What Are These Little White Bumps on My Face?
Updated: Jun 25
The lowdown on milia—and how to really get rid of them
If you’re obsessed with attaining clear, glowing skin, you probably know the ins and outs of skincare and the exact solutions to treat everything from acne and dry skin, to even fine lines. But there’s one thing that is a little trickier than others to combat—we’re talking those hard, pearly white bumps on your face: milia.
What is milia?
If you’ve been likening milia to breakouts, stop now! According to Healthline, milia happens when keratin becomes trapped beneath the surface of your skin. Keratin is a strong protein that’s usually found in skin tissues, hair, and nail cells. And while milia is most commonly seen in infants, adults can develop milia as well, especially under the undereye area. And while having milia isn’t dangerous or contagious, it can prove problematic for those in pursuit of beautiful, clear skin.
What causes it?
There are several causes of milia, but they are primarily formed when your skin is unable to naturally exfoliate. Dead skin cells then build up, causing a bump to form under your skin. Milia can also occur if you use incorrect face creams or moisturizers that are too rich for your skin. And if you’re getting older, you might also start to spot more of these because cell renewal slows down considerably as you age.
Is milia possible to remove?
The most important thing you need to know: do NOT attempt to pop the little bump like a pimple! Milia cannot be squeezed out from under the skin, even though it’s right under the surface, because milia are cysts and do not form from a pore. This means that unlike acne or a regular pimple, they do not contain ‘pus’ that can be easily extracted.
And while most milia go away on their own after a period, so you can leave them alone. However, if you can’t stand the sight of them, here are certain things you can do:
Because milia typically appears on areas like under eyes, we’re not talking about harsh exfoliation with rough facial scrubs! However, gentle exfoliation with products that contain glycolic acid and retinol help to eliminate milia, and prevent them from back, as well as keep skin smooth and encourage cell turnover. Do remember to always be careful when applying such products around your eyes as the skin is more delicate. Always follow up with a moisturizer, especially if you have irritated skin or sensitive skin.
If you can’t stand the sight of milia and don’t want to wait for it to disappear on their own, you can consult a dermatologist to help you with extraction. This is usually done with a sterile needle to create a tiny opening in the milia cyst, and then gently extracted with the right tool or left to decompress on its own. Extracting milia is definitely not something you want to try at home on your own—you could cause permanent scarring or hyperpigmentation. Therefore, while it may be expensive to remove milia professionally, you should always seek the help of a professional!
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure! If your skin is regularly exposed to chemical laden cleanser or pore clogging concealers, you are inhibiting your skin's ability to breathe and renew. Opt for a gentle cleanser, such as the Glow Renew Moist Cleanser from The Moisturizers Co. that works to remove impurities and excess sebum, while protecting skin from harmful bacteria.
Tip: It's as important to cleanse your face in the morning, as it is at night. Your skin undergoes epidermal cell renewal while you're sleeping. Hence by cleansing your face in the morning, you're helping your skin to remove the unwanted dull, dead skin cells.
Once your skin is well-cleansed, reach for The Moisturizers Co. Glow Renew Essence Toner. A multi-action face toner containing skin conditioning actives, this toner is formulated with antioxidant-rich Green Tea extracts—a great way to boost the immune response in skin cells to protect from external toxins. Other tried-and-tested ingredients in the toner are: Niacinamide to prevent clogged pores (while producing more collagen and elastin for bouncy skin!) and Pro-Vitamin B5 (also known as Panthenol), a water-binding skin vitamin that deeply penetrates the skin to fill out fine lines.
Tip: Take note to pump your toner on a cotton pad and swipe on entire face and neck. This step helps to further purify the skin by gently exfoliating dead skin cells.
If your moisturiser is too heavy and you tend to apply dollops of it on face, it can block your pores and trap dead skin cells underneath, which then build up to form milia. Opt for a lighter moisturiser with gel-like texture like The Moisturizers Co. Ultra Moisturizing Repair Gel with Calendula. It’s not only lightweight enough for everyday use but also helps to promote skin repair and regeneration, ridding dead skin and preventing the occurrence of milia.
While moisturisers can be considered one of the top few causes of milia, they shouldn’t be omitted from your skincare routine as they boast many fruitful benefits that your skin cannot do without! Make sure you always pick the right moisturiser for yourself, read the ingredient list, or discover the moisturiser for your unique skin type and needs here.
About us: We are Skintelligence, a team focused on a 'skin-first' approach to beauty through artificial intelligence. We match products to you based on your unique skin type and needs. Results are highly accurate and personalized with AI and machine learning. It's fun, convenient, and it works. Try it here.
As featured in Her World, CLEO, FEMALE, Shape, Nuyou, Singapore Women’s Weekly, Daily Vanity, Layers of Skins.