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The 7 Best Milia Removal Techniques
William Truswell, MD, is a board-certified facial plastic surgeon and otolaryngology (head and neck) surgeon. He is president of the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and treats skin cancer patients as part of his practice.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Milia—the small, white bumps that form on the face when dead skin cells get trapped under the skin—often go away on their own in a few weeks or months. Treatment isn’t necessary, but a few milia removal strategies can help if you don’t like how they look:
- Manual extraction by a dermatologist
- Over-the-counter (OTC) exfoliating skincare products
- Prescription medications (antibiotics, retinoids)
- Chemical peels
- Laser ablation
This article explains the best and safest ways to get rid of milia if you want to.
Note that milia can be stubborn and may need to be treated for months. If you are treating suspected milia on your own without success, something else might be causing the bumps on your skin. See a healthcare provider.
These milia removal strategies are for adults only. Bumps that appear on newborns (neonatal milia or milk spots) do not need to be treated. They will typically go away on their own in a few weeks. Products meant to treat adult skin can be harmful to newborn skin.
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin
Milia Removal at Home
If you have just a few little bumps of milia here and there, you may want to try an over-the-counter (OTC) product that helps exfoliate dead cells from the skin’s surface first.
OTC milia removal products include:
- Salicylic acid products
- Glycolic acid products
- Differin (adapalene), an acne treatment
You’ll need to use these products for the long haul to see continued results.
If you have lots of milia, they’ve hung around even after using OTC treatments, or if they’re in a spot that’s hard for you to treat with such products (like your eyelid), it’s best to see a skin specialist (dermatologist).
Can You Pop Milia?
No. Milia form under a thin layer of skin and not in a pore. That means there is no opening in the skin to squeeze the plug out. Never try to pop or otherwise extract milia yourself. It won’t work, and it can cause infection, serious skin damage, and even permanent scarring.
The most effective treatment for milia is manual extraction done by a qualified provider.
A tiny opening is made on the surface of the skin with a small surgical blade (lancet). The hard plug of material is gently pushed out through the opening with the provider’s gloved fingers or a tool called a comedone extractor.
This may sound painful, but it’s not. At worst, you’ll feel a little prick. The results of manual extraction for milia are immediate.
The procedure, sometimes called deroofing, is usually done by a dermatologist. In some cases, milia extractions are done by a person who works at a salon or skin spa (esthetician). However, some states do not allow estheticians to pierce the skin, so not all of them can offer this service.
Some people are just more likely to get milia. If that’s you, your dermatologist may recommend using a prescription topical retinoid.
Topical retinoids exfoliate the skin more effectively than OTC products. They also loosen the keratin plug in milia, helping it come to the surface and go away.
The oral antibiotic Minocycline may be prescribed for a more severe version of the condition called milia en plaque.
There are also some less common ways providers can try to treat milia. These techniques are more often used for other skin problems but might be used to try to treat milia if other options haven’t helped.
- Curettage is a kind of surgery that uses electricity to scrape off the skin. It’s mostly used to treat skin cancer, but some providers use it to treat stubborn milia.
- Cryotherapy is a treatment that uses very cold temperatures from liquid nitrogen to “freeze off” skin.
- Laser ablation/resurfacing uses small lasers to remove the outer areas of the skin.
Click Play to Learn How to Treat Milia
This video has been medically reviewed by Casey Gallagher, MD.
The following won’t just help prevent milia, but improve the overall health of your skin:
- Cleansing and steaming: Regular, gentle cleansing of your face and body will help keep your skin healthy and prevent clogged pores. You may also find that steam treatments help keep your skin moisturized and pores open.
- Using sun protection: Covering your skin with clothes and wearing sunscreen can help keep your skin protected from the sun. To prevent milia, look for a sunscreen that isn’t too heavy and won’t clog your pores.
Milia are tiny cysts that form under the skin, usually on the face. Milia are just a cosmetic issue, so the choice to treat them or not is up to you.
If you do, there are several treatment options you can try, ranging from at-home exfoliating products to professional manual extraction, prescription medications, and procedures like laser resurfacing.
Never try to pop milia on your own. Not only will you be unsuccessful, but it can cause complications like a skin infection.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get rid of milia on my eyelids?
The skin of your eyelid is very sensitive so you should not try to remove milia from it yourself. See a dermatologist or an ophthalmologist for manual extraction.
Are milia the same as pimples?
Milia and pimples are different. Pimples are filled with a soft core of dead skin cells, skin oil (sebum), and bacteria. If popped, fluid flows from the pore. Milia are filled with a plug of hardened (keratinized) dead skin cells and cannot be popped.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
- USF Health. What are milia and how do you get rid of them?.
- Andriessen A, Rodas Diaz AC, Gameros PC, Macias O, Neves JR, Gonzalez CG. Over the counter products for acne treatment and maintenance in Latin America: A review of current clinical practice. J Drugs Dermatol. 2021;20(3):244-250. doi:10.36849/JDD.5779
- Hinen HB, Gathings RM, Shuler M, Wine Lee L. Successful treatment of facial milia in an infant with orofaciodigital syndrome type 1.Pediatr Dermatol. 2018;35(1):e88-e89. doi:10.1111/pde.13350
- Kurokawa I, Kakuno A, Tsubura A. Milia may originate from the outermost layers of the hair bulge of the outer root sheath: A case report.Oncol Lett. 2016;12(6):5190-5192. doi:10.3892/ol.2016.5335
- De Wet J, Jordaan HF, Visser WI. Bilateral malar milia en plaque as primary presentation of discoid lupus erythematosus.JAAD Case Rep. 2017;3(2):106-109. doi:10.1016/j.jdcr.2017.01.010
- Patsatsi A, Uy CDC, Murrell DF. Multiple milia formation in blistering diseases [published correction appears in Int J Womens Dermatol. 2021 Sep 28;7(5Part B):867]. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2020;6(3):199-202. Published 2020 Apr 1. doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2020.03.045
By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.
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How to Get Rid of Milia: 7 Ways
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Milia bumps often resolve on their own without treatment in babies, but are commonly extracted or removed in adults. Making changes to your skincare routine can help get rid of them faster and prevent more from forming.
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.
Milia occur most often in newborn babies. In fact, 40 to 50 percent of newborn babies have milia on their skin within a month of being born, according to a 2008 review. But milia can also affect children, adolescents, and adults.
Milia in newborns almost always resolve on their own without treatment. In adults this is much less often the case, and they’re commonly extracted or otherwise removed.
There are a few things you can do to help speed up the healing process and prevent more milia from forming. Keep reading below to learn more.
If milia on your face or your child’s face are irritating you, don’t pick at the affected area. Trying to remove milia can cause the bumps to bleed, scab, and scar. Scraping the skin can also introduce germs to the area. This can cause infection.
In the case of babies under 6 months old, the best thing to do for milia is to leave the bumps alone. If the bumps are concerning you, see your child’s pediatrician.
Make sure you’re washing your face with a gentle, paraben-free soap each day. Any soap that isn’t mild will strip your face of the oils it needs to stay balanced and healthy.
After washing, pat your skin dry instead of letting it air dry. This will help prevent your skin from chafing or drying out.
After cleansing, you may find it beneficial to steam open your pores to further remove irritants.
One way to do this is to:
- Start by sitting in your bathroom with the shower running on a hot setting. The room will fill slowly with warm steam.
- Sit in the steam for 5 to 8 minutes. The steam will gently open up your pores, releasing skin flakes or other irritants that may be trapped underneath.
- After sitting in the steam, turn off the shower and wait a few minutes. Pat your face dry, and rinse with lukewarm water to wash away any irritants before you step out of the steamy room.
Gentle skin exfoliation might help keep your skin free of irritants that cause milia. Some exfoliating agents keep the keratin in your skin from overproducing. Look for exfoliating cleansers that contain salicylic acid, citric acid, or glycolic acid.
Exfoliating too much can irritate the skin, so don’t do it every day. Start by using an exfoliating cleanser once a week and see if it improves your milia.
Facial peels that contain exfoliating ingredients may also help, but use with caution. Using a facial peel that’s too strong for your skin can cause more milia to appear.
If you’ve already been using facial peels as part of your skin care routine, it’s probably safe to continue doing so. It might even help clear up milia. If you can, stick to peels that have salicylic acid or glycolic acid .
If you’re new to facial peels, don’t use them just to get rid of milia bumps. Your skin might be sensitive to the ingredients in a facial peel. This can worsen milia.
Some researchers recommend topical retinoid creams to get rid of milia. Retinoid creams contain vitamin A. This vitamin is essential to the health of your skin.
Use any product that contains retinoid — or its lower-strength form, retinol — just once per day. Put it on when your face is scrubbed clean and dry.
When using a retinoid or retinol cream, it’s essential to use sunscreen every day. They make your skin more susceptible to skin damage caused by sun exposure.
You should already be wearing sunscreen every day to protect the skin on your face from ultraviolet rays. An additional benefit of the right sunscreen can be a decrease in skin irritation that causes milia.
Look for a sunscreen specifically designed for use on the face. Make sure the SPF is 30 or higher. If your skin is very sensitive to the sun, consider using a product with an SPF of 100.
The most skin-friendly sunscreens will have mineral oil as their base as opposed to other oils that may clog the skin. Read the ingredients of your sunscreen carefully to make sure it doesn’t contain anything you’re allergic or sensitive to.
Most milia bumps really will resolve on their own after a few weeks, particularly in babies. However, this isn’t often the case for adults with milia.
If your baby has recurring milia outbreaks, or if milia don’t go away, you may need to see a dermatologist.
Sometimes a dermatologist will use a tiny needle to manually remove the milia. This will quickly heal the affected area.
Did you know?
Milia occur most often in newborn babies. In fact, 40 to 50 percent of newborn babies have milia on their skin within a month of being born. But milia can also affect children, adolescents, and adults.