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The Truth About Milia

March 12, 2018 Reviewed by Marta 5 Comments

Milia, which are also known as milk spots or oil seeds, are tiny, white, unsightly bumps that tend to congregate under the eyes, on the eyelids, around the nose, or around the lips. Although they may look a bit like whiteheads, they are actually keratin-filled cysts that are formed when skin cells become trapped under the epidermis. You can be genetically cursed with milia, or simply develop them as your skin ages.

Now listen up. The most common cause of milia is from using heavy skin care products that contain comedogenic ingredients, which can prevent the sloughing and shedding of dead skin cells. If you have milia around the eyes, your eye cream may be too rich, or you are slathering on too much. Prolonged sun exposure damages skin as well, increasing your risk of forming a thick epidermis and impeding cells from making their way out of the glands. The most frequent cause of milia around the mouth is the result of flouride irritation from toothpaste.

Switch to a gel
If you are milia-prone around the eyes, start by reducing the amount eye cream you are using. If your serum is a good one with great actives, you won't need more than a lentil-sized amount per eye. The next best advice I have is that you could consider switching from a cream to an eye gel, which runs the lowest risk of clogging pores and trapping protein beneath the epidermis. Here are a few suggestions of lightweight gels that don't compromise on heavyweight actives:

AQ Eye Serum with growth factors ($99 in the shop); Skin 2 Skin Care Revitalizing Eye Gel ($49 in the shop); Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Dew It All Eye Gel ($48 in the shop); Deciem NIOD Fractionated Eye Contour Concentrate ($68 in the shop)

Gentle exfoliation
Regular exfoliation also combats milia, although aggressive exfoliation can actually traumatize skin and cause the bumps to appear. Vitamin A creams are effective exfoliator alternatives thanks to their retinol content so look for a well-formulated eye cream with retinol such as Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic & Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum ($69 in the shop).

Professtional treatments

A number of treatments, including microdermabrasion, fruit acid peels, or glycolic acid peels may take care of the problem. If the milia are persistent, the doctor may use a needle and comodone extractor to remove each individual bump, like surgical pimple popping (Source).

This does not necessarily mean that it is as simple as popping a pimple and that you should tackle your milia yourself. Milia may look like white heads, and it may sound simple to take care of them in the comfort of your own bathroom. However, it is important to remember that they exist under a layer of skin, unlike pimples which have risen to the surface. Prevention is the best course of action against milia, and treatment is best left in the hands of a trusted professional.

  • March 13, 2018

    by Allie Wu

    I had a single milia bump under my lower lash line. As a pediatric nurse, I see these quite often on babies, and they generally disappear on their own. But for mine, I just monitored it for a year before taking action.
    What I found was that a product with a high percentage of glycolic acid that was very carefully applied to the milia worked within a month. I applied the glycolic acid every morning and a retinol product at night. The key was to really stick with this routine every single morning and night. Just be extremely careful around your eye area! Also, Paula's Choice has very high quality products that are ingredient-focused. I only use that brand for skin care and it's life changing.

  • September 14, 2013

    by Critical

    The dermatologist recommendation is nice, but suggestions as to other remedies would be truly helpful.

  • May 21, 2013

    by Andrea

    I had a few under my eyes, rubbing an equal parts avocado+castor+almond oil mix on my eyes as a new makeup remover had the unexpected result of getting rid of mine!

  • September 29, 2012

    by Danny

    For under your eyes the best thing I found is the Cellbone eye peel serum . It's very gentle indeed but it will release millia in a short time . Why you have them all over is a worry I know that they can be a sign of high cholesterol so you need a dr appointment

  • June 18, 2012

    by A.

    I guess I'm screwed then.

    I have them all over my shoulders and chest area. I have no idea why/ how they got there, but no one seems to have an answer other than cough up some money to the dermatologist (and even then, since I don't know their cause they'll probably come back).


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