Milia are small white bumps that appear on the skin. They’re usually grouped together on the nose, cheeks, and chin, though they may appear elsewhere.
Milia develop when skin flakes become trapped under the surface of the skin, according to the Mayo Clinic, or when keratin builds up and gets trapped.
Milium (that’s the single form of the word!) happen when dead skin cells get trapped beneath the skin’s surface and form small, hard cysts. Milia are common in babies because their skin is still learning to exfoliate, or slough off dead skin cells, on its own.
Although milia are most commonly seen on the nose, chin or cheeks, they can occur on other areas such as the upper trunk and limbs.
In adults, milia fall into two types: primary and secondary. Primary milia are similar to the kind that babies get. Secondary milia happen when a skin condition that leads to blistering damages the pore lining. Burns or severe rashes, for example, can increase the number of skin cells trapped under the skin’s surface.
What are the symptoms of milia?
Milia are small, dome-shaped bumps that are usually white or yellow. They’re usually not itchy or painful. However, they may cause discomfort for some people. Rough sheets or clothing may cause milia to appear irritated and red.
Usually, the best treatment for milia is to do nothing, says dermatologist Melissa Piliang, MD. Milia usually disappears in a few weeks.
If your milia don’t respond after several weeks, consider making an appointment with a dermatologist. The doctor may use a hypodermic needle to remove the cyst, or freeze the cyst and then remove it. Your doctor can also make sure that the milia aren’t something more serious.