Are skin bumps bumming you out? We feel you. But before you head to the pharmacy or beauty bar, it’s a good idea to get to the bottom of your bumps.
Here are 14 possible reasons why you have bumps on your face:
- acne comedones and pimples
- allergic reactions
- dermatosis papulosa nigra (DPN)
- ingrown hairs
- keratosis pilaris
- skin cancer
- skin tags
Keep reading for the deets on each, plus the best treatments for each concern.
There are all sorts of reasons why you might have bumpy skin on your face. While most are totally harmless, others may require medical attention. That said, it’s important to know the facts.
Here’s an overview of 14 common causes.
1. Acne comedones and pimples
Acne happens when your skin is infected, inflamed, or produces too much oil. This can cause redness, soreness, itching, pimples, and bumps called comedones. These comedones are pores clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and other debris. They can manifest as pimples, whiteheads, or blackheads.
Zits can occur at any age but are more common in adolescence. Breakouts can also be triggered by hormonal changes during menstruation or pregnancy.
Acne usually doesn’t have any longterm effects, but in severe cases it can cause scarring.
2. Allergic reactions
Allergic reactions happen when your body overreacts to something it considers a threat. They can cause a rash, hives, or bumps anywhere on the skin.
Common triggers include:
- insect stings
- metals like nickel
- certain foods (e.g. peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, wheat, eggs, or milk)
When your skin is subject to too much heat or friction, you’ll get a blister. Your skin will raise up in a little bubble containing fluid or blood. If you spend a lot of time wearing stuff on your face like masks, scarves, or goggles, this can cause blistering.
Generally, blisters are harmless if you leave them alone. The downside is that they can be hella annoying and painful.
4. Dermatosis papulosa nigra (DPN)
Dermatosis papulosa nigra (DPN) is a benign skin growth. It’s most common in those who are of African or Asian decent and tends to appear as dark or skin-colored bumps on the skin. They can pop up anywhere on the body at any age. However, they tend to develop on the neck or face starting in the teen years.
5. Eczema bumps
Eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) can cause bumps on the skin along with a raised, scaly, or crusty rash. Triggers can range from foods to soaps to fabrics and even hormonal changes in your body. BTW, research think there’s a genetic component, too.
6. Infection bumps
A bunch of different infections might result in raised skin bumps or lumpy skin. This includes:
- chickenpox, an infection from the varicella-zoster virus
- MRSA, a serious concern that causes painfull, swollen skin bumps
- impetigo, caused by staph bacteria, resulting in sores and pustules
- warts, mall bumps which can be caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV)
- molluscum contagiosus, harmless poxvirus infection that makes pinkish bumps appear
- cold sores, uncomfortable lumps around the mouth, caused by the herpes simplex virus
7. Ingrown hair bumps
When you shave, pluck, or wax your hair, it normally grows back straight up. But sometimes it grows the wrong way, heading into your skin and becoming an ingrown hair. These trapped hairs form small red bumps on your skin which might be sore and red. Some have pus in them. Yum. 🤢
8. Keratosis pilaris
Keratosis pilaris is a super common skin condition you’ve prob never heard of. It’s easy to mistake these skin bumps for goosebumps. In reality, they happen when dead skin cells block your hair follicles. While these bumps are totes harmless, they can still be irritating to look at.
Fatty tumours growing beneath your skin are called lipomas. They appear slowly, sometimes taking years to fully develop. Once matured, they’re about two or three inches across in most cases.
Lipomas are harmless in the vast majority of cases. But in rare cases, they can develop into cancerous liposarcomas. A dermatologist will be able to let you know if there’s anything to worry about.
Milia are small face bumps, similar to whiteheads. They’re actually small cysts filled with keratin and they’re completely harmless. You can be born with them or develop them in later life. Oily skin and sun damage are common causes of so-called secondary milia, the type that show up after birth.
Remember the Austin Powers scene? Well it’s not just Dr Evil’s henchman — almost everyone has at least one mole. These are dark or red spots caused when the cells in your skin which produce melanin grow together instead of spreading evenly. Scientists think that sun exposure plays some role in how moles form.
Most moles are friendly little critters which pose no threat to your health. But some can be warning signs of melanoma, skin cancer. If a new mole pops up on your face or starts bleeding and itching, talk to a doctor.
12. Rosacea bumps
Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory condition affecting the skin in the center of your face. While we don’t know the exact causes, it’s likely a combo of genetic and environmental factors. In addition to redness, rosacea can also cause little raised bumps on your face.
FYI: Acne or eczema may present similar symptoms as rosacea, so it’s best to get a legit diagnosis from a derm.
13. Skin cancer
Too much exposure to the sun raises your risk of skin cancer. Symptoms like bumps appearing under the skin on your face could be a sign of carcinoma. Rashes or moles might potentially indicate a more aggressive melanoma.
PSA: Talk to a dermatologist ASAP if you notices any unusual marks, irregular spots, or suspicious moles on your skin.
14. Skin tags
Where your skin rubs together, you’ll sometimes get skin tags. These begin life as small bumps on your face, usually on your eyelids and neck. They’ll grow into little blobs connected to your body by a stalk.
While pretty freaky to look at, they’re normally harmless. If they become sore or discoloured, that might be a sign of infection. Most people get skin tags removed for aesthetic reasons rather than medical ones.
Now you know what might be causing bumpy skin on your face, you’re probably gonna want to treat it:
Treating acne and eczema
Bad cases of acne might need topical antibiotics, but usually get better over time. For eczema, you may be prescribed topical steroids or anti-inflammatories to manage symptoms.
In either case, avoid getting too much sun. Stress and anxiety are also triggers for both acne and eczema so think twice about throwing yourself into high-stress situations.
Treating allergic reactions and rosacea
Identifying and avoiding environmental triggers is the most effective way of avoiding flareups. A dermatologist might recommend other topical treatments or drugs on top of that to help manage symptoms. This will depend on exactly how your skin reacts to your specific allergen trigger.
Leave blisters to heal naturally, don’t pop or tear them. If you accidentally pop a blister, remove the bubbled skin and clean the fresh skin beneath before throwing on a sticking plaster.
Treating ingrown hairs
You can avoid ingrown hairs by using a sharp razor to shave and exfoliating your face with warm water. That opens up your pores, giving hairs the best chance to escape.
Don’t cut or dig into your skin to remove an ingrown hair, wait for it to grow out of your skin then pluck it.
Treating skin cancer
Skin cancer treatment could include a combination of:
- chemical peels
- radiation therapy
- photodynamic therapy
Treating skin tags
A dermatologist can cut or cauterise a skin tag if you want or need it removed. Don’t google how to do it yourself with a bit of dental floss and some scissors. It’s not worth the risk of infection.
What we’ve broken down here are some of the most common reasons why someone might have lumpy, bumpy skin on their face. If you can find your symptoms on this list, you’ll see it’s probably nothing to worry about.
If you can’t find a description here which matches your symptoms, it might be worth speaking to a dermatologist.
Alternatively, if you do see your symptoms and they might be an early sign of something serious, talk to someone sooner rather than later.
There’s also a chance that conditions like acne might be affecting your self-esteem, even if they’re not physically affecting you. If that’s your sitch, a dermatologist can help you manage your skin symptoms while a mental health provider can help increase your self-esteem.
There’s lots of reasons why you suddenly have bumps on your cheeks, forehead or chin. Most of them are harmless, but a few might be a symptom of a serious concern.
If you can’t identify the root cause, speak to a medical pro and get yourself some peace of mind.