The surface of your skin (epidermis) is made up of a thin, protective layer of cells that your body continuously sheds. Most epidermoid cysts form when these cells move deeper into your skin and multiply rather than slough off.
The epidermal cells form the walls of the cyst and then secrete the protein keratin into the interior. The keratin is the thick, yellow substance that sometimes drains from the cyst. This abnormal growth of cells may be due to a damaged hair follicle or oil gland in your skin.
Many people refer to epidermoid cysts as sebaceous cysts, but they're different. True sebaceous cysts are less common. They arise from the glands that secrete oily matter that lubricates hair and skin (sebaceous glands).
May 29, 2014
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- Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 20, 2014.
- McKee's Pathology of the Skin. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 20, 2014.
- Goldstein BG, et al. Dermatologic procedures. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 20, 2014.
- Hruza GJ. Principles of laser and intense pulsed light for cutaneous lesions. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 28, 2014.
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