Milia cysts are tiny white bumps under the skin that does not cause itching or inflammation and is 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 whiteheads (a form of pimple) or skin tags. Milia in adults usually do 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 touch, resembling a ball of skin
- White heads (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 is not fleshy.
How to Remove Milia using Drug Store Products
Milia does not have an opening onto the skin surface, which is why they 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 daily application of a cream/lotion containing Retinoids or Azelaic Acid in addition with Salicylic Acid or Glycolic Acid face wash to prevent recurring milia. Salicylic Acid is 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 prevent keratin from being trapped underneath the skin surface.
All these ingredients can easily be found at your local drug store. They are usually marketed for anti-aging and acne but will also assist for the management of milia.
Physical extraction by a dermatologist or aesthetician is required in stubborn and severe cases.
Author: Helen Huynh (B. Pharm) MPS