How to get rid of milia

How to get rid of milia, those tiny white bumps that appear around your eyes and cheeks

Ever wondered what’s causing those small white bumps are around your eye area? It could be milia and your moisturiser might be to blame…

Have you ever noticed a build-up of little white bumps around your eyes or cheeks? While they can look similar to whiteheads, they’re not actually spots at all. Those tiny clusters of bumps are called milia — and they’re a lot more common than you might think. 

Here, we explain what causes milia, plus the treatments and how to prevent milia in the first place. 

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What is milia?

Milia is a skincare issue that is far more common than people may realise. Milia often appears as little raised white dots that appear around people’s eyes and eyelids, and sometimes appear around the nose, cheeks or other areas of the body. They can develop on any skin type and from any age, while milia is often associated with new-born babies but it can actually occur in all ethnicities and ages.

Milia occur when dead skin cells become trapped beneath the skin’s surface and create small hard white groups of cysts. 

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How can you prevent milia?

“If you keep getting milia under your eyes, consider changing your skincare routine,” says Dr.Tinna Meder, dermatologist and founder of Meder Beauty Science. Rich moisturisers and eye creams can clog the skin, resulting in blocked follicles and milia forming.

“Ensure you are regularly cleaning, exfoliating and moisturising the skin. Under eye night serums can also help to prevent milia. As we age, our body naturally loses some of its ability to exfoliate away dry skin cells.”

Consultant dermatologist Catherine Borysiewicz suggests avoiding extra rich moisturisers and using gentle exfoliation products such as lactic acid. “Lactic acid is a larger molecule so it doesn’t penetrate the skin as deep, meaning it can be less irritating. Retinol can also help as it reduces oil production and increases skin cell turnover.”

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How to treat milia

One thing that all skin experts agree with is that you should not pick milia. Trying to remove milia yourself can cause the bumps to bleed, scab and scar. Milia often goes away on its own within a few months, however there are professional treatments that may help:

Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the milia. It’s the most frequently used removal method for milia.

• Deroofing is a treatment which sees a sterile needle pick out the contents of the cyst.

• Chemical peels can help exfoliate the first layer of skin away, unearthing a new layer of skin to come through.

• Laser ablation uses a small laser to focus on the affected areas and remove the cysts.

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Dr Meder’s tips for treating milia at home

• Cleanse the area with a gentle paraben-free soap

• Gently exfoliate your skin to keep the keratin in your skin from overproducing. Look for exfoliating cleansers that contain salicylic acid, lactic acid, or glycolic acid.

Chemical exfoliants containing AHAs and BHAs, including glycolic and salicylic acid, provide accelerated, chemical exfoliation without the need to aggressively scrub your skin. 

• Add a retinol into your night-time routine. Retinols are brilliant at kick-starting cell turnover, and less layers of dead skin results in fewer obstructions, fewer white bumps and a more even, flawless skin texture. 

• Avoid sun exposure – especially if you’re using retinols and exfoliating acids. Increased sun damage and milia go hand in hand. Ensuring SPF is incorporated into your skincare routine, even through winter is a must. If you’re using peels or exfoliators containing acids, as they can make your skin ultra-sensitive to UV rays.

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