acne, you should avoid squeezing the affected area as it could lead to more inflammation and redness and can also increase your risk for developing a scar, Dr. Garden explains.
How To Prevent And Treat Inflamed Pimples
Dr. Garden suggests using oil-free skincare products and a mild cleanser with benzoyl peroxide to reduce breakouts. You can also include some anti-inflammatory treatments: “The moment the pimple become established, a safe way to quickly lower the inflammation is by mixing a benzoyl peroxide cream and hydrocortisone 1% cream and apply it to the pimple twice daily, until the inflammation is gone,” he adds. The La-Roche Posay Effaclar Duo Acne Treatment that contains Benzoyl Peroxide (Dermstore), and Cerave Hydrocortisone Cream one percent, are two excellent options.
Comedones can pop up in your face and other parts of your body. These common bumps are classified into 2 groups: open comedones (blackheads) and closed comedones (whiteheads).
The two are similar in that they are both pores that have been blocked with dead skin cells and excess oil, Dr. Schlessinger says. Their main difference lies in the fact that whiteheads are closed, so the oil and dead skin inside appear pinkish, white, or flesh-colored. On the other hand, Blackheads are open, so the dead skin and oil become oxidized, thereby taking on a black or brown hue.
How To Prevent And Treat Comedones
Even though comedones are not harmful, they can be irritating. Dr. Schlessinger recommends managing them (to avoid full-blown breakouts) by washing your face with a cleanser that contains at least two percent of salicylic acid before you go to bed (you can purchase these without a prescription). It simply dissolves your dead skin cells to clear your blocked pores and help to prevent future breakouts.
If over-the-counter products do not work, your dermatologist can formulate a skincare regimen for you. Exercise some patience and allow the medication to work – for example, according to the U.S. National Library of Science, it can take several weeks of using salicylic acid to diminish acne.
Avoiding the use of pore strips to remove blackheads is also essential. Dr. Schlessinger says that “your complexion could be damaged by the adhesive used to attach them to your skin.” “Plus, they are often only successful in removing the tops of the blackheads, thereby keeping your pores clogged and your problem intact while stripping your skin of natural oils.”
Many face bumps are not harmful, and you can easily manage them at home. However, you should avoid trying to remove bumps yourself or pick at them, which could lead to scarring or infections. Ultimately, suppose you have any questions about a bump on your face. In that case, you should consult with a dermatologist to properly diagnose it and to have it removed safely and properly if needed.