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What are Milia?

By HERWriter
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Milia are small benign little cysts that typically appear on the skin of the face and around the eyes. They occur when old cells are not sloughed off and become trapped in the base of a hair or sweat gland on the surface of the skin. I actually have one on my eyelid, a common location.

There are two types of milia: primary, which commonly occur in newborns but can appear in children or adults and secondary milia, that can occur anywhere on the body as a result of a skin trauma such as a burn, blister or other disease. Primary milia are thought to erupt in immature sebaceous (sweat) glands, which is why they are so common in infants. Interesting, milia can also develop on the roof of a newborn’s mouth, called Epstein pearls, which luckily go away on their own.

Why milia form?

Besides in newborns, milia can develop in those who have had episodes of dermatitis such as after a case of poison ivy. People who have been on long term steroid creams may develop milia. Certain blistering diseases such as bullous pemphigoid (an autoimmune disease) or porphyria cutanea tarda (a disease that causes blistering due to a missing enzyme) can cause milia to form. Sometimes milia occur after a laser resurfacing procedure or having dermabrasion. Lastly, milia can develop as the result of chronic sun damage because the skin becomes thickened and resists natural exfoliation; another good reason to wear sunscreen.


In infants, milia that appear at birth will disappear in the early weeks of life without any treatment. In children and adults, milia usually do not go away so easily. However, no treatment is needed unless milia cause skin irritation from being rubbed against or seem unsightly to the individual. The one on my eyelid is far enough up to not get in the way of my putting on eyeliner so I have not looked into having it removed.

Topical creams are not usually successful in getting rid of milia. A dermatologist will instead use a scalpel and make an incision to remove them or he can pierce them with a sterile needle. Anesthetic shouldn’t be needed. It is best to let a doctor do this procedure though, to avoid scarring or infection.

Milia can be bothersome to one’s appearance but they are not harmful and do not continue to grow or spread. It can be a relief to know that little growth on your face is nothing you really need to worry about in regards to your health.



Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Add a Comment6 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

check out some easy home remedies that you can used daily at your home

January 6, 2012 - 2:09am

Hi Beth,

It sounds like you have tried quite a few products which when I search the web are the types of things people recommend. One person did suggest using both Alpha and Beta Hydroxy acid type cream or salicylic acid (in certain acne creams) so perhaps different company's formulations may work. Some people use microabrasion type cleansers to rub over the milia but they all require some persistence.

Otherwise, the needle solution is the most straightforward and having a doctor remove it is not just having a needle near your eye. Dermatologists remove all types of things from the skin and are experienced at handling needles though removing things from the eyelid is difficult since it shifts. The needles they use are very sharp and thin.

If I can think of another solution I will let you know. Thanks again for sharing your experience. Take care,


November 8, 2010 - 5:24am
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks for your input, Michele. I will stop using Compound W. But can you recommend a product that is equally effective? In my quest to remove milia, I've tried spot removers, pimple treatments and alpha hydroxy acids. I honestly believed that Compound W was the miracle cure I had been searching for. But you're right, accidents can happen, even when I'm super careful. I would love to hear a recommendation from a medical professional. I've heard that dermatologists use a fine point needle to poke the spot and then extract the seed. A needle near the eye doesn't sound very safe, either! Even if I had the money for an office procedure, I will pass on that option!
--Beth, the person who wrote the Compound W review

November 7, 2010 - 7:44pm

Thanks for you input but I would not suggest anyone use Compound W near their eyes! Even though you have described how to be careful, it is just too risky. Your other points about changing moisturizer is a good one.

October 20, 2010 - 5:03am
EmpowHER Guest

I've had great success using Compound W wart medication to remove milia near my eyes. Don't buy the liquid formula that drips! Use the gel that stays put. A very tiny dot is all you need! Use a magnifying mirror to be certain you're applying the smallest dot possible. Sit down to ensure that your hands remain steady. Good lighting is essential. Be very careful not to get the gel on surrounding skin. This treatment will burn slightly for about three minutes, then you won't feel a thing. When dry, it will look like a tiny white splatter of paint. Leave the white dot on your face for two days. Don't attempt to peel the dot off right away. It will simply leave a minor red spot without removing the white bump. Resist the urge to peel and re-apply. After two days, gently peel the white spot off. Your bump (milia) will simply peel away. (By the way, ladies, change your moisturizer. Milia is often caused by rich facial creams which trap moisture and dead cells under the skin. Opt for the simplest moisturizers with the least ingredients. I like Cetaphyl or Neutrogena for sensitive skin. Once I stopped using Olay prodcuts, my problem with milia decreased dramatically.)

October 20, 2010 - 4:02am
EmpowHER Guest

you know what there is a cheap and easy cure for milia. its called naturalis milia treatment., i have used it and it cleared away 30 odd milia seeds of mine which i had for more than 15 years after a week of treatment!

July 31, 2010 - 9:26am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.