Sebaceous Cysts – Causes, Home Remedies, Treatment, And Prevention Tips

Medically reviewed by Vd. Naveen Sharma, Ayurveda Physician
by Atulya Satishkumar

If you can see an abnormal bump on your skin that looks inflamed, it could be a sebaceous cyst. While these cysts are not a cause for serious concern in most cases, they may become large and cause discomfort if left untreated. This post answers all your questions about sebaceous cysts and lists a few home remedies to treat them.

What Are Sebaceous Cysts?

A sebaceous cyst is a small, non-cancerous bump beneath your skin that contains pus. These cysts may look intimidating but are not a cause for serious concern or long-term damage. However, they may cause some discomfort and inconvenience.

Sebaceous cysts are abnormal bumps on your body that may contain a yellowish, foul-smelling liquid. These bumps may be painful and may cause inflammation on your skin.

Sebaceous cysts can occur in both men and women. However, men are more susceptible to these cysts as they have relatively more body hair than women. They can develop in adolescents as well as adults.

What Causes Sebaceous Cysts?

Sebaceous cysts are formed due to a blockage in or damage to the sebaceous gland. The cyst usually occurs due to trauma to the area around your neck, back, groin, or on your face. The injury may have been a scratch, wound, or acne.

Sebaceous cysts can also be the result of a follicle that has ruptured, a misshapen or damaged sebaceous gland, or injury to a previous cyst. Sebaceous cysts grow gradually and sometimes become inflamed or rupture. If this happens, it may pose a risk for infection.

In some cases, these cysts may recur. This can happen due to trauma or injury to the affected area. This trauma can happen in the form of a scratch, skin conditions like acne, or a surgical wound.

Sebaceous cysts appear out of the blue and go away on their own without treatment in most cases. However, if the cyst is causing you a lot of discomfort and pain, you should treat it immediately. Here are some natural ways that can help minimize their appearance and reduce discomfort.

Home Remedies For Sebaceous Cysts

1. Warm Compress

Using a hot compress a few times a day can help soothe inflammation around the sebaceous cyst (1). The heat from the washcloth may enable the cyst to drain the pus, thus relieving pain.

You Will Need

  • A sterile washcloth
  • A bucket of warm water

What You Have To Do

  1. Soak a sterile washcloth in warm water.
  2. Place the warm cloth on the affected area for a few minutes.

How Often You Should Do This

Repeat until the pain subsides.

2. Castor Oil

Ricinoleic acid, the main constituent of castor oil, has anti-inflammatory properties (2). This may help mitigate the inflammation associated with a sebaceous cyst.

You Will Need

  • 2-3 drops of castor oil
  • Sterile cotton cloth
  • 2-3 cups of warm water

What You Have To Do

  1. Apply a few drops of castor oil to the affected area.
  2. Massage gently.
  3. Soak the cotton cloth in warm water and place it on the cyst for 10-15 minutes.

How Often You Should Do This

Repeat two times daily.

Note: Castor oil may cause irritation in certain skin types. Hence, do a patch test before you use it on the affected area.

3. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil possesses antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties (3). These properties may not only help reduce inflammation but also prevent further infection in the affected area.

You Will Need
  • 2-3 drops of tea tree oil
  • 1 teaspoon of any carrier oil (sweet almond or jojoba oil)

What You Have To Do

  1. Mix two to three drops of tea tree oil with a teaspoon of any carrier oil.
  2. Apply the mixture to the affected area.
  3. Leave it on for about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Rinse it off with water.

How Often You Should Do This

Repeat two to three times daily, especially if you have a large cyst.

Note: Do not apply tea tree oil topically if you are allergic to it, as it may cause a burning sensation on your skin.

4. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar possesses antimicrobial properties (4). This may help in reducing and preventing infection around the sebaceous cyst.

You Will Need

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • Cotton ball

What You Have To Do

  1. Dilute apple cider vinegar with water.
  2. Soak a cotton ball in the solution.
  3. Apply the solution to the affected area and leave it on for a few hours.
  4. Rinse the affected area thoroughly with water.

How Often You Should Do This

Repeat two times daily.

5. Turmeric

Turmeric contains curcumin that has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties (5). Hence, it can help reduce inflammation and infection in the sebaceous cyst.

You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • A few drops of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix a teaspoon of turmeric powder with a few drops of water to make a thick paste.
  2. Apply this paste generously on the sebaceous cyst and wait for it to dry.
  3. You may also mix some turmeric powder in warm milk and consume it before going to bed.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this two times daily.

6. Garlic

Garlic exhibits antimicrobial properties against many bacteria and fungi (6). Its broad-spectrum therapeutic effect on infections can mitigate the infection around the sebaceous cyst.

You Will Need

  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 100 mL of olive oil

What You Have To Do

  1. Peel the cloves of garlic and crush them.
  2. Heat a saucepan and add the crushed garlic along with 100 mL of olive oil.
  3. Heat the oil on medium to low heat for about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Let the oil cool down. Strain it.
  5. Apply this oil to the sebaceous cyst and cover the area with sterile gauze.
  6. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes before rinsing it thoroughly with water.

How Often You Should Do This

Repeat this process three to four times daily.

Note: Garlic may cause irritation and skin damage if left on for too long.

7. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil possesses both anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties (7). This can reduce the pain and inflammation in and around the affected area. Lauric acid is the main component of coconut oil that exhibits antimicrobial properties (8). This may help alleviate the infection that causes a sebaceous cyst.

You Will Need

A teaspoon of virgin coconut oil

What You Have To Do

  1. Apply virgin coconut oil on the affected area.
  2. Leave it on the cyst for a few hours.

How Often You Should Do This

Repeat two times daily.

8. Epsom Salt

Epsom salt is commonly known as magnesium sulfate. The presence of magnesium in the salt may help reduce inflammation (9).

You Will Need
  • Warm water
  • 1-2 cups of Epsom salt

What You Have To Do

  1. Draw a lukewarm bath.
  2. Add one to two cups of Epsom salt to the water.
  3. Soak your body for 15-20 minutes.

How Often You Should Do This

Repeat two times daily for best results.

Note: Epsom salt can cause an allergic reaction in some people. You must seek immediate medical attention if you experience skin irritation, shortness of breath, or swelling of the lips.

9. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera possesses anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties (10). Both these properties may help in reducing the swelling around the sebaceous cyst and prevent further infection.

You Will Need

½ teaspoon of aloe vera gel

What You Have To Do

  1. Slice open the aloe leaf to extract the gel.
  2. Apply aloe vera gel generously on the cyst.
  3. Leave it on for a while before you rinse it off with plain water.

How Often You Should Do This

Repeat two times a day.

10. Witch Hazel

Witch hazel or Hamamelis bark contains tannins, which possess anti-inflammatory properties (11). Hence, it can be used to reduce inflammation around the sebaceous cyst.

You Will Need
  • Witch hazel extract
  • Sterile cotton ball or Q-tip

What You Have To Do

  1. Take a cotton ball or Q-tip and dab some witch hazel onto it.
  2. Apply it to the sebaceous cyst and leave it to dry.

How Often You Should Do This

Apply this with a sterile cotton ball three to four times daily.

Note: Witch hazel extracts may cause skin irritation in some people. Hence, do a patch test before trying this remedy.

11. Grapefruit Seed Extract

Grapefruit seed extract exhibits antibacterial activity (12). This may help combat the bacteria triggering the infection in the sebaceous cyst.

You Will Need
  • A few drops of grapefruit seed extract
  • Bandage

What You Have To Do

  1. Apply a drop of grapefruit seed extract directly onto the sebaceous cyst with a dropper.
  2. Wipe off any spills and cover with a sterile bandage.

How Often Should You Do This

You may repeat this two times daily.

12. Frankincense Oil

Frankincense was used as part of Chinese medicine for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties (13), (14). This may help alleviate swelling and pain associated with a sebaceous cyst.

You Will Need

  • 3-4 drops of frankincense oil
  • A teaspoon of olive oil

What You Have To Do

  1. Mix three to four drops of frankincense essential oil with a teaspoon of olive oil.
  2. Apply to the affected area and leave it on for a while.

How Often Should You Do This

Repeat three times daily.

Note: If you are allergic to frankincense oil, avoid this remedy as you may develop rashes on your skin.

13. Potato

Potatoes are rich in phenolics, fiber, protease inhibitors, and glycoalkaloids that exhibit anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties (15). These properties may help reduce the infection and swelling that accompanies the sebaceous cyst.

You Will Need

  • A medium-sized raw potato
  • Washcloth

What You Have To Do

  1. Grate the potato and squeeze it to release the juice.
  2. Apply this juice on the cyst before sleeping and leave it on all night.
  3. Alternatively, you may also place a slice of potato on the cyst and secure it with a sterile washcloth.

How Often Should You Do This

Repeat every night before going to bed.

14. Honey

Owing to its anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties (16), honey may help in reducing the infection that causes sebaceous cysts and boost the natural process of healing.

You Will Need

  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Gauze

What You Have To Do

Using one end of the gauze, apply honey to the affected area.

How Often Should You Do This

You can repeat this several times during the day with a fresh gauze.

Usually, a sebaceous cyst can be left unattended if it does not cause much discomfort. But if you decide to seek medical help, given below are the options available for the removal of sebaceous cysts:

Sebaceous Cyst Treatment

1. Incision Of Cyst And Drainage

Your doctor will make an incision in the cyst that will enable the draining out of the fluid (17). However, the cyst often reappears after this procedure.

2. Minor surgery

This process, also known as excision, involves the removal of the entire cyst (18). This surgery is safe and ensures that the cyst does not reappear. If the cyst appears inflamed, the operation will be delayed.

In most cases, sebaceous cysts cannot be foreseen or predicted. However, you can always prevent the recurrence of sebaceous cysts or reduce them to a large extent. Here are a few prevention tips.

How Can I Prevent Sebaceous Cysts?

  • Sebaceous cysts are caused by a blockage in the skin that ends up in sebum getting clogged in open pores. Therefore, you must always remember to keep your skin clean and make sure that sebum production is regulated.
  • Other cysts, such as chalazion that can form in your eyelids, can be prevented by cleaning the eyelids and eyes regularly with fresh water.
  • You must also avoid causing any further injury to the region where the cyst occurred, as trauma or injury may cause recurrence.

In the next section, we will discuss where sebaceous cysts occur and how you can tell if you have one.

Where Do Sebaceous Cysts Occur Mostly?

Sebaceous cysts can be small or large. Large cysts can be painful or cause discomfort, while smaller cysts are not painful. These cysts are usually observed on the face, neck, upper back, around the groin, and the upper chest. Cysts are usually filled with a yellowish pus-like substance and are usually soft to the touch.

How Can I Tell If I Have A Sebaceous Cyst?

The simplest way to tell if you have a sebaceous cyst is the appearance of a small lump under the skin. The lump may or may not be painful.

The area around the cyst may appear red. The cyst is characterized by the presence of yellowish, pus-like fluid with a foul smell.

How Are Sebaceous Cysts Diagnosed?

The diagnosis typically starts with the doctor taking a look at the cyst. Depending on the size of the cyst, your doctor may also scrape off skin cells to conduct a biopsy.

If the remedies mentioned above do not help in managing the symptoms of sebaceous cysts or the pain or inflammation does not subside, book an appointment with a dermatologist to seek medical help.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

When should I visit a doctor?

Sometimes, it is possible that even after following a few home remedies, you do not find relief from the symptoms. In such cases and cases wherein your symptoms worsen, seek professional medical help at the earliest to deal with sebaceous cysts.

What to do when an infected sebaceous cyst bursts?

If a sebaceous cyst bursts, it can lead to the infection of the cyst. This requires immediate medical attention from your doctor, especially if the wound is deep.

How long will it be before an infected sebaceous cyst is healed?

In most cases, a sebaceous cyst can heal on its own. But if it gets infected, medical intervention is the need of the hour to contain the infection. If it seems mild, you may try out any of the remedies mentioned above and treat the cyst at home.

How much does the sebaceous cyst removal cost?

The procedure of sebaceous cyst removal can range between about $500-$1200, depending on the number of cysts, the area, the duration of surgery, type of anesthesia required, physician, and geographical location.

18 sources

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Atulya Satishkumar

‘Techie by day, writer by night’ is how she described herself before embarking on the journey of writing. Her strong belief in the magic of the written word, coupled with a very keen eye for detail, helps her guide her team to create quality content. When she is not editing beauty, fashion, and lifestyle-related content, she writes prose and poetry, plays her ukulele (and/or guitar), and pets floofs.
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