How do you remove a sebaceous cyst?

Sebaceous Cysts: An Overview

Sebaceous cysts are benign, painless, and round sacs filled with keratin, a protein that forms the outer layer of skin. These cysts form when sebum, an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin, gets trapped beneath the skin’s surface. Sebaceous cysts are common, affecting people of all ages, but they are more common in adults than children.

While sebaceous cysts are usually harmless, they can be unsightly and even cause discomfort, especially when they grow in size. In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for sebaceous cyst removal.

What causes sebaceous cysts?

Sebaceous cysts can occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Blocked sebaceous glands: When the sebaceous gland becomes blocked, it can’t release sebum, causing it to accumulate and form a cyst.
  • Damage to hair follicles: Injury, surgery, or other damage to the hair follicles can cause sebaceous cysts to form.
  • Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can increase the risk of developing sebaceous cysts.

What are the symptoms of sebaceous cysts?

Sebaceous cysts typically appear as small, painless bumps under the skin, and they can be white, yellow, or flesh-colored. The cysts are usually located on the face, neck, chest, back, or genitals, but they can occur anywhere on the body.

If the cyst becomes infected or inflamed, it may become red, swollen, and painful. In some cases, a sebaceous cyst can rupture, causing a foul-smelling discharge.

How are sebaceous cysts diagnosed?

If you have a lump on your skin that you suspect is a sebaceous cyst, your doctor will perform a physical exam to evaluate the size, shape, and location of the lump. A sample of the cyst’s contents may be examined under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis.

How are sebaceous cysts treated?

Sebaceous cysts can be left alone if they are not causing any discomfort or cosmetic concerns. However, if the cyst becomes infected, inflamed, or painful, it should be treated to prevent complications such as scarring and abscess formation.

Medical Treatment

Your doctor may recommend the following medical treatments:

  • Incision and drainage: Your doctor may drain the cyst by making a small incision and expressing the contents. This procedure can provide relief from pain and discomfort but doesn’t remove the entire cyst.
  • Corticosteroid injections: Your doctor may inject a corticosteroid medication into the cyst to reduce inflammation and shrink the cyst. This treatment is usually reserved for cysts that are causing discomfort or pain.
  • Antibiotic therapy: If the cyst becomes infected or inflamed, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection and prevent further complications.

Surgical Treatment

Your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the cyst if it is large, causing cosmetic concerns, or prone to infection. The following surgical procedures may be used:

  • Excision: Your doctor will surgically remove the entire cyst, along with the sac that surrounds it. This procedure is performed using local anesthesia and, in some cases, stitches may be required to close the incision.
  • Laser surgery: In this procedure, a laser is used to remove the cyst, and the surrounding tissue is sealed to prevent bleeding. Laser surgery is less invasive than excision and may be preferred for facial cysts.

What is the recovery process after sebaceous cyst removal?

The recovery process after sebaceous cyst removal depends on the type of procedure you undergo. If you have surgical excision, you may need to avoid strenuous activities and keep the incision site clean and dry for several days. Stitches may need to be removed after seven to ten days.

If you undergo laser surgery, you may experience redness, swelling, or discomfort at the treatment site for a few days. Your doctor may recommend that you avoid sun exposure and wear sunscreen to protect your skin.

How to prevent sebaceous cysts?

Although it’s not always possible to prevent sebaceous cysts, you can take the following steps to minimize your risk:

  • Avoid skin trauma: Avoid injuring or irritating your skin, as this can lead to the formation of cysts.
  • Cleanse your skin: Keep your skin clean and dry to prevent the accumulation of sebum and other debris that can clog your pores.
  • Avoid squeezing cysts: Avoid squeezing, picking, or scratching sebaceous cysts, as this can cause them to become infected or inflamed.


Sebaceous cysts are a common condition that can be unsightly and even cause discomfort. While they are usually harmless, it’s important to seek medical treatment if they become infected or inflamed. Medical treatments such as incision and drainage and corticosteroid injections can provide relief from pain and discomfort, while surgical excision and laser surgery can remove the cyst altogether. By taking steps to prevent skin trauma, cleansing your skin regularly, and avoiding squeezing cysts, you can minimize your risk of developing sebaceous cysts.


Here are some common questions and answers related to sebaceous cyst removal:

  • Q: Can you remove sebaceous cysts at home?
  • A: No, it is not recommended to remove sebaceous cysts at home as this can cause infection or scarring. Medical treatment is necessary to remove the cyst safely and effectively.

  • Q: Is it painful to have a sebaceous cyst removed?
  • A: While discomfort and pain are possible, most people report minimal pain during and after the procedure. Your doctor may use a local anesthetic to numb the treatment area and minimize discomfort.

  • Q: Will sebaceous cysts come back after removal?
  • A: If the entire cyst and its sac are removed, the cyst should not return. However, if the sac is not completely removed, the cyst may reoccur.

  • Q: How long does it take to recover after sebaceous cyst removal?
  • A: The recovery time varies depending on the procedure you undergo but usually takes a few days to a week. Your doctor will provide specific instructions for postoperative care.

  • Q: Are sebaceous cysts cancerous?
  • A: No, sebaceous cysts are not cancerous. They are benign growths that fill with keratin, a protein found in hair, nails, and skin.


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2. Cox, N. H. (2002). Epidermoid and pilar cysts. In Rook’s Textbook of Dermatology (eds T. Burns, S. Breathnach, N. Cox, & C. Griffiths), Blackwell Science Ltd, pp. 36· 85–8· 90

3. Kidd, N., & Edwards, L. (2021). Sebaceous cyst. BMJ Best Practice.