Fordyce bumps or spots are small sebaceous glands obvious after some inspection in most people. They appear on the vulva (and penis and testicles), but also on the face or in the mouth.
What they look like
- Raised pale, red or white spots
- 1-3mm wide
- Usually visible when skin is stretched out
- When squeezed, a thick, chalky, white substance comes out
- If you have naturally oily skin, they may be more pronounced
They are not dangerous nor do they indicate any disease or infection. The usual reason they get noticed is for cosmetic reasons, or because people fear they have a sexually transmitted infection like cancer or genital warts. This is NOT the case.
How to talk to someone about your prominent Fordyce spots
Explaining something uncommon on your body to people is sometimes really awkward, because unless the person you are talking to has had something stick out on themselves before, they are usually quick to jump to conclusions and be judgemental.
Saying first and foremost that ‘they aren’t contagious, they are fairly common, and men have them too’ works well, but to really put the topic to bed, you can show them to your sexual partner at the time by pulling their skin tight on their penis or labia, and showing them the small Fordyce bumps on their labia, penis or scrotum.
It isn’t too hard to find these bumps once you start looking, so find the equivalent bumps on their body (taking the focus squarely back to them, just secretly), and once you find them, say, “That’s what they are, but mine are bigger than yours and it just happens to be one of life’s great mysteries!” And leave it at that. That takes away the ‘are they contagious?’ question, because clearly everyone has them.
These bumps are considered normal variations of anatomy – meaning, we each have our own version, just like ears and feet, and they are all normal and good. From time to time the Fordyce bumps may be very large and a person may find wish them gone, in which case there are laser treatments (vaporising, CO2, electro desiccation, Micro-punch, or pulsed dye laser, that can help, with each leaving differing levels of scarring.
When Fordyce bumps go wrong
Sometimes they can grow together, forming cancers. This is unusual. Those with rheumatic disorders may see more.