Milia causes and the ways to treat them

Milia causes and the ways to treat them

By Emily Ruse,  Deputy Registered Manager

Often mistaken for whiteheads, milia are actually keratin-filled cysts which form just under the skin, appearing like white or yellowish bumps on the surface. Milia is commonly associated with new-born babies but occurs in children and adults too.

There are several factors which cause milia in adults. Most commonly, they occur due to dead skin building up and getting trapped in the pores near the surface of the skin. If the build-up doesn’t get expelled naturally, it can become a small cyst.

Unlike blackheads and whiteheads, milia do not develop into acne lesions. Milia are often caused by the use of skin care products and cosmetics that contain heavy oils, particularly mineral oil or lanolin.

So, how can we get rid of these pesky bumps? 

Firstly, forget squeezing. This will only irritate and cause damage to the skin without being able to remove the problem. Squeezing the bump with your bare hands is a big no-no – as is taking any tools to the milia. You don’t want to damage your skin with poor removal techniques.

Your best bet is to seek the help of a professional. Milia removal with a skincare professional usually requires an incision, especially when the cysts are deep below the skin’s surface. Typically, it’s a quick and painless in-clinic procedure. Depending on the skin professional, they should be able to remove the milia using a comedone extractor, lancing tool or needle.


As ever with skincare, prevention is better than cure (there are no needles involved, for one), so try these suggestions if milia recurring is a concern for you…

1. Thorough cleansing

Removing your make-up thoroughly before bed is vital. If you’re not already, try double cleansing in the evenings, particularly if you wear heavy make-up and/or live in a polluted area. The first cleanse removes your make-up, SPF and sebum (use something like an oil cleanser to melt make-up), and the second – which is where your facial massage comes into play – should remove any further impurities and treat the skin.

2. Acid exfoliation

Regular exfoliation works wonders in preventing milia. Look for AHA and BHA acid exfoliators, glycolic acid and a salicylic 2%. Apply at least three times a week, paying special attention to areas of milia.

3. Retinols

Retinol is also very helpful for both fighting and preventing milia. The form of vitamin A assists skin cell turn over, allowing the milia to surface – and preventing the build-up of dead cells leading to the cysts in the first place. However, make sure to avoid applying retinol to the eyelids.


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