Sebaceous Cysts: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Sebaceous CystsOur skin is an interesting feature of the human body. The protective barrier comes in different shades and textures, and it can be dramatically transformed with things like tattoos and other topical modifications. It’s strong enough to hold all of our internal parts, yet it’s fragile enough that the slightest point can penetrate it. The skin can also play host for a number of different conditions, some of which can be deadly, others just mildly annoying. Take sebaceous cysts, for example. They can come out of nowhere, they are uncomfortable, and they can be a little messy. But where do they originate? What causes a sebaceous cyst? Is there a difference between a sebaceous cyst on the back and a cyst behind the ear?

If you’ve ever wondered about these things, don’t worry, because we’ve got you covered. Here, you will find out all about sebaceous cyst causes, sebaceous cyst symptoms, sebaceous cyst treatment, sebaceous cyst prevention, and maybe even a few home remedies for sebaceous cysts that may work for you.

What Causes Sebaceous Cysts?

What is a sebaceous cyst? Essentially, it’s a bump somewhere around 1/4 to 2 inches in diameter. It forms in areas of the skin where sebum (an oil the body produces to waterproof hair) is produced. The cysts themselves develop from the sebaceous glands when they become blocked. A sack of cells filled with an oily, usually bad-smelling discharge forms underneath the skin. The cysts can start off small and may never grow very big, or they can grow rather large. They usually aren’t too painful, but they can become uncomfortable, irritated, and sometimes infected and inflamed.

What Are the Symptoms of Sebaceous Cysts?

The symptoms of a sebaceous cyst are pretty easy to spot. What you are looking for is a bump that forms under your skin. Depending on your skin color, it will probably appear a little reddish, but it may also have a little bit of a yellow tinge due to the oily liquid underneath. It will form in a spot where sebum is produced, commonly in areas around your neck, face, chest, or shoulders. If it’s leaking liquid, the smell may not be too pleasant, something akin to smelly cheese. The skin around the cyst will probably be sore and tender to the touch. The cyst itself can range in sizes.

Medical Treatment for Sebaceous Cysts

Generally, the cysts aren’t dangerous unless they become infected, but there are a few medical options that can be used to eliminate the cyst.

1. Medication

If the cyst has become infected, medications may be prescribed in order to clear up the infection, which may, in turn, help the cyst die down. Medications could include antibiotics. A steroid may also be prescribed as either a pill or a topical cream in order to shrink the infection and or the cyst.

2. Draining

The cyst may be drained in order to reduce the swelling. Do not attempt this yourself, and only allow a medical professional to perform the technique. Draining could reduce the size of the cyst and help relieve discomfort.

3. Surgery

In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the cyst.

These are only but the medical options for treating the cyst. If you want to attempt to treat it yourself, there are a number of home remedies that might be able to help you before you go to the doctor.

Sebaceous Cysts Prevention and Home Remedies

As the cysts tend to be more annoying than dangerous, you may choose to treat it with a home remedy instead or at least until you are able to make it to the doctor. These treatments are easily done within the comfort of your home.

1. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is widely praised for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, so it’s no surprise that many use it for battling sebaceous cysts. Try adding a few drops to a bit of water, and then clean the area. Leave it to sit for a few minutes before cleaning off the solution. If the cyst is rather large, you may choose to use undiluted tea tree oil directly on the cyst.

2. Clay Tablets

Clay tablets have been known to work for some sebaceous cyst sufferers. These reportedly help clear up the skin and the cyst by detoxifying the digestive system.

3. Tea Bags

Tea has anti-inflammatory properties that could help reduce the swelling of a cyst. Moisten the tea bag (or even make a cup of tea) and place the tea bags in the fridge. Take them out and place them on the cyst overnight. Alternatively, you can soak the tea bags in milk and do the same thing.

4. Warm Compress

A warm compress could help get the blood circulating to the area as well as help open pores, allowing for some natural drainage of the cyst.

5. Apple Cider Vinegar

Applying apple cider vinegar directly to the cyst may help shrink it. Apply a few drops of apple cider vinegar to the cyst and cover with a bandage overnight. This should allow for the removal of dead skin and allow the cyst to drain naturally. Repeat this over a few days.

6. Baking Soda

A paste of baking soda and water may also help reduce the size of a cyst. Mix baking soda with some water to form a paste. Spread the paste smoothly over the cyst. Repeat this for a few treatments and you may find that the cyst has shrunk.

7. Epsom Salts

Epsom salts are often used for muscle aches and pains, but they could also help relieve the swelling and inflammation of a sebaceous cyst.

8. Aloe Vera

A natural remedy for a number of skin ailments, aloe vera might also help clear up a cyst. Take a fresh aloe vera leaf and cut it. Apply the juice several times a day, and you may be able to see a difference quickly.

Of course, one of the best ways to stop a sebaceous cyst is to stop it from popping up in the first place. The best way to prevent a sebaceous cyst from forming is to take care of your skin. Keep yourself hydrated and wash regularly, but not so much that you damage your skin. Take care when shaving. Following these steps may make it harder for a cyst to form.

Don’t Worry, but Do Take Care

Whether it’s a cyst on the back of the neck, a cyst on the scalp, or a cyst on the forehead, most sebaceous cysts are not dangerous. However, they can be very annoying and uncomfortable. They may also be tender, but rarely are they horribly dangerous to your health. The key is to spot the cyst quickly and begin treatment before it becomes infected or inflamed. Once you’ve done that, it’s smooth sailing ahead.

Even if you discover a sebaceous cyst a later on, it isn’t a huge deal. Try the home remedies that we’ve listed above. But, if you are unsure of allergies or how any natural ingredients may react with your body, speak to your doctor or pharmacist. You will get the cyst treated quickly. A bonus is that once the cyst is treated, they rarely come back in the same spot. Just take care of your skin afterwards, and your future cyst problems should be very limited.

Related Articles:

Treating Boils, Pimples, and Cysts on the Inner Thigh

Cyst in Earlobe: Causes and Home Treatment for Earlobe Cyst

What Causes Pimples on Arms? Treatment Tips and Natural Remedies

“Sebaceous Cyst,” Medline Plus,, last accessed May 9, 2017.
“23 Home Remedies of Sebaceous Cyst Removal,” Home Remedy Hacks, June 30, 2015;, last accessed May 9, 2017.
“17 Home Remedies for Sebaceous Cyst,” Home Remedy Shop, November 21, 2013;, last accessed May 9, 2017.

Kerkar, P., “Sebaceous Cyst: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis,” ePain Assist;, last accessed May 9, 2017.