Milia: Diagnosis and treatment
What is Milia?
Milia (milk spots) are small, white cysts on your skin. Cysts are filled pockets under the surface of your skin. The most common place to find milia are on your face. Milia are harmless and only affect your appearance. It’s common to confuse the white bumps on your face with whiteheads, which are a type of acne.
Milia occur when keratin becomes trapped beneath the surface of the skin. Keratin is a strong protein that’s typically found in skin tissues, hair, and nail cells.
Milia can occur in people of all ethnicities or ages. However, they’re most common in newborns.
Causes and Risk Factors of Milia
Your body sheds dead skin cells to make way for fresh new ones. Milia happen when the dead skin cells don’t slough away. Instead, they get caught under the new skin, harden, and form a milium.
Milia can also happen because of:
• Skin damage from something like a rash, an injury, or sun exposure
• Long-term use of steroid medications
• Your genes
• An autoimmune condition
Milia are tiny, hard white bumps that appear on your skin. Anyone can get them on any part of the body, but they most often happen on infants’ faces. They are harmless and painless and usually disappear on their own after a few weeks.
Babies are most likely to get milia. Because their skin is still learning how to replace itself, they sometimes have milia and baby acne.
You’re also at higher risk if you:
• Don’t follow proper skin care
• Use cosmetics or makeup that clogs your pores
• Don’t get enough sleep
• Have skin conditions like dandruff, rosacea, or eczema
It’s fine to let milia be. They’ll go away on their own after a few weeks or months. You may be tempted to pick at or pop the milia. This irritation may only make it worse and cause complications. Picking at the skin around the milia can lead to scarring or an infection.
If you’re worried about how milia look, you can take a few steps to help the treatment process. Over-the-counter exfoliating cleansers and creams with salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, or a retinoid can help remove the dead skin cells.
Baby skin is too delicate for lotions, oils, or other cosmetics. Wash your baby’s face with warm water and baby soap daily and then pat the skin dry. Wait for the milia to clear.
If your milia don’t clear up on their own or with the help of over-the-counter exfoliation treatment, your doctor can find a treatment plan. A dermatologist can do a simple procedure to surgically remove the milia.
Milia can’t totally be prevented. For adults, good skin care can help prevent milia and other conditions.
Use sunscreen and moisturizer. Milia tends to happen when you have too much sun exposure. Your skin becomes leathery, making it harder for the dead cells to fall off.
Sunscreen and moisturizer will keep your skin soft and flexible so it can replace itself the way it should. Use sunscreen, even during the winter and when you’re indoors near windows for long periods of time.
Avoid thick creams or ointments. These can irritate your skin and clog your pores, preventing natural exfoliation.
Keep your face clean. Dirt and sweat will build up and clog your pores. This can lead to acne and skin problems.
Removing the daily grime from your face will allow your skin to exfoliate. Keep your face clean to help your skin shed the dead cells.