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Recently, I received a Twitter question about what to do at-home about syringoma, or those tiny little white bumps that most commonly form under the eyes.
Well, first, to understand syringoma: They normally appear during puberty, or during periods of hormonal changes during adulthood (think: pregnancy, post-partum, menopause, perimenopause, etc.). They’re also seen in certain medical conditions, like diabetes. They’re more often seen in women than men, and they’re often hereditary.
You can tell you have a syringoma if you have small bumps 1 to 3 mm in diameter under the surface of the skin. They can be white, yellow, brown, pale pink, or skin-toned. Sometimes they’re itchy and sometimes they’re not, but they are different from acne in that they don’t have “heads” and don’t go away after a week or two. The most frequent site is the eyelids and around the eyes, but other areas of the body can also be affected (MedicineNet).
What to do about syringoma?
The first line of defense is to see a dermatologist. I know my reader asked about at-home options, and we’ll get to those in a minute, but it’s important to note that dermatologists have a wider array of defenses against syringoma, including laser therapy, dermabrasion, cryotherapy, and electrosurgery.
That said, since the reader asked about at-home treatments for syringoma, the best options are retinoids or alpha hydroxy acids, which may cause the lesions to dry up and fall off. In one study, use of prescription 0.05-0.1% tretinoin (equivalent to about 0.5% to 1.0% over-the-counter retinol) twice daily for four months resulted in significantly improved appearance of syringoma (Dermatology). The use of chemical peels, including 15% and higher concentrations of glycolic acid, have also been shown to improve syringoma (Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics).
In general, you want to be careful using such strong agents under the eyes, so I would recommend patch-testing on a very small region of undereye skin, and seeing how your skin reacts. I also would not recommend doing this more than once or twice a week to start (for about a month). I would gradually work up to every other night (for about a month), and then once daily, and then twice daily (for about a month). If you have strong signs of irritation, discontinue use immediately.
Sorry to disappoint, dear reader, but the best line of defense against syringoma is to see a dermatologist, who can treat it with electrocautery or clinical-strength chemical peels. That said, since you asked about over-the-counter methods, using a 0.5%-1.0% retinol serum, or a 15% or higher glycolic acid peel, directly on the syringoma starting once/week, and working up very gradually (over the course of months) to daily use should do the trick.