• What Are Milia?

    Written By:
    Reviewed By: Rona Z Silkiss MD FACS
    May. 18, 2021

    Milia are tiny white bumps commonly found on the cheeks, nose or eyelids. They can also appear on other parts of the body.

    What causes milia?

    Skin naturally exfoliates itself. Old skin cells are shed to make room for new healthy skin cells. When old skin cells do not fall off, they can get trapped under the skin. Over time, the cells harden and form small cysts. These are milia.

    Other types of milia are caused by:

    • Skin damage from rash, injury, or the sun
    • Using corticosteroids (steroids) for a long time
    • Genetic or autoimmune conditions

    Who is at risk for milia?

    It is very common for babies to have milia. This is because a newborn’s skin is still learning to exfoliate dead skin cells. A baby’s milia usually clear up on their own in a few weeks or months.

    People of all ages and skin types can get milia. But some things put you more at risk, such as:

    • lack of proper hygiene and skincare
    • use of oil-based makeup or skin care products that clog the pores
    • lack of sleep
    • skin conditions like dandruff or rosacea
    • long-term use of steroid medications

    What are symptoms of milia?

    The tiny, milky white or yellowish cysts themselves are the main symptom of milia. They are sometimes mistaken for white heads (acne). But milia do not itch or cause any pain or discomfort.

    How are milia treated?

    For babies. No treatment is needed for your baby’s milia. But you should clean their face by:

    • Washing daily with warm water
    • Patting—not rubbing—baby’s delicate skin dry

    Never use lotions or exfoliators for adults on your baby’s skin. If needed, a mild baby soap can be used. If the milia do not go away after a few months, talk to your pediatrician at their next well-child visit.

    For adults. Like babies, adult milia may go away on its own. At-home treatment like exfoliators, retinol, or facial peels may help some types of stubborn milia. Ask your doctor before beginning any at-home treatment. They may not be recommended for all milia or skin.

    Never try to squeeze or pop milia (your own or your baby’s). Milia cannot be removed this way, and you may damage or scar your skin.

    If your milia do not go away on their own or with at-home treatment, talk to your doctor. Milia are treated by removing them with:

    • extreme cold (cryotherapy)
    • extreme heat
    • laser surgery
    • chemical peels
    • dermabrasion
    • topical or oral medication

    Will my milia come back?

    The best way to prevent milia is with a healthy skin care routine, which should include:

    • washing your face twice a day
    • exfoliating your skin two to three times per week. Ask your doctor which product is safe and effective for your skin.
    • using sunscreen with at least SPF 30 every day, even when cloudy