What Is Milia? Dermatologists Explain Everything to Know About Those Tiny White Bumps
If you've ever noticed tiny white bumps on your face, your first thought might be that it was just acne. However, before you next reach for your benzoyl peroxide-filled skincare products, be sure to take a closer look at them - chances are they're not whiteheads, but milia.
What on earth is Milia? Is there another skin problem we need to worry about? No reason to panic. To find out what these tiny cysts are, how they are related to acne, and how to treat them, we ask board-certified dermatologists Rachel Maiman (M.D.) and Robert Finney (M.D.) for a brief overview. See what they had to say below.
1. Milia cysts are not acne.
Milia cysts may look like whiteheads, but they are not a form of acne or acne related at all. According to Dr. Maiman's milia cysts are tiny white bumps that contain keratin that has built up just under the skin. They are considered harmless and do not cause long-term complications such as infection or inflammation. ("Provided they aren't selected," she adds.)
They can appear anywhere on the body, but Dr. Finney says they are most commonly found on the face, around the eyes, nose, or cheeks. "Our face has a higher percentage of oil glands than anywhere else on our body, and we often put a lot of topical [products] and makeup on and rub our face [with our hands]," he says. "These factors probably contribute to the fact that milia is more common here."
2. There are two types of milia: primary and secondary.
Primary milia are the most common type and result from a buildup of dead skin that has not been able to peel off properly or has not been peeled off sufficiently. Secondary milia occur when there is trauma to the skin, such as sun damage or infection. When the skin tries to heal from injuries and the sweat ducts clog, cystic lesions appear. This can also happen if you use heavy oil based beauty products, don't sleep, or don't take care of your skin well enough.
Anyone can get Milia and luckily it's pretty easy to tell if you have it or not. Dr. Maiman says if you find that you have "creamy white" bumps that are not reddened or inflamed, you have milia. Another meaningful sign is whether the bump is firm. She explains that these cysts are difficult to extract. If you can find that manually extracting it would cause you even greater harm, this is a safe bet when dealing with Milia.
3. Milia usually goes out alone.
Good news: Milia will go away on its own in some cases. But how long they last depends on the person. If you want to get rid of them quickly, Dr. Maiman that you should go to a dermatologist who can extract the milia. Do not try to do the extraction yourself. You will only irritate and risk another lady on your skin, she says.
4. The best treatment for milia is prevention.
Dr. Maiman advises patients with milia to investigate lifestyle changes, such as: For example, wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day, and replace skin care ingredients that may clog pores. "If you have milia around your eyes, try a lighter, oil-free, non-comedogenic eye cream and avoid greasy eye makeup removers as well," she says.
She also recommends adding an exfoliator to your routine once or twice a week. "Exfoliating properly can prevent keratin and dead skin cells from becoming trapped beneath the surface," she says. Both Dr. Maiman and Dr. Finney recommend looking for exfoliating ingredients like glycolic and lactic acid, or ingredients like retinol or retinoids that increase cell turnover.
So if you think you have Milia, don't worry. "They're annoying and annoying, but not harmful," says Dr. Finney. With the right exfoliating ingredients and slight changes to your skin care regimen, you should be able to prevent them from occurring. And as always, if you are still concerned, speak to your dermatologist - they will always know what to do.
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