Updated 12/1/17. As early as age 35 or so, small, sometimes unusual, non-infected bumps can start to appear on the skin. People often think they are developing clogged pores, and they attempt extraction with no luck. Or they’ll assume the bumps are some kind of breakout and start using harsh acne products. Usually, this results in dry, irritated skin with the bumps still present.
So what exactly are these bumps?
One of the pleasures (sarcasm!) of aging is that benign (non-cancerous) growths occur on the face, neck, and body. They can begin as small, rough bumps. Over time, however, they thicken and get larger. There are many names for these, including seborrheic keratoses, hyperkeratosis, actinic keratoses (pre-cancerous cells), skin tags, and sebaceous hyperplasia. These can all appear a bit differently (some brown, some flesh colored). Generally, they are bumps, excess skin, enlarged oil glands and growths that protrude from the skin and are impossible to hide with makeup.
Unfortunately, there is no magic cream or ointment to make these go away once they appear. Treatment options for removal and performed by a dermatologist may include cryosurgery (a freezing technique using liquid nitrogen), laser, electrosurgery (burning off with an electric current), and curretage (a scraping technique).
When it comes to these bumps, you should stay on top of them and get them removed quickly. If you leave them alone, they will only grow bigger and eventually may be unmanageable. Actually, as I write this blog post, I have a few scabs on my forehead from some growths my doctor just removed. In about a week, the scabs will fall off. Then, I’ll likely have a few pink marks that I will treat with Pore + Wrinkle Perfecting Serum, but my skin should be back to a smooth, non-bumpy surface in no time! (Until new ones come in. Which I know they will. Ugh.)
Note: Skin cancer (melanoma) can start as little growths as well. It’s always important to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist for an annual skin check.
How can you prevent these?
Since many of these growths are caused by a thickening of the skin, as well as genetics and hormones, regular use of both exfoliating acids and retinoids will dramatically resurface the skin’s texture and lift away expired skin cells. (I recommend that you read my beginner’s guide to using retinol or retinoids for using these correctly. Then, read my beginner’s guide to using exfoliating acids.) You’ll also want to wear sunscreen since UV damage can be an underlying cause.
In my experience, some dermatologists may not want to remove them since they are benign and not dangerous. In that case, you may need to insist to have them removed. Also, you may want to have your doctor remove just one to see how your skin heals before you get them all removed.
What about other bumps?
If the bumps are red and painful and come and go, then you might have what is known as a cystic blemish. If you have bumps on the backs of your arms and legs, it might be keratosis pilaris. Finally, if you have little red, infected bumps on your face, you might have acne cosmetica.
In summary, you can’t control these skin growths from appearing, but you can safely get rid of them once they appear. Doing so, will help keep your skin looking smooth and bump-free. I like to call it ‘bump management’.
Want to learn more about your skin? Be sure you’re not falling for these 35 skin myths.
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