Sebaceous Cyst Removal: Treatment and Recovery

Most people have had sebaceous cysts at some point. They are unsightly, unattractive, and they can be painful. This swollen bump appears on the body sometimes after a minor injury or from pinching or popping pimples too aggressively.

Many questions surround the sebaceous cyst removal, like is it painful to remove? How long is the recovery? Some even ask how much does cyst removal cost?

What Is Sebaceous Cyst?

Sebaceous cysts appear as soft swellings that have a small opening from which it secretes a thick fluid, but sometimes it never opens and contains a creamy white material that smells foul. These cysts may contain hair follicles and dirt that accumulated with dead cells. If found early enough, they can often be treated effectively with a local anesthetic.

According to experts, sebaceous glands are holocrine glands that can be found over the body’s entire surface, except the palms, soles, and dorsum of the feet. They are the largest and most concentrated in the scalp and face, where acne originates. They produce an oily, waxy substance called sebum that helps moisturize and lubricate human hair and skin.

In other words, When these glands become blocked and begin to swell, it produces what we call a sebaceous cyst. Treatment can take anywhere from draining with a needle for small ones to surgical excision if they become too big or painful.

What to Expect From the Surgery

If your cyst is small, not growing, and doesn’t affect you in any way, it can usually be ignored. If it’s inflamed, your doctor may inject it with a steroid drug to reduce swelling, even if it’s small. They may also drain a cyst that is large or tender. Removal may be necessary if the cyst leads to hair loss on the scalp or interferes with clothing.

To numb your skin during the procedure, your doctor will give you local anesthesia. Your healthcare provider will cut and squeeze the protein inside. Removing the entire cyst will be less likely to come back, while it may recur if a part of the lining remains.

For other minor surgeries, you may check out Toronto Minor Surgery Center. They provide a wide range of minor surgery services, including basal cell carcinoma treatment at TMSC.

Methods for Removing Sebaceous Cyst

  • Conventional Wide Excision. This method completely removes a cyst but can leave a long scar.
  • Laser with punch biopsy excision. Physicians use a laser to make a small hole and drain the cyst of its contents. After a month, the outer walls of the cyst are removed.
  • Minimal Excision. This method causes minimal scarring but doesn’t guarantee that the cyst will not return. 

Many patients worry about the complications of the procedure. One of the side effects is the tendency to scar and infection in rare cases. If you observe any signs of infection, including redness, pain, and fever, make sure to call your doctor.

While most infections will go away with antibiotics, it’s always best to visit your doctor, like Toronto Minor Surgery Center, since some can be fatal if left untreated. Learn more here about the procedure and other common minor surgeries.

Sebaceous Cyst Removal Aftercare

After sebaceous cyst removal, you should follow suggested aftercare instructions to minimize scarring and speed up healing.

  • You can shower as soon as 24 hours after surgery and should shower daily after that. Use a clean paper towel or non-abrasive cloth to pat the area before getting into the water. 
  • Washing your hair should be okay, but it might be wise not to let the shampoo run down onto the wound site. 
  • You can expect some bleeding during the showers for several days following the surgery, so take care when rinsing off to avoid unnecessary abrasion of your new wound. Gently pat yourself dry once more with a fresh paper towel or cloth before applying antibiotic ointment and a light bandage.
  • You should apply antibiotic ointment to the incision line 2-3 times per day, as prescribed by your physician or medical staff. You can expect some increased redness and swelling at first, as this is normal and will subside within weeks.
  • If you experience any scabbing on either side of the incision line after sebaceous cyst removal, leave it alone, and do not try to pick it off under any circumstances. This scab is beneficial in many cases because it helps protect the wound site from bacterial infection. DO NOT wet these scabs. If they become moistened by water exposure, blot them dry with a fresh paper towel or cloth.


It’s typical to experience mild to moderate pain after sebaceous cyst removal surgery. You can expect the pain to peak around 3-4 days following the surgery and then begin to subside after that time. It is recommended that you take ibuprofen 600 mg every 6 hours during the postoperative period as needed to control your pain level. Do not exceed four doses per day or 1200 mg in 24 hours under any circumstances. Drink plenty of fluids while taking ibuprofen to prevent gastric ulceration.

Wound Care Precautions After Sebaceous Cyst Removal 

  • Use non-scratching implements to clean surgical wounds, such as Q-tips gauze pads.
  • Avoid hydrogen peroxide or iodine to clean surgical wounds. Instead, use mild soap and water for cleaning the wound.
  • Avoid smoking when taking antibiotics because this will decrease their effectiveness.