Milia, derived from the word milium and pronounced “MY-LEE-AH,” are usually small, whitish, benign skin lesions or cysts that occur in clusters on the skin. They appear when the skin becomes blocked with excess oil and dead cells especially around eye areas. Milia can also appear in other parts of the body like lips or eyelids where there is no oil production. They are typically white or yellow in color, but can also be pink, red, brown or black.
What causes Milia?
Excessive use of sunblock or makeup can lead to milia development. The sun’s UVA and UVB rays break down the outer layer of skin cells and causes them to clump together, forming clusters of white bumps on the face or other parts of the body.
Milia can have a variety of causes including genetics and allergies. They can also develop as a result of sun damage, harsh skincare products or genetic diseases like rosacea. Once you know the cause of your milia you’ll be able to better address them with an effective treatment.
There are a number of ways to get rid of milia. Dermatologists often use chemical peels or laser treatments in order to remove dead skin cells and make them vanish quickly. Milia also can be removed by a dermatologist by using an extraction technique to remove these tiny bumps. In rare cases, people may surgically remove them from their face completely but this is not recommended as it can lead to scarring. Some dermatologist recommends over-the-counter treatment options.
People with sensitive skin should also avoid exfoliating too much because it can make the bumps worse. For a milia treatment, the dermatologist will clean or exfoliate the skin to remove dead cells on the surface and then apply a chemical peel to increase cell turnover.
Excessive exposure towards sunlight especially during mid-day (from 11am-5pm) is one of the leading causes of milia so it is important for people with milia to wear SPF and eye cream when outside and avoid tanning beds.
The three most common treatments for milia are alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide. This over-the-counter acne treatments, often work to shrink and remove milia on the skin. These chemicals dissolve the keratin and sebum plugs as they exfoliate the top layer of skin cells. Alpha hydroxy acids help remove dead skin cells and can be used in concentrations of between 2% to 10%. Salicylic acid loosens the bond between dead cells that form the blackheads and whiteheads on your skin, which leads to exfoliation. Benzoyl peroxide helps kill bacteria on your skin, making it more beneficial for acne prone skin than other chemical peels.
Milia not caused by any medical condition and they do not need to be treated as long as they don’t bother you. Some people with milia find relief using an eye cream containing retinol. There are also different kinds of sun protection lotions and solar creams available for people with large pores or an acne-prone skin in order to reduce its appearance.