Fordyce Spots

What are Fordyce Spots?

Fordyce spots are raised areas of skin located on or around the sexual organs or on the face around the lips.

They are harmless and should not cause alarm. The color of these spots can range from pale red to yellow-white. They sometimes are flat and large and sometimes look more like a deep pimple.

They got their name from a dermatologist from the United States named John Addison Fordyce. He was the first dermatologist to not only study them but to publish his work. After much study Fordyce spots, they are considered non-cancerous and are only of cosmetic concern.  (1)

What is a Fordyce Spot?

Technically speaking they are ectopic sebaceous glands. In order to break that down, we can discuss what ectopic means. Ectopic is anything that is in an abnormal place. These glands are normal but usually are noted in the hair follicles. Sebaceous is the fatty area just under the skin and glands are organs which secrete something.

Sebaceous glands are those that secrete oils in the hair follicles. When they are not located in the hair follicle as in Fordyce they are called ectopic. They are harmless and benign.  When they do not have the hair shaft to give them an outlet they create these spots.  (1,4,5)

Are there any complications to Fordyce Spots?

There are no medical complications to Fordyce spots. In the case that they are visible as with on the face sometimes it may cause anxiety or depression due to cosmetic issues. Sometimes that they are on the genitals and they may cause irritation during sexual intercourse. Other than this they are completely harmless and do not require treatment. (1,4)

What are the most common symptoms of Fordyce Spots?

  • The only symptoms are the spots themselves.
  • They are usually small and pale.
  • They may be reddish or yellowish and may or may not be raised.
  • They have been noted to be between 1-3mm in diameter.
  • When found on the sexual organs they are usually red or purple.
  • They should not be painful or itchy. (1,4)
  • They can be one large lesion or look like many small ones grouped together.

Fordyce spots.imageImage 1: Fordyce spots on upper lip

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How are they diagnosed?

Most diagnosis efforts will be to rule out sexually transmitted disease as well as cancerous growths. Biopsy and palpitation may be done to check that it is none of that diagnosis. (4)

What causes Fordyce Spots?

  • Technically they are thought to be caused by sebum (natural oils of the skin)
  • They are naturally occurring and present in most adults.
  • Sometimes they are not even seen unless the skin is stretched.
  • They are also more noticeable with those who have greasy skin type.(4)
  • They occur more as one age and are noticed most in elderly people. (5)

How can you prevent Fordyce Spots?

They are not preventable as they are naturally occurring (1,3,4) A recent study has shown that they may be caused by high fat intake in the diet. It is possible that a low-fat diet could prevent and decrease force spots (8)

Where are Fordyce Spots located (Pictures) ?

More specifically Fordyce spots can show at times on the penile shaft, the scrotum, and even the labia for females. As stated before these are natural and appear on many adults.

Fordyce spots located on or around the mouth.photoPicture 2 : Fordyce spots located on or around the lips (mouth)
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Fordyce spots on the penile shaft picture In this image, you can see the difference between natural Fordyce spots on the penile shaft as well as one that was irritated by the patient “picking” at the spot.

Fordyce spots on the penile shaft image photoThis image also shows the natural appearance of Fordyce spots on the penile shaft.

Fordyce spots show up on the labia of the female

This image above shows how the Fordyce spots show up on the labia of the female.

Do Fordyce Spots go away?

They could go away with the treatments noted above but will last anywhere between weeks to months.  In all cases, it is a good idea to get them looked at by a doctor to rule out any sexually transmitted disease. (3)

Are Fordyce Spots contagious?

They are often confused for genital warts which are contagious but Fordyce spots are not contagious and are not sexually transmitted. (3,5,7) nAlthough they are not contagious they are as common as to be in 80-90% of adults.  They are often not noticed until puberty due to changes in skin color during hormone changes. (3)

Are Fordyce Spots itchy?

No, the spots should not be itchy and in the case that they are medical attention is needed.

How to get rid of fordyce spots (Treatment and Remedies)

In reality treatment for Fordyce spots is not necessary because it is not an infection and is normal for many adults. Some medical professionals may even suggest that you do not treat them at all. Some treatments may cause more prominent scarring than the spots themselves.  But if you do want to find a way to get rid of Fordyce spots you could investigate the following treatments.

  • Electrodesiccation- this is the same treatment used for skin tags and other harmless skin conditions. It is the use of CO2 to “burn” off the lesions.
  • Pulsed dye lasers- This is usually used for a condition in which the sebaceous glands are enlarged. It is known to be expensive but may decrease the appearance of the Fordyce
  • Micro-punch technique- Is basically a biopsy method used to remove the spots. It is noted to have a high satisfactory result. (1)
  • Some people will try to express the white thick discharge by squeezing the lesion like a pimple. This usually only gets rid of it for a short time and could cause infection. (4,5)
  • Chemical peels such as trichloroacetic acid- Although this may not remove the bumps it can improve their appearance.
  • There are also many home remedies such as:
    • Garlic being consumed as a regular part of the diet
    • Good personal hygiene may help the appearance of the spots.
    • A diet high in Vitamin B complex, A, C, E, D, and K could help to reduce the spots and even help them to disappear. (5)
    • Adding healthy oils to the diet such as fish oil (6)
  • Topical creams may be used such as Tretinoin and acne washes using benzyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
  • There is a homeopathic cream called Anti-Sebum that may also help with the appearance.




Published on March 4th, 2017 by under Skin.
Article was last reviewed on March 18th, 2017.

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