How to Deal with White Bumps and the Causes


Ariane Resnick, C.N.C. She is a certified nutritionist, a special diet chef, and a contributing writer at Byrdie, where she covers nutrition, fitness, and wellness



It can be challenging to determine the cause of white bumps and what type you have. We spoke to two dermatologists for advice on treating white spots. Here are their tips for identifying white nodes.


  •  Jaimie DeRosa is a facial plastic surgery specialist who is double-board certified in facial plastic surgery and a founder of DeRosa Center Plastic Surgery & Med Spa, with offices in Boston and Palm Beach.
  • Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Hadley King Dermatology, has been practicing for over 20 years.



King says, “Milia appear as small white bumps. She says that while they are more common on the forehead or eyes, they can appear anywhere on the face, including on the neck and chest. Milia can occur naturally or as a result of products that contain comedogenic ingredients.

De Rosa says that milia “tend to disappear on their own, or with gentle exfoliation and a topical retinoid.” But “if this does not work, then the milia may be unroofed using a scalpel or needle before being expressed by a medical professional.” King says topical retinoids or hydroxy acids can also help prevent milia and speed up its resolution.



De Rosa says a cyst is a small sac in tissue, usually filled with pus or fluid. King says, “the two types of cysts most commonly encountered are epidermal inclusions cysts (also known as sebaceous or acne cysts).” He adds that acne cysts technically aren’t cysts because they don’t have a wall surrounding them.

Cysts usually cause skin irritation, but they can also occur spontaneously. King says that “Epidermal Inclusion Cysts can appear anywhere on the skin and are made up of a wall of skin-like cells on the outer surface of the body. Sebum, old skin, and keratinous particles accumulate in the center.” De Rosa says that surgery is the only way to remove a cyst. “The cyst’s sac (lining) must be removed. This is why surgical excision is the best option, especially if the cyst becomes inflamed and infected.”


Clogged Pores

Clogged pores occur when your pores can’t empty. De Rosa says they happen when dead cells and oils are stuck in the pore. This can lead to whiteheads or blackheads.

King says that hormones and genetics cause clogged pores. Using comedogenic products can make them worse. Our dermatologists recommend using salicylic acidsbenzoyl peroxide, over-the-counter or prescription topical retinoids, or a blackhead remover.


King states that eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is “the most prevalent chronic inflammatory skin disorder characterized by disruption of the skin barrier.” De Rosa says that you may also experience a rash, thickening, or crusting of the skin in addition to dry and cracked skin.

De Rosa says that the treatment often involves reducing triggers. It is common for eczema (or its exacerbated form) to be caused by stress. Try to avoid stressful situations or find constructive ways to cope with them. King also adds, “there are systemic immune modulators that can help for more severe cases.”



De Rosa explains that vitiligo, characterized by a loss of skin pigmentation, is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks cells that produce pigment. De Rosa explains that “despite its genetic origin, vitiligo can be triggered by sunburns or chemical peels such as phenol.”

King states that there is no cure for vitiligo. However, treatments for vitiligo include topical corticosteroids and topical calcineurin inhibitors. The FDA also approved Phototherapy in June 2022. De Rosa says other therapies include skin grafting or camouflaging makeup.

Idiopathic Guttate Hypermelanosis

King says IGH is caused by UV exposure, aging, or genetic factors. It “presents itself as flat, white or light spots, often multiple, on sun-exposed skin areas.

De Rosa says that to deal with these conditions; you should “limit your sun exposure by wearing broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher and covering up.” She also says, “topical retinoids and corticosteroids can help reduce their appearance.”


Tinea Versicolor

De Rosa tells De Rosa that an overgrowth of Malassezia furfur, a yeast causes tinea color. “Tinea Versicolor can cause itchy, discolored areas in different colors, such as brown, red, yellow, white or pink.” King also says it can cause “a rash with fine scales and light or darker discolorations on the skin, mainly on the shoulders and chest.”

To prevent this, King recommends regularly shampooing with Selsun Blue (or another shampoo containing selenium-sulfide) and letting the lather wash over your shoulders and chest. She explains that selenium sulfide effectively kills the yeast responsible for this condition.

De Rosa states that once you’ve been diagnosed with tinea versicolor, “treatment involves oral or topical antifungal medications and avoiding triggers like humidity, excessive heat and sweating.” King says that just because the condition has disappeared doesn’t mean it will remain gone. This is especially true if you live in a humid or warm environment.

White bumps can be caused by various factors, from clogged skin pores to fungus overgrowth. Some spots result from genetics, your immune system, or sun damage. You should consult a dermatologist if you have bumps. They can identify the cause and help you treat it.

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