What’s That on Your Face?


Annoying bumps and splotches that show up on your skin unannounced aren’t always breakout-related. We asked dermatologists Gary Goldenberg, M.D., medical director of Mount Sinai Dermatology Faculty Practice, and Rachael Eckel, M.D., of The Skin Health Institute, what other common skin culprits can crop up. They've also shared how it’s best to treat them so that a clear complexion can be yours to claim in the near future.

2/7 Photograph courtesy of American Academy of Dermatology

Often mistaken for acne, rosacea is a chronic rash that results in red, dome-shaped spots due to excess sebum production. There may also be patches of redness, scaling, and swelling. “Sun exposure, stress, red wine, spicy foods, and hot baths are all common causes of rosacea,” says Eckel. “Limit these triggers, and wear SPF 30 daily.” If the condition worsens, a dermatologist will treat it with topical creams or oral antibiotics. V-beam laser and phototherapy can rapidly improve redness, broken capillaries that often result from rosacea, as well as the bumpy pustules, says Goldenberg. 

3/7 Photograph courtesy of American Academy of Dermatology
Sebaceous Hyperplasia

This hard-to-pronounce term describes an enlarged oil gland that usually forms on the forehead or cheeks on oily skin types. Color varies from your own skin tone to a more yellow hue. And you might see a single bump or a brigade of them—but you'll always notice a sunken core. Exfoliation and oil-control products can help minimize the bumps, and retinol products will help them go away. A dermatologist can quickly and easily blast them with a process called electrodesiccation, which uses a current to safely remove skin growths, says Eckel.

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These pearly-white small, hard cysts often sprout up around the eyelids and cheeks and contain keratin (skin protein). It’s very tempting to want to pop them, but don’t—they won’t release, and you’ll only risk scarring and making them worse. “Milia often clear by themselves within a few months, and you can speed up the process by using retinoid cream,” says Eckel. Warm compresses can also help, says Goldenberg. If you want the millia gone faster, your dermatologist can remove them in a cinch in the office with a tool like a comedone extractor or sterile blade.

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Skin Tags

Nubby little growths of skin are known as skin tags, and they’re commonly seen on the face, neck, armpits, groin, and under the breasts. While they’re completely harmless, many people find them annoying—and they can multiply with age. Tags occur most often in skin folds due to chafing and irritation from skin rubbing together, so make sure this isn’t the case with something you may be wearing. Goldenberg warns that it’s unsafe to try to remove skin tags yourself; see a dermatologist who will quickly freeze them off with liquid nitrogen or cauterize them with heat. 

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One in every five people deal with the red, itchy, and dry skin condition known as eczema at some point in their lives. To soothe eczema, avoid irritating soaps, use gentle fragrance-free skin-care products, and moisturize deeply and frequently, advises Eckel. If it turns into a more advanced case with crusty scales, painful cracks, or blisters that leak fluid, see a dermatologist. You may be prescribed a corticosteroid to lessen inflammation or antibiotics if the area is infected. Antihistamines and light therapy can also offer relief in severe cases. 

7/7 Photograph courtesy of American Academy of Dermatology

A darkening of skin in sun-exposed areas like the forehead, cheeks, and upper lip, melasma is much more common in women since it’s linked to higher estrogen levels related to the Pill and pregnancy. “Sun avoidance and daily sunscreen protection are the most important things you can do,” says Goldenberg. Sometimes melasma resolves itself, but if not, laser resurfacing like with the Fraxel Dual laser is one of the most common treatment options at the dermatologist’s office; you’ll likely need multiple sessions to see the best results.

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