Pocket worthyStories to fuel your mind

How to Get Rid of Milia, Those Tiny White Bumps That Appear Around Your Eyes and Cheeks

Ever wondered what’s causing those small white bumps around your eyes? They could be milia, and your moisturizer might be to blame.


Read when you’ve got time to spare.

Half of woman's face

Have you ever noticed a build-up of little white bumps around your eyes or cheeks? While they can look similar to whiteheads, they’re not actually spots at all. Those tiny clusters of bumps are called milia — and they’re a lot more common than you might think. 

Here, we explain what causes milia, plus the best treatments — and how to prevent them in the first place. 

What are milia?

Milia are a skin issue that a lot of us have. Often referred to as milk spots, milia present as little raised white dots that appear around people’s eyes and eyelids, but also sometimes appear around the nose, cheeks or other areas of the body.

Although often associated with newborn babies, they can develop on all skin types at any age or ethnicity and occur when dead skin cells become trapped beneath the skin’s surface, creating a small hard white group of cysts. 

What are the different types of milia?

There are different types of milia that may occur at different life stages. These include: 

Neonatal milia: often seen on babies, neonatal milia can be present at (or shortly after) birth and are caused by blocked sweat glands. These usually clear up on their own after a short amount of time and should be left well alone. 

Primary milia: these can occur in both children and adults and are similar to neonatal milia. It’s usually categorised as primary milia if there is no obvious cause or could be linked to a genetic skin disorder.

Secondary milia: this type of milia is the most common and occurs when the skin is damaged. This could be from overusing an occlusive cream, steroids or as a result of sunburn, a rash or injury. 

How can you prevent milia?

“If you keep getting milia under your eyes, consider changing your skincare routine,” says Dr Tinna Meder, dermatologist and founder of Meder Beauty Science. Rich moisturisers and eye creams can clog the skin, resulting in blocked follicles and milia forming.

“Ensure you are regularly cleaning, exfoliating and moisturising the skin. Under-eye night serums can also help to prevent milia. As we age, our body naturally loses some of its ability to exfoliate away dry skin cells.”

Consultant dermatologist Catherine Borysiewicz suggests avoiding extra-rich moisturisers and using gentle exfoliation products such as lactic acid. “Lactic acid is a larger molecule so it doesn’t penetrate the skin as deeply, meaning it can be less irritating. Retinol can also help as it reduces oil production and increases skin cell turnover.”

How to treat milia

One thing that all skin experts agree with is that you should not pick milia. Trying to remove the bumps yourself can cause them to bleed, scab and scar. Milia often go away on their own within a few months; however, there are a few professional treatments that may help:

Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the milia. It’s the most frequently used removal method for milia.

• Deroofing is a treatment that sees a trained professional use a sterile needle to pick out the contents of the cyst.

• Chemical peels can help exfoliate the first layer of skin away, unearthing a new layer of skin to come through.

• Laser ablation uses a small laser to focus on the affected areas and remove the cysts.

Dr Meder’s tips for treating milia at home

• Cleanse the area with a gentle paraben-free soap.

• Gently exfoliate to prevent the keratin in your skin from overproducing. Look for exfoliating cleansers that contain salicylic acid, lactic acid or glycolic acid.

Chemical exfoliants containing AHAs and BHAs, including glycolic and salicylic acid, provide accelerated chemical exfoliation without the need to aggressively scrub your skin. 

• Add a retinol into your night-time routine. Retinols are brilliant at kick-starting cell turnover, and fewer layers of dead skin results in fewer obstructions, fewer white bumps and a more even skin texture. 

• Avoid sun exposure – especially if you’re using retinols and exfoliating acids. Increased sun damage and milia go hand in hand. Ensuring SPF is incorporated into your skincare routine, even through winter, is a must. If you’re using peels or exfoliators containing acids, they can make your skin ultra-sensitive to UV rays.

Main image: Getty

How was it? Save stories you love and never lose them.

Logo for Stylist

This post originally appeared on Stylist and was published November 2, 2023. This article is republished here with permission.

Enjoy reading this article from Stylist? Sign up to get the latest stories sent straight to your inbox.

Get Stylist’s daily email