Unveiling the Mystery: What is a Pilar Cyst?

Unveiling the Mystery: What is a Pilar Cyst?

Pilar cysts are a common type of cyst that form on the scalp, but may also grow on other parts of the body. They are also known as trichilemmal cysts or wens. These cysts are usually slow-growing, and it can take years for them to reach a noticeable size. Pilar cysts may be genetic, and if one family member has had it, other members of the family may also develop it. This article aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of pilar cysts.

The Anatomy of Pilar Cysts

Pilar cysts often form from the hair follicles on the scalp. They can be seen as small, round bumps that have a smooth appearance. These cysts are usually filled with keratin, which is a protein that is found in hair and nails. Pilar cysts are usually firm to the touch and can be moved under the skin.

Why Do Pilar Cysts Form?

There is no known cause of pilar cysts, but they typically form due to the hair follicle cells being damaged or traumatized. There are also theories that suggest that genetics may play a role in the formation of these cysts.

Who is at Risk for Developing Pilar Cysts?

Anyone can develop a pilar cyst, but they tend to be more common in middle-aged women. Family history is also a risk factor for pilar cysts, as they tend to run in families.

How Are Pilar Cysts Diagnosed?

A dermatologist can diagnose a pilar cyst by conducting a physical exam of the affected area. They may also take a sample of the cyst to examine it under a microscope. A biopsy may be done to rule out any other conditions.

Treatment Options for Pilar Cysts

In many cases, pilar cysts do not require treatment, and the individual may choose to leave them alone. However, if the cyst is causing discomfort or is unsightly, there are options for treatment.

Surgical Removal

The most common form of treatment for pilar cysts is surgical removal. This is a routine outpatient procedure that can be done under local anesthesia. The dermatologist will use a scalpel to make a small incision and remove the cyst. The incision is then closed with sutures or adhesive strips.

Laser Removal

Another option for removing pilar cysts is through the use of lasers. Laser removal is a quick and painless procedure that involves using a beam of light to break up the cyst. This type of treatment is often less invasive than surgical removal and may result in less scarring.

Cortisone Injections

In some cases, cortisone injections may be used to reduce the size of a pilar cyst. This treatment involves injecting a small amount of corticosteroids directly into the cyst. The medication helps to reduce inflammation around the cyst, which can lead to a decrease in the size of the cyst.

Preventing Pilar Cysts

Since the cause of pilar cysts is unknown, there are no known preventive measures. However, individuals with a family history of pilar cysts may want to consider being proactive in their skin care routines. It’s important to protect the scalp from trauma, which can lead to the development of cysts.

When to See a Dermatologist

If you notice a lump on your scalp or any other area of your body, it’s important to see a dermatologist as soon as possible. While pilar cysts are usually harmless, there is a small risk that they could be something more serious.

The Bottom Line

Pilar cysts are a common condition that affects many people. While they are usually harmless, they can be a cause for concern if they are causing discomfort or are unsightly. If you have a cyst that is bothering you, it’s important to talk to a dermatologist to discuss your options.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q: Are pilar cysts cancerous?
  • A: Pilar cysts are not cancerous and are usually harmless.
  • Q: Can pilar cysts burst?
  • A: While it is rare for pilar cysts to burst, it is possible. If they do burst, they can cause an infection.
  • Q: How can I tell the difference between a pilar cyst and a sebaceous cyst?
  • A: The main difference between a pilar cyst and a sebaceous cyst is the content. Pilar cysts are usually filled with keratin, whereas sebaceous cysts are filled with sebum.
  • Q: How long does it take for a pilar cyst to grow?
  • A: Pilar cysts are slow-growing, and it can take several years for them to reach a noticeable size.


  • American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2017). Pilar cyst: Overview. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/bumps-and-growths/pilar-cyst-overview
  • Mayo Clinic. (2021). Pilar cyst. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pilar-cyst/symptoms-causes/syc-20354246

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