Is it acne or is it… milia?
When my first daughter was born, I was really shocked to see that her skin was far from being smooth and perfect as I would have expected for a newborn. She had tons of what appeared to be whiteheads dotting her cheeks, nose and forehead.
Now this was prior to my Ninja Skincare days, so I didn’t understand how common and frankly, innocuous these little milia are on the skin.
Roughly 40-50% of newborns are born with milia. Adults can also get them….in fact, it seems like I get a new one every couple of months.
So what are Milia?
Milia, also known as milk spots, are often confused with whiteheads because they have a similar appearance. But, there are two primary differences between milia and whiteheads. The first is that unlike a whitehead, milia do not have an opening at the skin surface and therefore cannot be “popped.” So RESIST that temptation until you read farther down on this blog. 🙂 Second, milia are made up entirely of keratin (skin cells), while whiteheads also have a plug of the skin’s oil (sebum) mixed with skin cells.
Simply stated, milia are small cyst-like formations that occur primarily on the face. People get them around their eyes, cheeks and foreheads. If you have ever had a cyst, you might be surprised to hear this because milia are super small compared to other cysts you might find on the body.
There is a myth they are caused from too much diary intake – hence the name milk spots. That being said, they are formed very similarly to how normal acne is formed – dead skin cells fail to fall off the skin, new skin forms on top of the dead skin cells and the dead skin cells harden, leaving you with a lovely white bump somewhere on your face.
There are additional causes, like your genetics, long-term use of steroid cream, an auto-immune condition or outward damage to the skin.
How to get rid of milia?
If you go to a dermatologist, they will likely tell you either to get a prescription cream like tretinoin OR they will tell you to come into their office and let them “surgically” remove the spots.
However, in our many many years of doing this, we believe there are other things you can do to reduce the appearance and propagation of milia. I know from experience. Here are some pointers:
- Consistent use of Salicylic Acid along with daily gentle exfoliation helps to mitigate their appearance. * Remember to be super careful with the salicylic acid around your eye area and don’t scrub too hard on this delicate area of your face.* By doing this treatment, you are sloughing off the dead skin cells before they are trapped by the new skin cells that grow around them.
- Perform extractions with a very fine, sterilized needle and GENTLY squeeze to remove the hard debris inside the milia. Grossly enough, you have to wait for them to become ‘ripe’ and form into a tiny, hard ball. Otherwise they remain soft and when pressure is applied they will often ‘spread out’ under the skin. AND DO NOT apply so much pressure you bruise your skin!! NO FINGERNAILS digging into your skin. Some facialists will remove them for you during a facial if you ask. Bottom line here is to remember your skin can bruise if you apply too much downward pressure and having a few milia on your skin is WAY preferable to having dark red bruising from squeezing gone awry!
- Go to the dermatologist where they use a ‘hot needle/pen’ to melt the milia that won’t form into hard balls. It’s effective and will leave you looking like you have been attacked by a hornet’s nest, but they will heal, and your skin will be smoother.
Also don’t be discouraged if the same milia keep reappearing in the same spot…this is an ongoing battle. They are such little buggars and were apparently invented to annoy us for many years!