All About the Skin Condition Molluscum Contagiosum, Explained by an MD

"It's 3 a.m. and I'm in the hospital because I bought a wig off of Amazon," writer Kayla Knight says in a video posted to her TikTok account. In it, Knight is seen in a hospital gown and bonnet with numerous bumps spread across her face, neck, and chest. Knight was diagnosed with molluscum, a skin condition typically seen in children that can sometimes happen later in life too.

"Molluscum is very common and typically responds well to treatment," Anar Mikailov, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist and cofounder of the skin-care brand Skintensive, tells PS. "Still, without treatment, the condition may persist for months to years."

While Knight got diagnosed with the treatment after her experience with an infected hairpiece, you can actually get molluscum in a variety of ways. Ahead, Dr. Mikailov explains the symptoms of the skin condition, how it's transmitted, and how to treat it.

What Is Molluscum Contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum (MC) is a viral infection caused by poxvirus that results in raised bumps and lesions across the skin. "They're benign but frequently bothersome, and the virus generally affects young children," Dr. Mikailov says. "The rash caused by MC presents with smooth, dome-shaped, skin-color (or slightly pink-red) bumps that can show up singularly but more often present in groups."

In people with eczema, the molluscum virus can persist for much longer and actually cause it to flare, as sometimes the bumps from the infection can also itch, resulting in people exacerbating both conditions. Molluscum contagiosum can also be sexually transmitted in adults.

Molluscum Contagiosum Causes

Molluscum Contagiosum is typically transmitted via contact with an infected person. "Transmission is human-to-human contact through skin, mucous membranes, or fomites," which are objects likely to carry infection, like clothes, furniture, and utensils, according to Dr. Mikailov. "Bath towels, swimming pools, and Turkish baths have all been reported as sources of infection." Close-contact sports like wrestling or boxing can also put someone at a higher risk of developing MC.

In Knight's case, the wig she got from Amazon was likely worn or handled by someone who had the virus. "If someone wearing a wig had MC and subsequently shared that wig, transmission could theoretically happen that way," Dr. Mikailov says.

Molluscum Contagiosum Symptoms

The biggest molluscum symptom to look out for is raised bumps. Sometimes, they may have a small indentation in the middle, but it's important to note that they are not skin tags. "MC is more similar to warts, which are also caused by a virus and can be treated in a similar way," Dr. Mikailov says.

Molluscum Contagiosum Stages in Pictures

Molluscum Contagiosum Treatment

The bumps caused by molluscum typically go away on their own. However, if you're experiencing itching and discomfort or just want to get rid of the raised lesions faster, you can seek medical treatment. "Several options for treatment exist," Dr. Mikailov says. "People can opt for cryotherapy, cantharidin gel, tazarotene or tretinoin, curettage, trichloroacetic acid, or topical cidofovir." Results and treatment times may vary, but it will generally take a minimum of four to six weeks for the bumps to clear.

Ariel Baker is the assistant editor for POPSUGAR Beauty. Her areas of expertise include celebrity news, beauty trends, and product reviews. She has additional bylines with Essence and Forbes Vetted.