How to Get Rid of Milia

Janis

By Janis | Updated January 1, 2024

Milia are small, white bumps on the skin, often appearing around the eyes and cheeks. While harmless, these cysts can be an annoyance for many, leading to a desire for removal.  

Fortunately, there are various methods and strategies to effectively get rid of milia and enjoy a smoother, clearer complexion.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes and types of milia, as well as delve into a variety of home remedies, skincare routines, and professional treatments that can help you address this common skin concern. 

What Are Milia?

Milia are formed when keratin, a protein found in your skin cells, becomes trapped beneath the surface. These small cysts are not harmful and are often seen in both babies and adults.

They are filled with a combination of dead skin cells and keratin. Though harmless and rarely painful, they can be a cosmetic concern for some.

Types of Milia

Milia can appear in various forms. In this section, we’ll explore the different types of milia and their unique features.

Primary Milia

They are the most common type and can appear at any age, from newborns to adults. These white or yellowish bumps often emerge on the face, especially around the eyes.

Unlike acne or pimples, primary milia are not caused by bacteria or inflammation. They develop spontaneously without any apparent trigger. They are not harmful or painful, but many people seek treatment for a smoother skin texture.

Secondary Milia

Secondary milia result from skin damage. Unlike primary milia, they aren’t naturally occurring and arise as a reaction to skin injuries. This can include burns, rashes, or certain skin resurfacing procedures.

These milia can appear anywhere on the body where the skin has been damaged.

Neonatal Milia

Neonatal milia, commonly found in newborns, appear as tiny, white bumps on the face, often around the nose and cheeks. They are a result of sweat glands that haven’t fully developed, leading to clogged pores.

Approximately half of all newborns experience neonatal milia. Fortunately, these are harmless and typically disappear on their own within a few weeks.

Milia en Plaque

Milia en plaque is a rarer form of milia characterized by numerous cysts appearing on an inflamed, raised patch of skin. While the exact cause remains unknown, milia en plaque is associated with autoimmune disorders and skin conditions.

Multiple Eruptive Milia and Juvenile Milia

Multiple eruptive milia refer to the sudden emergence of numerous milia cysts over a short period. These clusters often appear on the face, upper arms, and torso.

Juvenile milia are a unique type of milia present at birth due to genetic factors. These hereditary conditions cause the formation of milia in infants and are often linked to other genetic disorders or syndromes.

Factors Influencing Milia Formation

Skin Damage

Skin damage disrupts the natural barrier and function of the skin.

When injuries like burns, abrasions, or blisters occur, the healing process can lead to trapped keratin and dead skin cells beneath the skin’s surface.

Effects of Sun Exposure

Prolonged exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays can contribute to the development of milia. 

UV radiation can thicken and toughen the outer layer of the skin (epidermis), trapping sweat, oil, and dead skin cells beneath the surface. 

Hormonal Changes

Milia can be influenced by hormonal changes, especially in newborns and adolescents. In infants, milia often occur due to maternal hormones passed to them during pregnancy. 

In adolescents, hormonal fluctuations can trigger excess oil production, contributing to the formation of milia, particularly on the forehead and around the eyes.

Medications Applied on Skin

Steroid medications, especially when applied topically, can alter the skin’s natural turnover process. This leads to a build-up of keratin and dead skin cells on the skin’s outermost layer.

Prolonged use of steroids increases the likelihood of milia development, especially if not used as directed.

Genetics

Genetics can play a role in the development of milia. If your family has a history of milia, you may be more prone to developing these small cysts. 

In such cases, your skin may have a genetic predisposition to produce excess keratin, leading to milia formation.

Autoimmune Conditions

Autoimmune conditions can cause irregularities in skin health and regeneration. The immune system, mistakenly attacking healthy skin cells, can disrupt the skin’s natural exfoliation process. 

As a result, dead skin cells and keratin may accumulate and get trapped beneath the skin’s surface, leading to the formation of milia, especially in conditions like milia en plaque.

Removing Milia at Home

For those seeking natural solutions to tackle milia, numerous home remedies can offer relief. While not all methods guarantee instant results, consistent application and patience can make a difference.

Exfoliation

Exfoliation is essential in removing dead skin cells that can contribute to trapping keratin and forming milia.

Gently exfoliate your skin using products containing glycolic acid or salicylic acid. These over-the-counter acids can help unclog pores and reduce milia formation.

Facial Steam

Steam can also help open up your pores, making it easier to remove built-up keratin.

To do this, sit in a steamy bathroom or use a facial steamer for a few minutes before starting your skincare routine.

Facial Cleansing

Remember to cleanse your face regularly with a mild soap or gentle facial cleanser.

This helps to prevent skin irritation, ensuring milia are not aggravated by harsh chemicals and keeps the affected areas clean.

Consistent Skincare Routines

Always stay patient and consistent with your routine.

Implementing these home remedies for milia can take time and dedication, but with perseverance, you’ll start to see improvements in your skin’s appearance.

When to See Your Dermatologist

If you’re dealing with persistent or large milia, it’s time to consult your dermatologist. They can properly diagnose the issue and provide appropriate treatments. Milia can be stubborn and may require medical intervention.

Milia can sometimes indicate an underlying genetic condition. If you suspect this may be the case, consult your dermatologist.

Medical Approach to Treating Milia

If home remedies don’t work, consult a dermatologist for professional advice. They may suggest a variety of medical treatments, such as:

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels involve the application of acidic solutions to the skin, promoting rapid exfoliation of the outermost layers. 

This process helps unclog pores and facilitates the removal of trapped keratin and dead skin cells. By accelerating skin cell turnover and clearing blockages, chemical peels can effectively reduce the appearance of milia and prevent future formations.

Retinoids

Incorporating topical retinoids like retinol in your skincare routine may also be beneficial. Retinoids promote cell turnover, which can prevent the build-up of dead skin cells and keratin.

Make sure to use these products as directed, as they can be potent and may cause irritation if used improperly.

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy utilizes extremely cold temperatures to treat various skin conditions. By freezing the milia directly, the trapped keratin and skin cells are destroyed.

The process not only helps in eliminating existing milia but also minimizes the chances of recurrence.

Laser Ablation

Laser ablation uses focused light energy to target and remove unwanted skin lesions, including milia. The precision of the laser ensures minimal damage to surrounding tissues while effectively vaporizing the milia cysts.

Besides removing existing formations, the procedure stimulates collagen production, promoting skin healing and reducing the likelihood of future milia occurrences.

Laser Resurfacing

Laser resurfacing employs concentrated light beams to remove damaged skin layers and promote regeneration. Targeting the outer skin aids in clearing obstructions that cause milia.

The procedure also improves skin texture and tone, making it a preferred choice for many seeking comprehensive skin rejuvenation.

Curettage

During this procedure, a dermatologist uses a small, spoon-shaped instrument called a curette to gently scrape the milia off the skin’s surface. This method is effective for removing milia without the need for incisions or punctures. 

After the procedure, the skin is typically treated and monitored for any signs of infection or complications. Curettage can be a suitable option for individuals seeking a quick and minimally invasive way to address milia.

Surgical Extraction

In some cases, surgical removal of milia may be recommended. This approach is usually reserved for particularly large or stubborn milia that don’t respond to other treatments. This procedure is typically done under local anesthesia to minimize discomfort.

During surgery, dermatologists or trained professionals use a sterile needle or lancet to carefully make small incisions or puncture the milia and then extract the trapped keratin. 

This procedure should only be performed by a skilled practitioner to minimize the risk of infection or scarring. 

After extraction, the skin is typically cleaned and treated to prevent any further complications. Manual extraction is an effective method for removing milia when performed with precision and proper post-procedure care.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most effective home remedies for milia?

Milia usually disappear on their own within a few months.

To help speed up the process, try gentle exfoliation with a soft washcloth or using warm compresses on the affected skin.

Which skincare products can help prevent milia?

Choose non-comedogenic, oil-free skincare formulas, especially for makeup and cleansers.

These products are less likely to clog pores and contribute to the development of milia.

How do healthcare professionals remove milia?

Dermatologists can safely remove milia using several treatments and techniques.

These include cryotherapy, laser ablation, or manual extraction using sterile instruments.

What are some prevention tips for Milia?

To prevent milia, maintain a consistent skincare routine with gentle exfoliation and avoid heavy makeup and occlusive skincare products.

It’s also important to protect the skin against sun damage by wearing sunscreen.

Are there any dietary changes that can help with milia?

While there’s no specific diet to combat milia, consuming a balanced diet with adequate hydration and avoiding potential allergens may contribute to overall skin health and help with milia.