What is Milia and How is It Treated?

HK Vitals

Medically Reviewed By Dr. Aarti Nehra

A milium cyst is a tiny, white or yellowish bump that commonly surfaces on the nose and cheeks, although they may also appear on other body parts like the torso or genital area (rare though). These cysts often cluster together, and when they occur in groups, they are referred to as milia. While milia can develop in individuals of any ethnicity or age, they are most frequently observed in newborns. It’s important to note that milia are benign and only impact one’s appearance, posing no harm. They’re usually not itchy or painful. Read on to learn all about milia treatment and causes. 

What Causes Milia?

Milia are most commonly observed in newborns, often present from birth (usually referred to as “baby acne”). In older children and adults, the occurrence of milia is typically associated with skin damage. This damage can result from various factors, including:

  • Blistering caused by a skin condition like cicatricial pemphigoid, porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT) or epidermolysis bullosa (EB)
  • Burns
  • Blistering injuries like poison ivy
  • Long-term sun damage
  • Skin resurfacing procedures like laser resurfacing or dermabrasion
  • Long-term usage of steroid creamsAdditionally, milia may develop if the skin loses its natural ability to exfoliate, a phenomenon that can be linked to the aging process.

Milia Removal at Home

Milia usually disappear by themselves in three to four months’ time. However, there are some home remedies for milia removal. For milia treatment at home, you may try the following:

  • Clean the Affected Area Every Day: Cleanse your face gently on a daily basis with lukewarm water using a mild soap. Finally, pat your skin dry after a wash.
  • Steam the Pores Open: To remove milia naturally, sit in a bathroom with a hot running shower and this will help with opening up the pores.
  • Regularly Exfoliate the Area: Be sure to add some level of exfoliation into your skincare regimen, but do not exceed the recommended amount, as too much exfoliation may only worsen the condition.
  • Wear Sunscreen: Use the best sunscreen, like SPF 50, particularly in milia-prone areas.
  • Consider Topical Retinoids: Topical retinoids (cream or gel type), which are mostly used for combating acne, contain high amounts of vitamin A. Be careful when using these products and always seek the advice of a dermatologist prior to applying retinoids for milia removal. (Note: Don’t use them in children)

Medical Treatment for Milia

If home remedies aren’t working, then you can opt for clinical milia spot treatment. This may involve the following:

  • Curettage: A doctor numbs the area, removes milia, and seals the skin with a hot wire.
  • De-roofing: A doctor utilizes a sterile needle or blade to carefully remove milia. It is crucial not to attempt this at home to avoid the risk of infection.
  • Cryotherapy: Milia are frozen off using liquid nitrogen, potentially causing temporary blistering or swelling that should subside within a few days.
  • Laser ablation: A small laser is focused on the affected areas to eliminate cysts.
  • Minocycline: This oral antibiotic can be beneficial in treating specific types of milia, such as milia en plaque.
  • Diathermy: Extreme heat is used to destroy cysts.

It is essential to be aware that all these treatments carry a risk of scarring, except for minocycline, which has its own set of risks. Given that milia themselves do not cause scarring, careful consideration is advised before opting for any clinical milia removal treatments. Consultation with a dermatologist is recommended to determine the most suitable approach for your specific situation.

How to Prevent Milia?

Consider the following tips for preventing milia:

  • Product Selection: Thick creams or oil-based skin care products should be avoided since they may cause the growth of milia.
  • Sun Protection: Limit exposure to the sunlight since too much sunlight exposure contributes to milia.
  • Regular Exfoliation: Add mild scrubbing or gentle exfoliation to your skincare regimen preferably 2-3 times a week. Nevertheless, ensure not to exfoliate too much because it irritates the skin.


Milia usually do not cause long-term complications. It may take longer to resolve in adults or older children. However, if you don’t see any improvement in your condition in a couple of weeks, then go and visit your doctor. Assessment will be made by a healthcare professional to ascertain that it is not a sign of another skin problem.


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