Milia, also known as milialar, are small, white or yellow bumps that appear on the skin, usually on the face. They are not harmful, but some people may find them unsightly or annoying. Milia can be removed by various methods, such as extraction, chemical peels, retinoids, or home remedies. This article will explain what milia are, what causes them, how to diagnose them, and how to treat and prevent them.
What is Milia (Milialar)?
Milia are tiny cysts that form when dead skin cells or keratin (a protein found in hair and nails) get trapped under the surface of the skin. They are not a type of acne, although they may look similar to whiteheads or pimples. Milia are benign, meaning they do not pose any health risk.
Milia are usually white or yellow in color, and have a hard, round, or dome-shaped appearance. They range in size from 1 to 3 millimeters, but can sometimes be larger. Milia can occur anywhere on the body, but are most common on the face, especially on the cheeks, nose, eyelids, and forehead. Milia do not have an opening or a pore, so they cannot be popped or squeezed.
There are two main types of milia: primary and secondary. Primary milia are the most common type, and they occur spontaneously without any apparent cause. They are often seen in newborns, but can also affect older children and adults. Secondary milia are caused by some damage or injury to the skin, such as sunburn, blistering, infection, or cosmetic procedures. They can also be associated with certain skin conditions, such as rosacea, dandruff, or eczema.
Causes of Milia
The exact cause of primary milia is not fully understood, but it may be related to genetic factors, hormonal changes, or skin aging. Some researchers suggest that primary milia are caused by a defect in the skin’s ability to exfoliate or shed dead cells, leading to their accumulation under the skin.
Secondary milia are caused by some external factor that damages or irritates the skin, resulting in the formation of cysts. Some of the common causes of secondary milia are:
- Sun exposure: Ultraviolet rays can damage the skin and cause sunburn, which can lead to blistering and peeling of the skin. This can create pockets of dead skin cells that can become milia.
- Skin trauma: Injuries, burns, infections, or surgeries can damage the skin and cause inflammation, scarring, or healing problems. This can also create pockets of dead skin cells that can become milia.
- Skin products: Some cosmetics, creams, lotions, or oils can clog the pores or irritate the skin, causing milia. This is especially true for products that are oil-based, heavy, or comedogenic (pore-clogging).
- Skin conditions: Some skin disorders, such as rosacea, dandruff, or eczema, can cause inflammation, dryness, or flaking of the skin. This can also create pockets of dead skin cells that can become milia.
Milia develop when dead skin cells or keratin get trapped under the surface of the skin, forming a cyst. The cysts are surrounded by a thin layer of skin, which prevents them from being expelled or dissolved. Over time, the cysts may harden and calcify, making them more visible and resistant to treatment.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Signs and appearance
The main sign of milia is the presence of small, white or yellow bumps on the skin, usually on the face. The bumps are hard, round, or dome-shaped, and do not have an opening or a pore. They are not painful or itchy, but may cause some discomfort or cosmetic concern. Milia may appear singly or in clusters, and may vary in number and size.
How it is diagnosed
Milia are usually diagnosed by a visual examination of the skin by a healthcare provider, such as a dermatologist. The provider may also ask about the history, symptoms, and possible causes of the milia. In some cases, a skin biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other skin conditions that may look similar to milia, such as acne, molluscum contagiosum, or basal cell carcinoma.
Treatment and Prevention
The most effective and common treatment for milia is manual extraction, which involves making a small incision on the skin and removing the cyst with a sterile needle, tweezers, or a comedone extractor. This procedure is usually done by a dermatologist or a trained esthetician, and it may cause some bleeding, bruising, or scarring. Extraction can provide immediate results, but it may not prevent milia from recurring.
Chemical peels are another treatment option for milia, which involve applying a chemical solution on the skin to exfoliate or peel off the top layer of the skin, along with the milia. Chemical peels can be mild, moderate, or deep, depending on the type and concentration of the chemical used. Chemical peels can improve the appearance and texture of the skin, but they may also cause some side effects, such as redness, swelling, burning, or infection. Chemical peels may require multiple sessions and some downtime for recovery.
Retinoids are a type of medication derived from vitamin A, which can help treat milia by increasing the turnover of skin cells and preventing them from clogging the pores. Retinoids can be applied topically as creams, gels, or lotions, or taken orally as pills. Retinoids can be effective for milia, but they may also cause some side effects, such as dryness, irritation, peeling, or sensitivity to sunlight. Retinoids may require a prescription and a long-term use to see results.
Some home remedies may also help treat or prevent milia, such as:
- Exfoliating the skin regularly with a gentle scrub, a washcloth, or a brush to remove dead skin cells and unclog the pores.
- Applying warm compresses on the milia to soften the skin and facilitate their removal.
- Applying natural or herbal remedies on the milia, such as honey, aloe vera, tea tree oil, or castor oil, to moisturize, soothe, or disinfect the skin.
- Avoiding or limiting the use of cosmetics, creams, lotions, or oils that may clog the pores or irritate the skin, and choosing products that are non-comedogenic, oil-free, or water-based.
- Protecting the skin from sun damage by wearing sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, or clothing, and avoiding excessive sun exposure.
Some preventive measures that may help reduce the risk of developing milia or prevent them from recurring are:
- Maintaining a good skin care routine that includes cleansing, toning, moisturizing, and exfoliating the skin regularly with suitable products for your skin type and condition.
- Consulting a dermatologist or a skin care specialist before undergoing any cosmetic procedures, such as laser resurfacing, dermabrasion, or microdermabrasion, that may damage or irritate the skin and cause milia.
- Treating any underlying skin conditions, such as rosacea, dandruff, or eczema, that may contribute to the formation of milia.
- Eating a balanced and healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and avoiding foods that may trigger or worsen skin problems, such as dairy, sugar, or processed foods.
- Drinking enough water and staying hydrated to keep the skin moist and supple, and flush out toxins and impurities from the body.
- Managing stress and practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises, to reduce the impact of stress on the skin and overall health.
Milia are small, white or yellow bumps that appear on the skin, usually on the face. They are not harmful, but some people may find them unsightly or annoying. Milia can be removed by various methods, such as extraction, chemical peels, retinoids, or home remedies. Milia can also be prevented by taking good care of the skin, avoiding or treating the causes of milia, and following a healthy lifestyle. If you have milia and want to get rid of them, consult a dermatologist or a skin care specialist for the best treatment option for you.