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By Glenda Ethington

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Did you ever notice small white bumps on your face, similar to a pimple but much harder? Those bumps are probably milia. The condition is common in people of all ages and races, but tend to occur more in women. Also, milia are found to occur in about half of newborn babies.


While usually white, milia can also appear yellow in color. They contain a thick, white substance. The substance is keratin that is in the glands of the skin. Milia forms when the skin is unable to “shed” dead cells. The dead cells become trapped causing tiny cysts to form.


Milia can occur on various parts of the skin, but are more common on the forehead, nose, chin, eye area, and in mucous membranes (cheek and border of lips). They can also occur on the upper trunk, limbs and on the penis. Milia inside the mouth are referred to as “Epstein’s pearls”. The skin on the eyelids is very thin and milia are more likely to develop in this area.


These “bumps” are not contagious, and require no treatment, as they usually resolve on their own in about three months. The surface of the cyst wears away, and the milia disappear. There is no known prevention and no test to determine predisposition to the condition. Milia are diagnosed only by examination of the skin area affected.  Usually, there are no complications associated with milia, but in some cases secondary disorders can cause problems (such as after dermabrasion, radiotherapy, or blistering or trauma to the skin affecting sweat ducts).


Some of the causes of milia formation are:


q     Makeup, skincare, hair-care products, etc. The use of these products can, in some cases, prevent the skin from shedding dead skin cells.

q     Sun exposure can cause the skin to thicken and age.

q     Skin disease, such as blistering disorders, can result in milia formation.

q     Rough sheets or clothing can cause skin irritation and formation of milia.

q     Lipstick and lip balms can cause milia to form around the border of the lips.


Treatment for milia is not always necessary, as most cases resolve on their own, however, here are some suggestions for treatment and prevention:


q     Exfoliation of the skin to remove trapped/dead skin cells.

q     Extraction – A doctor can use a sterile needle to remove the cyst.

q     Some milia can be removed by the patient in much the same way a doctor would with a sterile needle. The area should be well cleansed, using hydrogen peroxide. Extreme care should be taken when attempting to self-treat or diagnose milia. You should consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and self-treatment techniques.

q     Vitamin A creams are used to help exfoliate the skin.

q     Limit your exposure to the sun, preventing thickening of the skin.


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