Milia are white bumps deeply rooted under the skin that form when skin cells become trapped, rather than exfoliated off the skin’s surface naturally. These trapped cells form into tiny cysts that appear like white beads below the surface of the skin. Milia can occur on the skin or on mucous membranes, such as the inner surface of the cheek or the vermillion border of the lips.

Milia can be the bane of your existence, particularly when they continue to form despite your best efforts at keeping your skin clean. Unfortunately, cleanliness isn’t the problem – rather, it is the skin’s inability to naturally exfoliate. As the skin’s surface wears away, the tiny cysts may disappear on their own. However, if milia occur persistently, you may wish to seek alternative approaches to more effectively and rapidly remove them.

Causes of Milia

Milia form for a variety of reasons. Some causes can be easily remedied, while others aren’t so easily dealt with. When a sudden outbreak occurs, an individual should consider re-examining their current skincare routine. Although some people naturally develop milia – and everyone can expect to have an occasional bump at one time or another – they are often the result of a problem affecting the skin’s surface.

Heavy Skin Care & Hair Care Products

Undoubtedly the most common reason milia form is people overwhelming their skin with heavy skincare and hair care products. Comedogenic (pore-clogging and acne-exacerbating) products may prevent the sloughing of dead epidermal skin cells. These products include makeup and makeup removers not labeled oil-free or non-comedogenic, hair spray, hair mousse and gel, heavy sunscreens, and some moisturizers.

The eyelids are very thin and more likely to form milia due to cosmetic use. Certain lipsticks, lip balms, and products meant to help with chapped lips may cause milia to develop around the edge of your lips (vermillion border). If you have a sudden outbreak, you may want to review the ingredients list of your skin and hair care products – it may be helpful to switch brands.

Comedogenic Ingredients

The ingredients listed below scored a 3 or above on the 0–5 comedogenicity scale. If any of these ingredients are within the first seven ingredients on a product label, you may want to avoid the product. You can view the full list of comedogenic ingredients on’s website.

  • Isopropyl isostearate
  • Isopropyl myristate
  • Myristyl myristate
  • Laureth-4
  • Oleth-3

Prolonged History of Sun Damage

Cumulative sun exposure can also cause the formation of milia. Aging, sun-exposed skin forms a thicker epidermis that can trap skin cells in the glands. Thicker skin also makes effective exfoliation more difficult to achieve.

Porphyria Cutanea Tarda

Milia has been associated with certain skin diseases, particularly blistering disorders such as porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT). Other symptoms of PCT include blisters on sun-exposed areas such as the hands and face and increased hair growth on the face, backs of hands, and knuckles. PCT is a treatable condition. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you should schedule a consultation with a physician.

Treatment of Milia


Exfoliation can go a long way in helping people deal with milia-prone skin. By keeping the epidermis thin and smooth, you reduce and help prevent their formation. A periodic series of microdermabrasion or chemical peels are an effective way of preventing milia.

How clean is your skin? The Clarisonic line of facial cleansing brushes uses proprietary sonic technology and a two-way oscillating brush system to safely and deeply cleanse the skin.


Sometimes milia are not easily removed despite your best efforts. In this case, you may need to get them extracted by your aesthetician. An extraction is an ideal approach to removing deeper milia. The skin is cleansed with rubbing alcohol or another antiseptic. Next, the skin is gently opened with a sterile lancet or needle. Then pressure is applied with a comedone extractor, and the milia typically pop out.

At DermaHealth, we are often asked by clients if they can remove milia by themselves at home. While some may be able to remove shallow outbreaks, occurrences sitting deeper in the skin should be removed by a professional. Attempting to self-remove deep milia can cause discomfort, irritation, pain, and even infection if the procedure isn’t performed properly.


To prevent milia from developing, avoid excessive sun exposure, wear oil-free sunscreen, and use products with glycolic acid, which can help remove unwanted surface debris and cleanse the pores. Epionce lytic products help keep the skin exfoliated and pores healthy. They also help prevent new milia from developing.

Vitamin A creams also work effectively to exfoliate the skin and thin the epidermis, and they can easily be incorporated into a skin rejuvenation program. Keep in mind, however, that vitamin A should not be applied to the eyelids.

For more information and to see if you are a candidate for our milia removal services, schedule a complimentary consultation with DermaHealth today.