Not a whitehead, but rather a Milia

posted on: May 15, 2015

Milia are small, pearly-white or yellowish bumps right under the skin which is actually a tiny cyst filled with a protein called Keratin. They are most commonly seen on the skin around the cheeks, nose, eyelids, forehead and chest but they can occur anywhere on the body.

Although harmless, they can be so annoying and darn near impossible for you to remove yourself. Often they will disappear on their own but that may take weeks or months to occur, and most people prefer not to walk around with this white bump on their face. While thick creams and ointments applied to the skin may cause milia, often we do not fully understand what causes them.

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How do we treat milia?

There are a few ways you can treat milia. What is not recommended is that you treat them yourself at home. If you try to squeeze or pick your milia this can lead to skin damage, scarring or infection. I will not even treat my own milia, as I find it difficult to do on myself. The problem with milia is there is no opening, like an easily extracted blackhead, so you have to create an opening to get it out. My go-to way to treat milia is by using a fine needle or light cautery to create an opening in the milia and then expressing the milia out with a comedone extractor. If milia become very widespread and persistent you can consider these options:

Chemical Peels: A light acid peel is applied to the skin for a few minutes and washed off. Over the next few days this will peel off the top layer of the skin and peel some of the milia off as well.

Microdermabrasion: This procedure utilizes the application of tiny rough grains to buff away the surface layer of skin where the milia are held.

How To Prevent Milia

If you are prone to getting milia follow these steps to prevent new ones from forming:

  • Avoid heavy cosmetics and creams- These products can block your pores causing more milia to form.
  • Apply a retinol/retinoid (rx) daily- They have exfoliating properties that turn over dead skin cells and keep your skin soft and clear.
  • Gently exfoliate your skin- My preferred method for gentle exfoliation is a Clarisonic brush. This product gently exfoliates your skin without causing further irritation.

Do you follow DrPimplePopper on instagram? You can see myself and Dr. Sandra Lee extract lots and lots of milia there!