Do you take good care of your skin, only to find you have little white bumps on the skin under your eyes?
Feels like a really specific skin ailment, doesn't it?
Not so! Many adults get these tiny bumps on their faces and often mistake them for whiteheads or blemishes.
In fact, the majority of these bumps are actually called milia, and they are very treatable!
What is Milia?
Technically, a milium is a tiny white bump found in the skin underneath the eyes. It is a little cyst comprised of a buildup of keratin, or dead skin cells. It is most often seen on newborns, but adults can very well get them too. It’s typically seen on the nose, cheeks, or chin.
When dead skin gets trapped in the pores, it can create a keratin-filled bump under the skin. Since the skin around your eyes is more sensitive than the rest of your face, that is often where we find these milia.
Adults can get these for a myriad of reasons, but they can show up often when a new skincare product is introduced, or the level of exfoliation on the skin changes.
There are two types of milia according to the Dermatology department at the Cleveland Clinic: Primary and Secondary. Primary is what is most often seen on babies. This is more indicative of lack of exfoliation or skin that is creating cells quicker than it can slough them off. Secondary milia is more indicative of skin damage of some sort. This can be attributed to sunburns, over-exfoliation, or rapidly introducing new skincare products to a routine too fast.
How Do You Treat Milia?
Once you’ve identified the bumps as milia, there are some easy ways to treat them.
Leave them alone. Many of these bumps will resolve themselves in a few weeks according to beauty expert, John Tsagaris. If you aren’t bothered by them, the best thing to do is wait. Don’t add a bunch of layers of skincare or makeup to the skin while these bumps are there. Just let your skin work itself out, and they will go away.
If that’s not an option or you want to get rid of them quicker:
Don't pick at or pop the bumps. You will only cause further damage to the skin and very likely create a scar. Often these bumps will disappear on their own, so picking at them can really only cause damage. Because of the hardness of these bumps, it is much more likely to leave a scar if they get picked at.
Create a simple skincare routine. Gently cleanse your skin and make sure all makeup and oil are removed before starting to add any serums or moisturizers. Use eye creams that are not oil-based as oils can exacerbate the milia. When your skincare routine gets too complex, your skin might have a harder time expelling waste, which can cause buildup. Introducing too many new products at once can cause this buildup to accelerate, which will lead to more bumps.
Incorporate gentle exfoliation. Slowly introduce Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHA) and Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHA) exfoliators into your skincare routine. These will help clear away the build-up of the dead skin, avoiding future bumps and gradually clearing the existing milia. A highly rated option is Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant.
Now, don’t exfoliate every single day. Over exfoliating, the skin can be just as bad as not exfoliating at all. Use a mild exfoliant every other day or every two days to keep the skin barrier intact. You can’t scrub these bumps away in one night. For those with sensitive skin, opt for a physical exfoliant, rather than the chemical ones mentioned above.
Visit your dermatologist. If the milia persist, it's always a good idea to check in with your dermatologist. They can give you prescription-strength products that can decrease the bumps. They have specific tools, as well, to manually remove the stubborn spots without damaging the skin long term. If the milia are too deep, you really want the expertise of a dermatologist to be able to remove it without causing damage or leaving a wound open to infection.
There are also topical medications that your dermatologist can recommend to speed up healing. They may put you on an antibiotic to clear up any underlying infections that the cysts can develop.
Now, How To Avoid Milia
Prevention is the best way to treat these bumps. Don’t let them happen in the first place!
Incorporate a Retinol into your routine. Retinols are a miracle for skin in general. They can nourish the skin while assisting it with cellular turnover. This is why so many anti-aging products use retinol in their ingredients. Using a retinol every few days can help increase the turnover of skin cells, which will keep keratin from building up in the first place. My personal favorite is the Sunday Riley A+ Retinol serum.
Try to take your vitamins. Vitamin C and vitamin D are necessary nutrients for your skin. Try to incorporate a vitamin C serum into your routine. This will help your skin make new cells. Because of the cellular turnover, you will find that some of your acne scars and dark spots will fade with time. Add a vitamin D supplement to your diet too. This will help limit the oil production that can cause increased keratin buildup.
Use Sunscreen. This just goes for anyone who is human and has skin. Use SPF even if you’re not going to be outside. Avoiding future sun damage will lessen milia and a myriad of other skin conditions. There are a lot of great light-weight facial sunscreens on the market to choose from.
Regardless of how you treat these “milk spots”, as they’re called on newborns, one thing matters: do not pick at them. Another thing to remember is that they don’t define you. People who develop milia are not greasier, dirtier, or lazier than anyone else. Everyone’s skin reacts differently to different stimuli. What may cause one person to break out into a hive of milia, another person may not react at all. If these bumps really impact you, make sure to visit a dermatologist for advice and further treatment.
*Header by The Savvy Reeder, Photo by Getty Images Pro