Fordyce spots, also known as Fordyce’s spots, Fordyce granules or Sebaceous Prominence, are small raised, pale red, yellow-white or skin-colored bumps or spots that appear on the shaft of the penis, the labia, scrotum, or the vermilion border of the lips of a person’s face. They can also be found on the foreskin of the penis (called Tyson’s glands).
The vermilion (vermillion) border of the lips is the normally sharp demarcation between the red colored part of the lip and the adjacent normal skin of the face.
Fordyce spots are named after the American dermatologist John Addison Fordyce (1858-1925) who first described them clinically in a medical journal. He also coined the terms Fox Fordyce disease, Fordyce’s disease, Fordyce’s lesion, and Brooke-Fordyce trichoepithelioma.
Fordyce spots are common in both males and females.
Causes and Symptoms of Fordyce Spots
Fordyce spots are enlarged sebaceous glands. The function of Sebaceous glands is to produce and release a natural oil known as Sebum into the hair follicle to lubricate the skin. In the case of Fordyce spots, there is no hair follicle, and the Sebum is blocked resulting in raised bumps.
Regular sebaceous glands produce sebum and are found within hair follicles, whereas Fordyce spots are found without hair follicles, abnormally positioned visibly protruding from the skin.
The spots or bumps occur naturally at birth, but usually appear for the first time around puberty. Evidence suggests the incidence tends to increase with age.
The condition occurs naturally and is not associated with any illness, HIV or any STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease). They are not caused by a virus, and are not contagious. In fact the spots are completely harmless, and considered a cosmetic concern only.
– Small bumps measuring 0.2mm-3mm.
– Yellow, pinkish, or skin coloured.
– They are easier to spot when the skin is stretched, and can resemble small grains of rice.
– Sometimes found as single spots, but more commonly found in clusters of 50 or more.
– Most commonly located on the lips, penis, scrotum and vagina.
– They are not painful, but can occasionally be itchy, especially after sexual intercourse.
Note: Fordyce spots are not to be confused Hirsuties Papillaris Genitalis or ‘Pearly Penile Papules’, which are flesh-coloured granules around the corona or head of the penis.
Fordyce Spots – Treatments
Generally, doctors don’t recommend removing Fordyce spots and they don’t recommend treatment for the spots.2 Also, you shouldn’t try to get rid of Fordyce spots by picking or squeezing them because this can cause the spots to become infected and leave the skin irritated. With some people, the spots may go away without any treatment at all.
Natural Remedies for Fordyce Spots
Many websites promote various home remedies for getting rid of Fordyce spots. However, I couldn’t find any kind of evidence that can support these natural treatments for Fordyce spots removal.
Some of the natural Fordyce spots cures that are mentioned in other sites are coconut oil, jojoba oil, oatmeal, aloe vera, turmeric and apple cider vinegar. I’ve already discussed these natural ingredients in great detail in previous articles, and there are many studies showing that they are very effective in treating various skin conditions. However, I couldn’t find any type of reference (including anecdotal reference) that supports their use for Fordyce spots removal.
Look After your Body
One of the best ways to help reduce the appearance of Fordyce spots is to look after your body. Dermatologist, Dr. Angelica Giron recommends eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet and to take good care of your skin. This will cause the body to produce less sebum and you may notice that Fordyce spots become less noticeable. You should also maintain good oral and physical hygiene.
Other Treatments for Fordyce Spots Removal
Pulsed dye lasers have also been anecdotally reported to be effective in some cases. This is a laser treatment usually used for sebaceous gland hyperplasia (a skin disorder of the sebaceous glands, basically, an enlarged oil gland). Although expensive, pulsed dye lasers tend to leave fewer scars than other methods.
In the majority of cases, the treatment methods mentioned above are not effective enough for most patients. However, a recent article regarding a Micro-punch technique provides some hope.
Micro-punch technique for treatment of Fordyce spots
Professor Norbert Pallua, who works at the Department of Plastic Surgery, Hand Surgery, Burn Center, University Hospital RWTH Aachen, Germany, reported in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery promising results with Micro-punch technique for the treatment of Fordyce spots.
In a retrospective study involving 23 patients from 2003 to 2011, Pallua and team say they achieved satisfactory functional and cosmetic results. They added that so far during post-operative observations, there have been no signs of recurrence from 12 up to 84 months (median = 51.3 months).