They are small, yellow or white cysts that appear in groups, usually on the face.
This condition can also be known as milia. They are often found in newborns, but they can affect people of any age.
Milia are small, hard bumps that form on the skin.
Milia are small, lump-like cysts found under the skin. They are usually 1 to 2 millimeters (mm) in size.
They form when skin flakes or keratin, a protein, get trapped under the skin.
Milia appear most often on the face, commonly around the eyelids and cheeks, although they can appear anywhere.
Types and causes
Milia affects up to 50 percent of all newborns. They usually go away on their own within a few weeks.
Neonatal milia is often found on the nose, but it can appear on the scalp, face, upper body, and inside the mouth.
These bumps can be mistaken for neonatal acne . Neonatal acne white bumps vary in size and are often surrounded by redness, while miliae are generally uniform in size, with no redness.
Milia can be present from birth, while neonatal acne usually doesn’t appear until 2 weeks after birth.
Primary milia often occurs around the eyelids, cheeks, and forehead.
Primary milia occur in children and adults. While they can go away without treatment in a few weeks, they can also last for several months.
Primary milia often appear on the following parts of the body:
They can also appear along the nasal crease in young children.
Milia on plate
In this condition, the multiple milia clusters in a wide, flat patch raised above the surrounding skin. This patch or plaque often has a clear, defined border.
Plaque milia can affect children and adults, especially middle-aged women. It is usually found on the eyelids, behind the ears, and on the cheek or jaw.
This condition is rare and is occasionally associated with other skin problems, including:
- Elastic pseudoxanthoma.
- Lupus eritematoso discoide.
- Lichen planus.
Multiple eruptive milia
This rare type of milia involves numerous bumps that appear in the same area over several weeks or months. This is often the only symptom, although the area may also feel itchy.
Multiple eruptive milia tend to appear on the face, upper arms, and upper trunk.
Also known as secondary milia, this condition follows an injury to the skin, which can involve:
- A burn.
- Blisters from a skin condition or allergic reaction.
- Skin resurfacing procedures, such as dermabrasion or laser resurfacing.
- Excessive exposure to sunlight.
Milia associated with medication
Certain topical medications, including some steroid creams, can cause milia to appear.
The milia carries very few risks.
When milias are associated with another condition or injury, that condition needs to be treated separately.
It is important that milia are diagnosed correctly. They can be confused with other types of skin conditions, such as comedones, miliaria, and other types of cysts.
When milias are a concern, discuss treatment with a doctor.
Medical treatments are not usually necessary, and they carry certain risks.
If milia is causing concern, certain clinical treatments have been used to try and eliminate them. These include:
A doctor uses a sterile needle or blade to remove the milia. Do not try this at home as you may be at risk of infection.
A doctor numbs the area, removes the milia, and then seals the skin with a hot wire.
The milia are frozen, often with liquid nitrogen. This can cause blisters or swelling, which should go away in a few days.
This oral antibiotic may be helpful in treating certain types of milia, such as plaque milia.
All of these treatments carry a risk of scarring, except for minocycline, which has other risks. Since milia themselves do not cause scarring, think carefully before undergoing these treatments.
In most cases, the milia will disappear on its own in a few months.
A number of home remedies can help you get rid of milia. While no specific remedy has been proven to clear milia quickly, these treatments are mostly low risk.
Clean the affected area daily. Use a mild soap to prevent skin irritation. Soaps for sensitive skin are available for purchase online.
Steaming open the pores. This can be done by sitting in the bathroom and taking a hot shower.
Exfoliate the area regularly. However, avoid over-exfoliation, as daily exfoliation can irritate the skin. Various exfoliating products are available online.
Use sunscreen. Highly protective sunscreens can be especially helpful. Factor 50 sunscreen is available for purchase at drug stores and online.
Using topical retinoids. Topical retinoids are creams or gels derived from vitamin A. While they are designed to treat acne and other skin problems, there is little evidence that they are effective in treating milia.
Some research suggests that rose, cinnamon, and honey extracts have antibacterial properties that can address some skin problems. However, there has been no research on its efficacy on milia.
It is not always possible to prevent milia, for example, when they occur in newborns.
However, when milia is associated with other skin conditions or lesions, prompt treatment can prevent them from appearing.
Tips for preventing milia include:
- Avoid excessive sun exposure.
- Avoid using thick creams or oil-based products.
- Exfoliating 2 to 3 times a week.
Milia can sometimes arise after a chemical peel. It is possible to prevent its appearance by applying a topical retinoid before the procedure. However, retinoids can cause dark spots or excessive irritation when used in combination with chemical peels.
Milia tend not to cause long-term problems. The prognosis is very good, and most cases will resolve without treatment within several weeks.
The bumps may disappear faster in newborns than in children and adults.
If the milia doesn’t go away within a few weeks, a doctor may recommend treatment options.