Milium is a kind of cyst which usually appears like white bumps or seeds on face, nose, cheeks, eyelids, lip, around the eyes or genital area.
Milium cysts usually appear in groups which are called milia.
Newborns get it more than the adults.
However, infant milia disappear naturally after a few weeks, but in adults, it can become a recurring cyst issue which lasts for months.
There is a lot of similarity between milia and Palatal cysts or Epstein pearls in infants, but they are not same.
Palatal cysts are white or yellow cystic vesicles often seen in the median palatal raphe of the mouth of newborn children (1).
In common parlance, milia are incorrectly termed as baby acne.
Milia in adults are usually yellow or white but not so itchy or painful.
Just like the whiteheads or blackheads they can appear on any parts of the body. However, milia seeds or milk spots are usually seen in areas of the body like the eyelid, lip, nose, around the eyes, under eyes, ear, genital area, face, and foreheads.
Further, in this article, you can read about what causes milia, milia extraction tips, milia removal cream, and milia home remedies.
What Causes Milia?
What causes milia in newborn babies is entirely unknown.
Probably the so-called “baby acne” is triggered by the hormone issues acquired from the mother.
Tiny white milia seeds appear on newborn babies do not cause inflammation.
According to a report from the Stanford School Of Medicine, some of the newborn babies are born with milia. These tiny white bumps are usually not seen in babies already few weeks old.
Now let us see why do the adults get milia?
According to a study report published by Oncology Letters, milia originate from the hair bulge of the outer root sheath.
Some of the adults get milia because of dead skin build up and getting blocked in the pores below the surface of the skin (2).
The clogged pores get infected by bacteria, and this finally produces the small white cysts in some areas of the skin.
Another reason for white bumps on skin is keratin (a type of protein) getting trapped beneath the skin surface (3).
Milia can also happen when the sweat ducts below the skin surface are blocked by something. Some of the reasons for sweat ducts getting blocked are chemical peels, laser treatments, skin trauma, infections, blistering or herpes (4).
Reasons like lack of sleep, improper personal hygiene, use of oils, smoking, dehydration, or long-term steroid usage may result in milia.
Here are a few more common causes of milia in an adult:
- blistering on the skin
- blistering injuries like poison ivy
- dermabrasion or laser resurfacing
- sun damage.
Types of Milia
Milia is classified into various types according to causes, symptoms, age, and the area of the skin where they appear (5).
- Neonatal Milia: A type of milia appear in newborn children which also known infant milia or baby acne. They appear mostly on the face, upper torso, and scalp of the baby (6).
- Juvenile Milia: It is caused by genetic disorders such as nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome, Gardner syndrome, pachyonychia congenital or Bazex-Dupré-Christol syndrome (7).
- Primary Milia: It is caused by keratin clogged under the skin surface. This usually occurs around the eyes, eyelids, forehead, and genitalia (8).
- Milia en Plaque: It is caused by autoimmune or genetic skin disorders like lichen planus or discoid lupus. These are widespread cysts which are mostly seen in middle aged-women. This type of white bumps occurs on eyelids, cheeks, jaw or ears (9).
- Multiple Eruptive Milia: It produces itching in the affected areas of the skin like upper arms, face, and torso (10).
- Traumatic Milia: It happens on areas surrounding injuries on the skin such as burns and rashes (11).
Milia extraction is done with the help of a milia remover needle, comedone extractor or lancing tool.
Milia extraction procedures are as follows:
- Gently clean the cysts affected area of the skin; preferably with an acne cleanser.
- Use a sterile milia removal needle to drill a tiny incision on the skin covering the cyst.
- Gently remove the contents of the cyst with the tip of the needle without causing any trauma to the skin.
Warnings on milia extraction with a needle:
Milia removal with a needle is one of the last resorts to get rid of the cyst. It can make cyst infectious and leave scars on the skin if not done correctly.
Using a hyfrecator or electrolysis to extract milia is a better option than using the needle.
It is important to soften the skin by using a non-abrasive exfoliating cleanser and cream containing Vitamin A (Retinol) before you proceed to remove milia with a needle.
Children have delicate and sensitive skin which may not withstand the injury to the skin caused by the needle.
Needling the bumps on the skin can cause bleeding, scab, and scar.
As for infants, allow the milia to disappear naturally.
Milia Treatment Cream
You can get a milia removal cream as OTC products sold in a pharmacy near you.
Look out for creams or lotions containing Retinol. It has exfoliating properties which help keep the skin supple and clear.
Retinol is a highly recommended lotion for managing acne and wrinkles.
Creams with Vitamin A are beneficial for improving the overall health and texture of the skin.
Apply retinol directly on the milia affected area of the skin 30 minutes after you cleanse the area.
While using the milia treatment cream make sure not to apply it on eyelids and around the eyes. Retinol can cause irritation and damage to the eyes.
When you have milia on the face, strictly avoid using makeup products and beauty creams as this might aggravate cysts and cause infections.
Heavy creams and cosmetics block the skin pores, and this will increase the outbreak of cysts.
Milia Home Remedies
Home remedies are best for getting rid of milia fast.
You can choose from several natural remedies available to you for treating cysts.
Here are 7 milia home remedies that we have found to be very effective:
1. Sugar Scrub
Sugar scrub is fantastic for exfoliating the skin and opening up the clogged pores. That is exactly what is needed for getting rid of cysts and acne.
For preparing the sugar scrub, use two tablespoons of granulated sugar, one teaspoon olive oil, and five drops lemon juice.
Use this mixture to scrub the acne prone areas of the skin; rinse off the application after 20 minutes.
2. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil contains potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help in desisting and removing milia seeds.
Cleanse the cysts affected area with an acne cleanser. Apply 4 drops of tea tree oil diluted in 1 teaspoon olive oil on the affected area of the skin.
Repeat the treatment twice daily for fast removal of cysts.
3. Facial Sauna
Facial sauna is an effective home remedy for fighting all types of acne and cysts.
It helps to unclog the skin pores by removing the dead skin cells and keratin deposits.
Soak a clean sauna towel in hot water and wring out the excess water from the towel. Compress this wet and warm towel on the face and cysts affected area for few minutes.
Repeat the sauna treatment twice daily till you fully get rid of milia bumps on skin.
Instead of the sauna towel, you may also use a facial sauna steamer to get the same results.
4. Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera gel is an excellent home remedy for getting rid of milia fast.
Aloe Vera contains powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that bring about soothing and healing effects to the inflamed cysts.
It also cleanses and clears up the clogged skin pores and removes blemishes.
Massaging the affected area with fresh Aloe Vera gel and leave it overnight and rinse it off in the morning with cold water.
5. Fenugreek Leaves
Fenugreek leaves are a traditional remedy for treating all types of acne including milia.
Fenugreek leaves contain potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiseptic properties that prevent and heal milky bumps on the skin.
Grind the fresh Fenugreek leaves with required amount water to get a paste-like consistency.
Apply the paste on the affected area of the skin and wash it off after 15 minutes.
Repeat the treatment twice a day till the white bumps are totally gone.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar And Cornstarch
It is easy to get rid of milia by using a paste made of cornstarch and apple cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar is great for curing all types of cysts because it returns the acidity to our skin and restores the acid mantle.
ACV also kills bacteria causing white bumps, clears the clogged pores by removing dead skin cells, oil, and makeup residues.
Cornstarch is a natural skin purifier that absorbs oil and removes excess sebum from the skin and thereby healing and preventing cysts.
Take a tablespoon of cornstarch and one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to make a paste.
Apply this paste on the area with white bumps eruption and rinse it off after 30 minutes.
Repeat this home remedy for white bumps daily till you get a clear skin.
7. Rose Water and Sandalwood Powder
Using a paste made of sandalwood powder and rose water is an effective natural treatment for getting rid of milia.
Sandalwood is well known for its efficacy in deep cleansing of skin and reduction of oil and blemishes.
Rose water is another great natural beauty product for clearing the clogged pores of the skin.
Both these ingredients also contain natural skin brightening and scars removal properties.
Take a teaspoon of sandalwood powder and add to it required amount of rose water to make a paste-like consistency.
Apply this paste evenly on the skin and leave it overnight; rinse off the application in the morning.
How To Manage Milia? (Prevention And Treatments)
If you are wondering how to get rid of milia bumps, here are your answers to your concern.
Keep your face and skin clean
Wash your face twice a day. Use warm water and acne cleanser for deep cleaning of clogged pores.
Make suitable changes in lifestyles such as avoiding fatty foods, smoking, oil-based skin creams, and makeup products. Get enough physical exercise, good sleep, and drink minimum 8 cups of water daily to prevent acne and cysts.
Regularly exfoliate your skin
If you are prone to acne, it is important to do the exfoliation of facial skin twice a week. Make use of good quality exfoliating moisturizer or products for opening up the clogged pores and clearing dirt.
Protect your skin from sun damage
One of the common causes of milia is the sun damaged skin. If you have an acne prone skin, you should not venture out into the sunlight. If you have to be in the sun, make sure to wear a hat, apply sunscreen lotion with higher SPF and use an umbrella.
Daily application of retinol based cream or lotion on acne affected area of the skin can get rid of white bumps on the skin.
Use niacin supplement
Niacin or Vitamin B3 is extremely useful for maintaining healthy skin capable of preventing milia and acne. Do not take more than 1500 mg niacin per day.
Have biotin supplements
Biotin or Vitamin H is an essential vitamin for healthy skin.
Only a healthy skin can resist and heal the common skin issues like all types of acne including milia. Do not take more than 35 mcg of biotin per day.
Stop using cosmetics and beauty creams
Regularly wearing heavy makeup and applying beauty creams can clog your skin pores and cause the outbreak of white bumps on skin. Avoid them completely to get rid of milia bumps from skin.
Do not scratch or pop the white cyst bumps on your face and skin. Scratching can make the milia bumps inflamed and also lead to infection and spread of cysts which leave scars and blemishes on skin.
Consult A Dermatologist
If you have recurring eruption of white bumps resulting from milia, it is good to have regular medication prescribed by a dermatologist. A dermatologist can also try various milia removal treatments to get rid of the white bumps from skin.
The Bottom Line
It is easy to get rid of milia with simple home remedies, personal hygiene, and medication.
However, white bumps on eyelids and around the eyes need to be treated with gentle home remedies that do not hurt the eyes.
Retinol cream is the best OTC product which works as an excellent cyst removal treatment.
Milia extraction with a needle, lancer or Microdermabrasion should be done by a dermatologist as these procedures require skill and knowledge.