What Are Milia and How to Treat Them?

At a glance, they might look like whiteheads. But they are definitely not. Milia can affect just about anyone, and it can be difficult to get rid of.

What are milia?

A milium is a small, white, hard bump that happens when keratin and dead skin cells get trapped underneath the skin. You shed skin cells naturally, but if this process gets disrupted milium happens. A group of these bumps is called milia.

There are primary and secondary milia. Primary milia affect newborns and infants since their skin is still not exfoliating properly. It will resolve itself on its own within a couple of weeks.

Secondary milia affect adults. Milia are benign and normally don’t cause any discomfort, but to put it simply it doesn’t look nice. Milia usually appear around the eyes, on the eyelids, around the nose and cheeks. Don’t confuse milia with whiteheads, you will not be able to pop milia no matter how hard you try.

What causes milia?

Milia in adults can be caused by a number of factors. As we get older, the natural exfoliation process slows down and regular exfoliation is the key to prevent milia. Likewise, if your skin is dry and you are skimping on your sunscreen, this can dry the skin out further and speed up the aging process, which in turn can cause milia.

Other factors might include wearing heavy makeup or using heavier moisturizers, products with mineral oil, or ones that are not suitable for your skin type.

Certain autoimmune diseases and traumatic skin injury can also cause milia.

How to get rid of milia?

Do not try to and pop milia. And for the love of everything, do not pick at it with a needle yourself! Because milia are usually located around the eyes where the skin is very delicate or on the cheeks where it can be difficult to get a grip on the skin, it is best to leave the extraction to the professionals. Do-it-yourself home treatments can lead to scarring or even worse an infection.

Regular exfoliation should help remove milia. You can apply a product with Salicylic or Glycolic acid to the affected area. Likewise, a retinol product can speed up the process.

That said – arm yourself with patience. Milia are persistent and it can take months for them to be gone.

If patience is not your thing (no judgement here), a dermatologist can diagnose the cause of milia and remove it. Usually, a dermatologist will do a chemical peel and remove it physically afterward (with a sterilised needle).

Alternatively, some facialists offer milia removal as a part of a facial. But it would be best to either ask for recommendations beforehand or ask if they have experience/training in milia removal.

Do you have milia? What are some products you have used that helped? Or did you have it removed by a professional?

Roberta Striga