What is Milia?
Milia cysts are tiny white bumps under the skin that does not cause itching or inflammation and are usually asymptomatic. They are not aesthetically desired and can cause people who suffer from milia to be self-conscious.
Milia in adults occur when keratin (a protein found in hair, skin and nails) is trapped under the skin. They can also sometimes be mistaken for whitehead (a form of the pimple) or skin tag. Milia in adults usually does not go away on its own and will require treatment or physical extraction in severe cases.
The cause for milia in babies (also known as "milk bumps") is unknown and it usually goes away without treatment within a few weeks.
How to Differentiate Milia from Skin tags:
- Skin tags are usually fleshy to the touch, resembling a ball of skin
- Whiteheads (pimples) can easily be removed by squeezing (although we do not recommend this due to scaring and possible infections)
- Milia, on the other hand, cannot easily be removed by squeezing and requires physical extraction in almost all cases. They are also hard to touch and are not fleshy.
How to Remove Milia using Drug Store Products
Milia does not have an opening on the skin surface, which is why it cannot be removed with a simple squeeze or pop like a pimple. Attempting to pop them can lead to red and inflamed marks on the skin. Milia can be treated by applying a Retinoid cream daily in the evening before bed. The treatment for milia can take 4-8 weeks to resolve, depending on the severity. If you are prone to milia, we recommend using a cream containing Retinoid or Azelaic Acid in addition to a Salicylic Acid or Glycolic Acid face wash daily to prevent recurring milia. Salicylic Acid is a lipophilic molecule and can dive deep into the skin to unclog pores and prevent the build-up of oil. Glycolic Acid and Retinoids promote skin cell turnover, thus preventing keratin from being trapped underneath the skin surface.
All these ingredients can easily be found at your local drugstore. They are usually marketed for anti-ageing and acne but will also assist in the management of milia.
Physical extraction by a dermatologist or aesthetician is required in stubborn and severe cases.
Author: Helen Huynh (B. Pharm) MPS