Milia skin condition – causes, treatment and prevention

What are Milia?

Milia are keratin-filled cysts that look like small white or creamy coloured spots measuring about 1mm-2mm in diameter. They often appear around the delicate eye area and across the top of the nose.

Who gets Milia?

Milia can affect people of all ages and genders and is very common. Up to 50% of newborn babies are affected by the condition, so many in fact that it is considered normal.

What are the causes?

Primary milia appear on the face and develop in areas with vellum hair follicles, very fine almost invisible hair for example on the nose, eye and cheeks. It is thought that they are caused by immature sweat glands.

Secondary milia appear on the body and are caused by direct damage to the skin for example by severe microdermabrasion, a skin blistering disease or even overuse of strong steroid creams.

Should I be worried?

No, milia are harmless and only a little unsightly. If the milia change shape or size you should definitely get them re-examined by a professional just to be on the safe side but it is very rare for any problems to occur.

How can I treat them?

If you only have a small number of milia these can sometimes be treated at home with gentle exfoliation or microdermabration over a month or two. If there are more or if you are in more of a hurry you should visit a dermatolagist for help and advice. Do not attempt to squeeze them or remove them with a needle from this delicate area or you could cause permanent scarring.

How can I prevent them?

Regular exfoliation can help prevent milia appearing, remembering that milia often affects the delicate eye area so choose suitable products and apple gently to prevent damage. You may already have an exfoilation process as part of your regime but have avoided the eye area in order to protect it.