When it comes to uber-annoying skin bumps like acne and razor burn, you know how to put the kibosh on them in no time flat. In fact, it's a gift you've considered listing under "special skills" on your resumÃƒÂ©. (Kidding. Sort of.) But since your skin gets more complicated as you age, it's time to expand your body bump know-how into new territory—because no matter the lump or bump, you want to be armed and ready.
"Keratosis pilaris causes skin-colored or red bumps, usually on the upper arms and legs," says Debra Jaliman, M.D., author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist. "The skin usually feels very rough, like sandpaper." This pesky skin condition is triggered by a buildup of keratin, which is a protein that protects your skin from harmful substances and infection. "Because the skin doesn't exfoliate normally, the excess keratin blocks the pores, which results in tiny bumps," says Jaliman. Treat using a sonic cleansing brush (like the Clarisonic Mia 2, $149, clarisonic.com), which gently speeds up the exfoliation process and moisturizers with lactic or salicylic acid (since dry skin tends to make the condition worse).
While the cause of cherry angiomas is unknown, most people start to develop them after the age of 30. "These cherry-red bumps can appear almost anywhere on the body but usually crop up on the torso area," says Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills. "They're about the size of a pinhead and are made of a group of superficial, dilated blood vessels." They're not dangerous and don't usually bleed, but if you find they cause you discomfort, they can be removed by your dermatologist via laser treatments.
"These pink-brown, hard bumps in the skin are technically a type of scar," says Shainhouse. "They're often the result of an ingrown hair, bug bite, or other skin trauma and sometimes pop up during pregnancy." Dermatofibromas can appear anywhere on the body, but most often show up on the legs and arms. They don't need to be removed but can be if they make you feel uncomfortable. "If you have many dermatofibromas, see your dermatologist to make sure that you don't have an underlying, predisposing condition that's causing them," says Shainhouse.
"Keloids are thick, hard lumps of scar tissue that occur at the site of skin trauma, but instead of limiting themselves to the precise scar line, they extend way beyond it, involving healthy skin," says Shainhouse. They can be very itchy and tender and can form after skin injuries from acne, chicken pox, piercings, C-section scars, and even minor scratches. Sometimes, they become smaller over time, but if not, there are a number of treatment options, including freezing, laser treatments, steroid injections, and topical silicone, says Shainhouse.
"These are brown spots on your skin that are made up of clumps of skin cells that contain melanin," says Shainhouse. "In people with very light skin, their moles can look pink because there's so little melanin available to cover the cells, so all you see are the blood vessels." Moles are a tricky business; they can be flat or raised, and you can continue to develop them throughout your lifetime. It's important to monitor your skin for new spots and make sure your moles aren't changing in shape, size, or color since they could be cancerous.
A lipoma is a noncancerous, fatty lump that feels doughy to the touch and can move around with slight finger pressure, says Shainhouse. They can crop up anywhere on the body that has fat, but they're not attached to the underlying fat layer or to the overlying skin. Lipomas tend to be genetic. They aren't linked to being fat or gaining weight, and they don't shrink if you shed pounds. While they're typically harmless, they can become painful if they grow and press on nearby nerves, so your best option is to have it removed, says Shainhouse.
"Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles," says Jaliman. "It appears as white bumps, and can occur anywhere on the body." It's caused by too much bacteria on the skin, such as when you skip a shower post-workout or stay in sweaty clothes for too long. "I've also seen it from people who don't shave properly," adds Jaliman. If you use a dull razor or shave without shaving cream, you could be putting yourself at risk. Luckily, it can be treated with a topical antibiotic (or pills in severe cases).