Milia are very similar to whiteheads, but unlike whiteheads, it does not develop in the pores. Rather it develops in the small hair follicles or sweat ducts.
To be honest, it is pretty easy to remove Milia with home remedies as well as with a dermatologist’s help.
Have you noticed little bumps on your baby’s skin? Well, these are sometimes known as ‘oil seeds‘ or ‘milk spots,‘ but they are medically known as Milia. These bumps are usually painless and disappear within a few weeks. Although these bumps may generally appear on a baby’s face, they can also appear on an adult’s skin, especially under the eyes, cheeks, and nose.
1. What Are Those Tiny White Bumps?
Milia appears as little white bumps (sometimes even as yellow bumps) on a baby’s newborn skin, but can also happen to adults around the eyelids, cheeks, and anywhere on the face and body, including the genitals and areas of the tattoo.
Milia are small cysts on the skin that occur when dead skin cells or keratin (a type of protein found on the skin’s surface) get trapped in a pore, and new skin grows over it. It also occurs when skin cells do not turn over rapidly, causing a build-up of keratin to dry up and form a keratin plug or Milia.
1.1 Never Pop Milia
Milia is not acne, so stop treating it like that!
Since Milia do not form in pores, they do not have an opening like acne. Therefore you cannot pop Milia, and don’t try to extract it by yourself, as it can cause infection, skin damage, skin irritation, and permanent scarring. If you try to extract milia by yourself, then it can create abrasions through which acne-causing bacteria can enter and create more problems for you.
1.2 How Common Is Milia?
Mila is pretty common among babies. Almost 40 to 50 percent of babies have Milia on their skin, but it can affect anyone of any age and skin type.
1.3 How Does Milia Affect the Body?
Milia is harmless and is usually considered a cosmetic issue. There is no need to worry about Milia as it can disappear in a few weeks to a few months.
2. Types of Milia
Understanding what type of Milia you have not only gives you clarity about Milia but also helps you understand whether your Milia has something to do with other health issues.
2.1 Neonatal Milia
Neonatal Milia are present at birth and form primarily on the nose, cheeks, and chin. It is often mistaken for neonatal acne, but unlike Milia, neonatal acne is surrounded by redness. Neonatal Milia do not need any treatment, as they disappear within a few weeks.
2.2 Primary Milia
Primary Milia affects both children and adults, especially those over the age of 40. These Milia develop when dead cells are trapped under the skin. It generally appears on the eyelids, cheeks, forehead, and genitals. There is no need to treat Milia, as it eventually disappears.
2.3 Secondary Milia
They are also known as Traumatic Milia. Secondary Milia develops due to skin trauma from injuries to the skin like burns, common rashes, blisters, allergic reactions, excessive sun exposure, or thick creams.
2.4 Milia en plaque
It is a rare skin condition and often occurs with other skin issues like autoimmune disease. Milia en plaque develops when multiple milia clump together to form a flat, raised white patch on the skin. It affects children and adults, especially women over the age of 50, behind their ears, eyelids, cheeks, and jaw. Milia en plaque can be removed using treatments.
2.5 Multiple Eruptive Milia
It is a rare type of Milia that appears as numerous milia in clusters on your face, upper arms, and upper abdomen and is often itchy.
The main culprit behind milia is old skin cells. When dead skin cells do not fall off as they should, they create cysts that cause Milia. However, there are other causes of Milia as well.
- Injury to the skin and sun damage
- Long-term use of steroid creams
- Symptoms of genetic skin conditions
- Autoimmune response
- Thick moisturizers and under-eye creams
- Not cleaning makeup properly
- Acne or dandruff
4. Preventing Milia at Home
Treatment may sometimes be expensive, and there are several ways through which Milia can be prevented and removed.
4.1 Exfoliate To Remove Dead Skin Cells
To prevent primary Milia from forming, try incorporating Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid and lactic acid and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid in your skincare routine. Since Milia forms particularly in dry skin when skin flakes are trapped, exfoliating bi-weekly will help remove Milia eventually and prevent it as well.
4.2 Wear Sunscreen
Another best way to get rid of Milia is by wearing sunscreen daily (even when inside). Not only does sunscreen help with milk spots but also in avoiding excessive exposure to UV rays, to keep your skin healthy. In addition to keeping your skin protected, sunscreen also decreases irritation caused by Milia. Always use sunscreens that are lightweight and have an SPF of 30 and above.
4.3 Try Retinol
Another effective way to get rid of Milia is by applying retinoids. Topical retinoids are often recommended even by dermatologists to not only get rid of Milia but also prevent it. Retinoid contains Vitamin A, which helps with skin turnover, unclogs build-up on the skin, and helps you achieve smooth skin. Use gentle physical exfoliators, pat and dry your skin and apply retinol, followed by sunscreen.
4.4 Cleanse and Steam the Area
Proper cleansing helps. Not only dead skin cells but also dirt and sweat can clog your pores, causing acne, Milia, and other skin problems. So cleanse your skin daily using gentle cleansing products that have glycolic acid or citric acid to mildly exfoliate your skin.
After cleaning, pat your skin and follow with a gel-based moisturizer. You can also steam your skin after cleansing to open your pores and prevent Milia.
4.5 Manuka Honey
If you want a more natural way to get rid of Milia, go for Manuka honey. Manuka honey has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce Milia. Use Manuka, honey, on the area, leave it for 10 mins, wash and pat your skin dry, and follow up with a moisturizer.
You can also use products that have Manuka honey or that contain rose and cinnamon bark since these have antibacterial properties.
4.6 Use the Right Under Eye Cream
As an adult, if you are more prone to having secondary Milia around your eyes, then the main culprit behind it is the thick under-eye creams that you have been using. Thick eye creams would clog your pores, forming Milia, therefore changing to lightweight under-eye creams and makeup to prevent Milia.
5. Treatment to Get Rid of Milia
Has your Milia has now persisted for years? Then it is time for you to seek professional help to remove milia. In addition to almost painlessly removing those pesky bumps, a dermatologist can also confirm whether those cysts are Milia or some other skin condition.
Remember, every treatment has some pros and cons, so weigh them before getting one, but if your Milia is a cause of concern, you should, without a doubt, remove it.
This is the most simple and easy way to remove Milia. Here the dermatologist uses a sterile needle known as a lancet to puncture the top of the cyst and then extract the build-up using a comedone extractor. There is no pain in this process, and only a prick can be felt. This method is especially great for dark-skinned people who are prone to hyperpigmentation after certain treatments.
5.2 Laser Ablation
This treatment is especially helpful if you have multiple Milia. The dermatologist uses laser energy to break trapped keratin, which is then reabsorbed into the skin. However, this procedure is not suited for dark-skinned people.
5.3 Chemical Peel
Chemical peels are great even if you do not have Milia, as they help reveal new smooth skin that makes you look youthful. A skin care provider will apply a solution of salicylic acid or glycolic acid that will gently exfoliate and may cause a stinging sensation
Here the dermatologist uses liquid nitrogen to freeze your Milia, destroying the cyst. This procedure can cause blistering and swelling, but after a few days, the skin heals. It is not recommended near the eyes and can also cause hypopigmentation.
5.5 Oral Antibiotic
In the case of Milia en plaque, certain topical medications may be more helpful, like tretinoin or minocycline. In some cases, oral antibiotics may be necessary.
Milia is not something to be worried about since it usually does not cause pain and disappears within a few weeks. Milia in children would disappear much faster than in adults. However, if Milia in children persists, then you might want to take your kid to a doctor.
Simple changes in the skincare routine like regular exfoliation, wearing sunscreen, and using lightweight moisturizers are enough. If you want to get rid of Milia fast, you can visit a dermatologist.