Milia typically resolve without treatment, but exfoliation or regular washing with a mild soap may help. A doctor can remove them if necessary.

Milia are small white-to-yellow cysts that appear in clusters, usually on the face. They form when skin flakes or small amounts of keratin become trapped under the skin.

This article looks at different types of milia, their causes, and possible ways to remove them.

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Congenital milia, which are present at birth, often resolve without treatment. However, it is best for parents or caregivers to ensure the infant’s face is clean by washing the skin daily with warm water and patting it dry. If the milia are still present after a few months, people should speak with a pediatrician.

Milia may also resolve on their own in adults. However, a person may wish to try some home remedies, such as facial peels or exfoliators.

It is important to speak with a doctor before trying home remedies for milia as some may not be suitable for a person’s skin or milia type.

Examples of home remedies for milia may include:

  • Cleaning the affected area daily: People can use a mild soap to prevent skin irritation.
  • Steaming open the pores: A person can sit in the bathroom and run a hot shower.
  • Exfoliating the area regularly: Although exfoliating may help, it is best to avoid exfoliating too much. Daily exfoliation can irritate the skin.
  • Using over-the-counter (OTC) options: A person can try OTC options, which may include OTC-strength topical retinoids, such as Differin, and chemical facial peels containing glycolic or salicylic acid. Topical retinoids are medications derived from vitamin A.

Can you pop milia?

People should avoid popping or squeezing milia. This will not remove the milia and may damage or scar the skin.

It is also best to avoid poking or picking milia. This interference increases the risk of infection and can lead to scarring.

A medical professional may recommend the following treatment options, some of which may carry a risk of scarring.

Manual extraction

People may also refer to manual extraction as de-roofing. It involves a professional using a sterile needle or blade to cut a tiny opening in the top of the milia. They will then push out the keratin plug.

Individuals should not attempt this at home, as doing so may lead them to develop an infection.

Prescription medications

A doctor may prescribe prescription-strength topical retinoids. Alternatively, they may prescribe oral minocycline, which is an antibiotic.

Other procedure options

Other options may include:

  • cutterage, which involves numbing the area, removing the milia, and then sealing the skin with a hot wire
  • cryotherapy, which involves using extreme cold to freeze the milia
  • diathermy, which involves using extreme heat to remove the milia
  • laser surgery
  • dermabrasion

There are two classifications of milia — primary and secondary.

Primary milia

Primary milia, the most common type, can affect children and adults. However, primary milia often develop at birth. They do not typically cause symptoms and often resolve within the first few months of life.

Some causes and types of primary milia include:

  • Congenital milia: Milia affect 40–50% of all newborns. Neonatal milia often occur on the nose but may also appear on the scalp, face, upper trunk, and inside the mouth.
  • Benign primary milia of children and adults: This type develops spontaneously and can occur on the eyelids, cheeks, forehead, and genital area.
  • Milia en plaque: In this condition, multiple milia appear together in a broad, flat patch raised above the surrounding skin, also called a plaque. This plaque often has a clear and defined border.
  • Multiple eruptive milia: This type develops sporadically and abruptly over several weeks or months.

Secondary milia

Secondary milia usually affects older children and adults and often develops due to:

  • Medication: A person may develop milia as a result of chronic topical steroid use.
  • Medical conditions: Milia can develop alongside blistering skin conditions, such as epidermolysis bullosa.
  • Trauma: Milia may develop following an injury, such as:
    • a burn
    • blistering from a skin condition or allergic reaction
    • a skin resurfacing procedure, such as dermabrasion or laser resurfacing
    • excessive exposure to sunlight

This type of milia may persist without treatment.

It is not always possible to prevent milia. However, a skin care routine can help.

This may include:

  • washing the face twice a day
  • exfoliating the skin 2–3 times a week
  • using sunscreen every day, even when it is cloudy

Healthcare professionals consider milia to be benign and have not documented any systemic complications due to milia.

Can milia get infected?

Milia may become infected if someone pokes, scratches, or tries to pop them.

Should a person see a dermatologist?

Milia may resolve without any treatment. However, secondary milia may require medical intervention. Additionally, when milia are associated with another condition or injury, the person should receive treatment for that condition separately.

It is important that a healthcare professional diagnoses milia correctly. Sometimes, people may confuse them with other skin conditions, including comedones, miliaria, and other types of cysts.

The outlook for people with milia is very good, and many cases will resolve without treatment. The bumps may disappear faster in newborns than in children and adults.

The following are answers to common questions about removing milia.

What draws out milia?

Cleansing and exfoliating the skin regularly and taking topical retinoids can help reduce the appearance of milia. Medical treatments such as de-roofing and curettage are manual methods of drawing out milia.

How do you get rid of milia fast naturally?

Home remedies for removing milia include exfoliating, steaming the skin, and using topical retinoids.

Why might a person suddenly get milia?

The cause of sudden milia may not be clear.

Primary milia can develop spontaneously. Alternatively, a person may develop milia after a trauma to the skin or as a result of certain medications or other skin conditions.

What happens if a person does not pop a milium?

Not popping milia can help prevent the risk of scarring and infection. Milia can sometimes resolve without treatment. However, there are treatment options for milia that do not go away.

What is inside milia cysts?

Milia cysts consist of keratin, a protein that helps form the outer layer of the skin and a person’s hair and nails.

Milia are small bumps consisting of keratin. Although they are benign, a person may wish to remove them for cosmetic reasons.

People may not be able to remove milia at home. However, they can try using OTC topical retinoids, exfoliation, or chemical peels. A skin care routine may also help.

A person can speak with a doctor for milia that do not resolve. A doctor may recommend treating them with prescription retinoids, oral antibiotics, or manual extraction.