Fordyce Spots: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Fordyce Spots are small, benign spots that are extremely common in most people. They often appear on the face or genitals. They are painless, normally harmless, and often do not require any treatment of any kind. Fordyce Spots are usually present from birth, and there is little you can do to lower your chances of developing them. Some more serious conditions can be similar in appearance to Fordyce Spots, but they normally come with additional symptoms which can be used to identify and treat them. If you notice any sudden changes in your skin, it’s always worth checking in with your doctor to make sure it’s nothing to worry about.

Dr Babak Ashrafi Clinical Lead for Service Development

Medically reviewed by

Dr Babak Ashrafi

Last reviewed: 21 Mar 2023

What are Fordyce Spots?

Fordyce Spots are small yellow, white, red, or flesh coloured spots which can appear on your lips, inside cheek, penis, scrotum, or labia. They are caused by oil glands which have become enlarged and do not have hair follicles attached. They are painless, non-infectious, and usually nothing to worry about.

How common are Fordyce Spots?

Almost everyone is born with Fordyce Spots, but they are often fairly unnoticeable until puberty or early adulthood. Most people will notice Fordyce Spots somewhere on their body at some point in their lives.

What Are the Symptoms of Fordyce Spots?

Fordyce Spots are asymptomatic, and do not give you any symptoms other than the spots themselves. These spots are often:

  • yellow, white, or flesh coloured (or sometimes red if they are on the penis)
  • up to 3mm in size
  • clustered together

If you have additional symptoms such as pain, bleeding, or discharge, then this may indicate another condition, and you should speak to your doctor.

What are the early signs of Fordyce Spots?

There are no early signs of Fordyce spots, as most people have them from birth, but they are often barely noticeable at this age. The hormones that are produced during puberty can cause Fordyce Spots to become more obvious.

What do Fordyce Spots look like?

Fordyce spots appear as small, yellow, white or flesh coloured spots. They can be up to 3mm big, and they are usually clustered together.

They are most commonly found on the lips, inside cheek, penis, scrotum, or labia.

If you have Fordyce Spots on your penis, then they can look bigger or more noticeable when the skin is stretched. You may also notice them more when you have an erection.

What do Fordyce Spots feel like?

Fordyce Spots are not painful and are entirely harmless. In some cases, they may be a little bit itchy, but this is uncommon.

If you think you might have Fordyce Spots which are painful or particularly itchy, this may be an indication of a more serious condition and you should speak to your doctor for advice.

How long do Fordyce Spots last?

Fordyce spots usually last your whole life. They are often present from birth and will rarely go away by themselves. They are completely harmless, and there is usually no need to treat them. While in some circumstances, Fordyce spots may fade or disappear over time, it is more likely that they will remain in place unless their presence is bothering you and you decide to take action to remove them.

Fordyce Spots complications

There are no real complications with Fordyce Spots as they are usually benign and completely harmless. They will not increase your likelihood of experiencing any other conditions or side effects. Some people may seek to treat them if they bother them, but there is often no medical reason for this.

When should I talk to a doctor about my Fordyce Spots?

Fordyce Spots will rarely require attention from a doctor. If they are causing discomfort or appear to be bleeding or causing discharge, this is more likely to indicate another condition. You should talk to your doctor if you think you have Fordyce Spots which are:

  • painful during sex or whilst urinating
  • burning
  • itchy
  • smelly
  • causing discharge
  • cracked or bleeding

What Causes Fordyce Spots?

Fordyce Spots are not caused by any particular condition or circumstance and are common in almost all people. They occur when oil glands on the skin become enlarged. This process is controlled by your sebaceous glands, which regulate the oils in your skin and hair.

What increases your risk of Fordyce Spots?

Some studies have shown that Fordyce Spots are almost twice as common in men than women. Other sources have reported that oily skin increases your risk of developing them. It is, however, important to note that most people will develop some form of Fordyce Spots throughout the course of their life.

How Are Fordyce Spots Diagnosed?

Your doctor will normally be able to diagnose Fordyce Spots by their appearance alone. Since they are benign, there are often no other symptoms by which a diagnosis can be made. In some rare cases, a tissue sample may be collected for further examination.

How Are Fordyce Spots Treated?

Fordyce Spots rarely require any treatment. However, some people may be uncomfortable with the appearance of their Fordyce Spots, and seek to have them treated. Common options for people looking to treat their Fordyce Spots include:

  • topical creams - typically dichloroacetic or trichloroacetic acid. These treatments might reduce Fordyce Spots.
  • carbon dioxide lasering - a process whereby the spots are removed with a laser. This can sometimes leave permanent scarring.
  • micro-punch surgery - a minor surgery performed under local anaesthetic. A small pen is used to punch the skin and remove tissue. This procedure is less likely to leave scars than carbon dioxide lasering.

It’s important not to pick or scratch at Fordyce Spots. This won’t cause them to disappear and may increase your risk of developing an infection.

How to Prevent Fordyce Spots

There are no lifestyle, medical, or dietary changes that are proven to reduce your chances of developing Fordyce Spots. They are incredibly common and will affect most people at some point in their lives.

What Skin Conditions Are Similar to Fordyce Spots?

There are a number of skin conditions which also cause small bumps to appear on your skin in the same areas as Fordyce Spots. These include:

  • genital warts - a common sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • genital herpes - another form of STI which can cause repeat breakouts
  • cold sores - contagious blisters which form on the face, commonly on the lips
  • syringoma - small, benign tumours often found on the face or genitals. Like Fordyce Spots they are harmless and don’t require treatment

These conditions will often have additional symptoms which can be used to identify them.

Symptoms which are typical of genital warts include:

  • itching
  • bleeding
  • changes to the flow of your urine

Symptoms which are typical of genital herpes include:

  • small blisters or open sores
  • burning or itching
  • pain when you urinate
  • unusual vaginal discharge

Symptoms which are typical of cold sores include:

  • tingling, itching, or burning on the face
  • small, fluid-filled blisters
  • burst blisters which form scabs

Symptoms which are typical of syringoma include:

  • symmetrical clusters of small bumps on either side of the face or body

If you are unsure whether your Fordyce Spots may be one of the conditions listed above then you should speak to your doctor.


Fordyce Spots: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments (2021) WebMD [Accessed November 2022]

Understanding Fordyce Spots (2019) Healthline [Accessed November 2022]

What is this lump on my penis? (2021) NHS [Accessed November 2022]

Genital warts (2020) NHS [Accessed November 2022]

Genital herpes (2020) NHS [Accessed November 2022]

Cold sores (2020) NHS [Accessed November 2022]

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