What are Milia and will they go away on their own?

Milia, often referred to as pearly-white bumps, milk spots, or stubborn whiteheads, are a common skin condition that can affect individuals of all ages, from infants to adults. While some people can easily overlook them, others find them bothersome. It's essential to note that milia are distinct from acne and do not originate in the pores.

What Are Milia? Milia develop when sebum (skin oil) and dead skin cells become trapped in the outer layers of the skin. Over time, these trapped substances undergo keratinization, meaning they accumulate keratin and harden. Keratin is a vital structural protein for the skin, but in the case of milia, it contributes to the formation of these tiny bumps.

Appearance of Milia: Milia resemble small, round bumps that often have a pearly-white appearance. They are entirely benign and differ from regular whiteheads, as they are located deeper within the skin and typically lack the redness commonly seen with whiteheads. Milia often appear in clusters rather than as individual bumps.

Types of Milia: Milia come in various forms:

  1. Neonatal Milia: Common in nearly half of newborn babies, neonatal milia are typically found on the nose and usually resolve within a few weeks after birth.

  2. Primary Milia: Affecting both children and adults, primary milia are commonly found around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead. Some may resolve spontaneously, while others may require professional removal.

  3. Juvenile Milia: Caused by hereditary disorders like Gardner syndrome, these milia may appear as a plaque covered in multiple bumps (milia en plaque) around the ears, cheeks, jaw, or eyelids.

  4. Multiple Eruptive Milia: This rare skin condition involves recurring, sometimes itchy patches of milia. It can resolve on its own and is known to occur after cancer treatment.

  5. Traumatic Milia: These can develop at the site of skin injuries, burns, or wounds, as well as after using certain topical medications like steroid creams.

Milia Lookalikes: Milia can be mistaken for other skin conditions, including mild acne, very small epidermal cysts, keratosis pilaris (commonly known as chicken skin), and syringoma. Syringoma closely resembles milia but is deeper within the skin and more challenging to treat.

Can Milia Be Prevented? Milia often appear without a clear cause, making prevention challenging. Some believe that makeup, eye creams, or dry skin contribute to milia formation. While these factors may play a role for some individuals, there's no universal prevention strategy. Some nutritionists suggest a link between vitamin A and omega deficiencies and milia development, but scientific evidence is limited. 

How to Remove Milia: The most effective way to eliminate milia is through professional removal. Dermatological clinics and some salons offer this service. The process involves sanitizing the area, using a needle or blade to pierce the skin, and extracting the milium (hardened keratin). After extraction, an antiseptic is applied to the area. Attempting at-home extractions is discouraged, as it can damage the skin and lead to infection.

Tackling Milia at home is more tricky and likely to take longer. Remember Milia will clear by themselves in time, but to give them a bit of encouragement you might consider exfoliation. Regular exfoliation plays a crucial role in maintaining smooth and thin skin, effectively eliminating milia and preventing their recurrence. 

We'd recommend avoiding the use of physical scrubs as these are more likely to cause irritation and instead focus on chemical exfoliation to ensure a steady rate of exfoliation without excessive irritation.Exfoliation with products containing acids like lactic acid, glycolic acid, or salicylic acid may help prevent milia. 

Products containing glycolic acid are excellent for combating milia. While these products are generally safe, caution is advised when applying them around the delicate eye area, which is more susceptible to irritation.

Our 28 Day Skin Glycolic Acid 10% effectively exfoliates the skin while maintaining moisture balance and can be your best friend for combating Milia especially when combined with one our clay masks.

Apply a thin layer of Glycolic Acid every other evening to achieve a brighter and smoother complexion. Allow the product to dry for 10 minutes, then follow with either a moisturiser or a hydrating toner before bedtime.

Apply a clay mask on the days when you're not exfoliating. After your regular nighttime cleansing routine, generously apply the mask to the desired area, then carry on with your evening activities like enjoying dinner or watching TV. When it's time, gently remove the mask, follow up with toner, and finish with moisturizer as usual.

Retinol is another powerful ingredient for eliminating milia especially at the lower concentrations as this will promote gentle skin cell turnover when used nightly. This gradual process reveals a fresh, smooth skin layer. If you have sensitive skin, start with a thin layer applied every other night before transitioning to daily use. Always follow up with an evening moisturizer to counteract any dryness or irritation. Important note: Retinol or retinoid use should be approached cautiously due to their potential harshness.

In cases of particularly stubborn or numerous milia, prescription retinol creams, such as Retin-A or generic tretinoin 0.025%–0.05% cream or gel, may be necessary.

Getting into a routine every day to make your skin work for itself is the key to combating Milia.

Here are some general guidelines to follow:


  1. Using products containing mineral oil or lanolin.
  2. Attempting to pick at them with needles, as it can lead to facial scarring.

Instead, consider:

  1. Using a topical acid on the affected area.
  2. Incorporating regular exfoliation into your skincare routine.
  3. Moisturizing the affected area as usual.
  4. Applying quality clay masks to the area regularly.
  5. Seeking professional removal by a skincare expert for a safe solution.

Photo by Miriam Alonso: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-looking-at-a-mirror-7622582/

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