Everything you need to know about milia

Taryn Davies
Published: April 24, 2018

Milia or ‘milk spots’ are small raised white bumps which appear on the skin, usually around the cheeks, nose, forehead, chest and around the eyes. From a medical perspective, the condition is harmless, although it can sometimes cause irritation for an individual, especially if it appears on the eyelids. Milia can also affect confidence if an individual is particularly affected by its presence.

Although many people of all ages and skin types live with Milia, many are unaware of what those pesky white spots are, and if and how it can be treated.

Here to provide some clarity on the topic is leading Aesthetics Specialist Victoria Smith, Director of Aesthetics at The Whiteley Clinic Group, who explains all you need to know about the topic.

What is Milia?

Victoria Smith says: “Milia in basic terms are keratin-filled cysts which appear just under the epidermis, or in other words – just below the skin’s surface. Keratin is an incredibly strong protein that is a major component of our skin, hair and nails, and when it becomes trapped underneath the skin, it forms bumps which resemble hard-white pearls. Milia is commonly associated with newborn babies and often disappears on its own, but it can also appear on people of all ages and skin types, sometimes disappearing after a few weeks, or in some cases taking a very long time, or cosmetic treatment to solve the problem altogether.”

What causes Milia?

Victoria Smith says: The truth is that some people tend to be more susceptible to Milia than others, with there being no real reason as to why this is the case.

However, in adults, there can be some factors which can cause Milia. In most cases, Milia occurs due to a build-up of dead skin getting trapped in an individual’s pores. If the dead skin is not extracted it can transform into a small cyst, also known as Primary Milia.

Secondary Milia occurs when the sweat ducts have become blocked or clogged, which usually takes place if an individual’s skin has gone through trauma or infection. Such instances can include sunburn, rashes, a prolonged use of steroid creams, chemical peels or a skin infection such as herpes. In addition to this, lifestyle factors can play a part in the development of secondary Milia, particularly if you have a poor personal hygiene or skin routine, or if you use too many oil-based beauty products on a day-to-day basis.”

How to treat MiliaHow is Milia treated?

Victoria Smith says: “It’s worth bearing in mind that even in adults, Milia can disappear after a few weeks or months as the keratin can naturally come to the surface and dissipate, so I always advise my patients to wait for a few months before seeking treatment.

You should never attempt to squeeze or remove Milia by yourself as this can leave you scarred, blemished or in some cases cause red veins to appear on the surface of the skin. Therefore, if you decided to seek treatment, you should always enlist the help of a qualified practitioner, as they will ensure that the Milia is removed efficiently which they can do so in an easy and relatively pain-free way.

One way to remove Milia is via the use of a sterilised needle to break the skin and squeeze the white pearl out. Although this is very effective, this option can leave you with blemishes and again increase the chances of red veins forming on the skin. At The Whiteley Clinic Group, we advise ‘Electro Surgery’ as an effective and relatively inexpensive method to remove Milia. This treatment is carried out by inserting a fine probe with a heat current, which destroys the Milia, along with its contents which are absorbed back into the body. This process is less uncomfortable than using a needle and leaves no scar on the affected area. Sometimes a small crust will form on the area for a few days, but this usually disappears, along with the Milia, within 5 days allowing the individual to carry on their day to day activities as usual.”