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Milia: How to Get Rid of, What it is, Causes

Nikki Chase

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Time to read 6 min

Learn everything you need to know to get rid of milia for clearer looking skin!

You might not be familiar with the word "milia," but odds are high that you're familiar with the condition.


Milia is characterized by itty-bitty white or yellow bumps on the skin. It's especially common among babies, but it can also affect children, teens, and adults. The condition is generally harmless, but teens and adults might be self-conscious about its appearance.


Luckily, there are some at-home strategies you can try to prevent and/or treat milia. Here's an overview of what milia is, what causes it, how to get rid of it, and how to prevent it so you can get the upper hand on this benign skin condition.

What Is Milia?

Milia consists of clusters of teeny-tiny white or yellow bumps that form on the skin. It usually shows up on the face (especially the nose, chin, or cheeks), and it can also appear on the torso, arms, and legs.


Milia is especially common among newborns; according to the Cleveland Clinic, up to half of all babies will develop the condition at some point. This is called "neonatal milia".


Babies aren't the only ones who experience milia. Adults can also develop this condition. We'll explore possible causes of both neonatal and adult milia in the next section.


In both babies and adults, milia generally isn't serious. It shouldn't cause long-term issues, and it usually goes away on its own. But if you want to prevent it or help it go away faster, check out our tips in the sections below.

Milia Causes

what is milia

Neonatal milia tends to occur when a baby’s skin is still learning how to shed dead skin cells. When dead skin cells don't shed fast enough, they can build up under the skin and cause the "cysts" or bumps that characterize milia.


In adults, milia usually falls into one of two categories: primary and secondary. Those categories provide insights into what might have caused the condition.


  • Primary milia occurs when dead skin cells become trapped underneath the surface of the skin, provoking small cysts.
  • Secondary milia (which is sometimes called "traumatic milia") occurs when the skin blisters because of another condition, such as burns, sunburns, or severe rashes. This irritation can damage the lining of pores, which may increase the amount of skin cells underneath the skin's surface. The end result is the same as with primary milia: the accumulation of dead skin cells results in the formation of small cysts on the skin.

Per the Cleveland Clinic, in some cases, milia can result from another cause such as:

  • The use of topical medications, including steroid creams
  • Juvenile milia, which may result from an inherited disorder
  • Milia en plaque, a rare condition that mostly affects middle-aged women and consists of clumps of milia behind the ears, on eyelids, or on the cheek or jaw
  • Certain harsh ingredients in over-the-counter skincare products, such as petroleum or paraffin

How to Get Rid of Milia

Milia usually goes away on its own over the course of a few weeks or months. But because its appearance might feel embarrassing, many people don’t want to wait this long for the condition to clear up.


It’s important to recognize that there is no known cure for milia. But there are some natural, at-home strategies that encourage the condition to clear up more quickly:


  • Use gentle skincare products. To maintain hygiene and reduce the risk of infection, make sure to wash your face every day with warm water and a gentle cleanser. Avoid using harsh skincare products, as these might exacerbate the condition. After washing, pat your face dry (instead of rubbing it) to avoid causing more irritation.
  • Exfoliate your skin on a regular basis. This can help slough off the dead skin cells that contribute to milia. By exfoliating away these skin cells, you might help the condition clear up more quickly.
  • Try steaming open your pores. Opening up your pores can make it easier for trapped skin cells to escape past the surface of the skin. To do this, run a hot shower and sit or stand in the steam for five to eight minutes. After steaming, rinse with warm water and gently pat your face dry.

We can help you out with several of those strategies.

Our Cleanse + Restore Face Wash is a gentle cleanser that lets you keep your skin clean without harsh ingredients.


This wash is enriched with hypoallergenic ingredients such as organic aloe vera and Manuka honey, which have been shown to moisturize and renew your skin.


It's also balanced to your skin's natural pH to further protect against irritation.




When it comes time to exfoliate, consider our Revive+ Microdermabrasion Face Scrub.


As with our face wash, it's made from natural, gentle ingredients including aloe vera and Manuka honey. We also use walnut shell which works to exfoliate your skin without damaging it.


Together, these ingredients gently loosen dirt and dead skin cells while nourishing your skin.

While this isn’t a treatment strategy, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t squeeze or pop the cysts. Pinching and poking milia won't speed up healing, and it might cause infection or permanent scarring.


If home remedies aren't working and it's important to you to remove your milia as soon as possible, consult a doctor or dermatologist. (You should also check in with your doctor if your milia hasn't cleared up after several weeks.) A doctor might be able to remove your milia using one of the following strategies:


  • Using a blade or needle to slice off the top of the cysts and then remove the dead skin cells 
  • Burning off the cysts
  • Freezing off the cysts
  • Using dermabrasion or chemical peels

Those options might sound scary, but they're generally painless.

How to Prevent Milia

milia skin care products

Some kinds of milia can't be prevented. But there are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of developing primary or secondary milia. For instance, the following strategies might be helpful:


  • Avoid excess sun exposure. Spending lots of time in direct sunlight can increase the chances of developing a sunburn, which is a possible cause of milia.
  • Use a gentle sunscreen. If you do spend time in the sun, make sure to use a gentle, high-quality sunscreen to reduce your chances of getting a sunburn. You might also wear a hat and a light, long-sleeved shirt and pants. 
  • Don't use harsh skincare products. As noted above, certain substances found in conventional skincare products might contribute to the development of milia. This includes petroleum-based and paraffin-based ingredients. Make sure to avoid harsh products and opt for cleansers and other skincare products that contain natural, safe ingredients instead.
  • Wash your face on a daily basis. This helps maintain hygiene and reduces the chances of dead skin cells building up under your skin. Again, make sure to use gentle cleansing products and pat your face dry instead of rubbing it.
  • Regularly exfoliate your skin. This supports your body's natural exfoliation processes and helps remove dead skin cells before they build up into cysts. Just be sure to avoid scrubs that are too harsh as these can cause irritation.

Taking these steps doesn't guarantee that you won't develop milia, but it they can help. And practicing healthy skincare certainly won't hurt!

Summary

Milia is typically a harmless condition that goes away on its own. But if you're embarrassed or annoyed by the appearance of milia bumps on your skin, you might want to take steps to speed up the healing process.


While there is no way to guarantee prevention or treatment of milia, a few strategies might help. These include using sunscreen, washing your face every day, exfoliating on a regular basis, and using gentle skincare products.


The important thing to remember is that you're not powerless when it comes to managing milia. Whether you find relief through healthy skincare, sun protection, a doctor's assistance, or simply letting the bumps clear up on their own, you won't be stuck with this condition forever.

Nikki Chase

As co-owner Era Organics, Nikki's expertise runs deep. She spends her days immersed in the latest medical studies and scouring trusted websites, ensuring her knowledge reflects the cutting edge of science.

About Nikki Chase

Sources:


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5347494/
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17868-milia
https://www.healthline.com/health/milia
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320953.php
https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/milia