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The Causes & Cures Of This Common Skin Condition

Our skin is extremely unique, sensitive and vulnerable. It is the protective outer layer of our bodies, and takes on a lot of daily aggressors – all trying to attack and damage our dermis. Trying to protect our skin can be a little overwhelming, especially when it feels like it's constantly developing breakouts, uneven tones, and the odd milk spot.

Normally considered as just a whitehead spot, milk spots - or milia - are in fact not spots at all – so stop trying to pop them! These irritating little white bumps that occur around our eyes are actually keratin-filled cysts that have developed under the epidermis layer of skin, appearing with white or yellowish color.

The term ‘milk spots’ began due to their common occurrence on newborn babies, affecting 40-50% of babies born in the US [1], but they also often develop on children and adults.

What Causes Milia?

There are multiple causes for milia developing when you’re in your adult years. They occur when dead skin builds up under the epidermis layer, building up in the pores on the surface. When this happens, and there is no exfoliation for them to be expelled naturally, these clogged pores will develop into small cysts – the Primary Milia.

One of the most common areas for Milia to develop is on the soft skin around the eyes, due to the fact that this skin is different from the rest of the face. This part of our skin doesn’t contain oil glands, meaning that the skin isn’t able to keep itself moist – and why an eye serum or cream is so important when looking after your skin. When this vulnerable, sensitive and fragile skin is neglected, Milia can manifest and thrive.

In addition to Primary Milia, there is another type; surprisingly named Secondary Milia. Although the two look the same, Secondary Milia develop differently. This type of ‘milk spot’ forms when there is something blocking the sweat ducts – induced by a skin trauma or infection; chemical peels, laser treatment, and herpes, for example. Not only this, but a poor lifestyle and an inefficient skincare routine can produce Secondary Milia;

- Poor hygiene
- Smoking
- Lack of sleep
- Oil-based beauty products

These are all things to keep in mind before you decide to treat the milia, as improving different habits could reduce the spots completely. This can also depend on how deep the milia lay – they can develop on the surface of the skin and within a few weeks, reduce and disappear altogether due to the skin's natural renewal process.  

The Treatment For Milia

If you have been suffering from milia for a long time and want nothing more than to see the back of them, we understand, and have looked into different treatments that can help remove these persistent bumps.

First of all, you need to make sure that you’re not trying to squeeze these spots like zits, and this will only irritate the skin and cause more damage. We can all be a little guilty of going on a zit popping spree when we have a breakout, but when it comes to milia, all you’re doing is adding more dirt, grime, and unwanted oil to an already sensitive area. If you break the skin, these oils and germs will be absorbed, giving you more to worry about than a small white bump!

The best option is to seek professional help, which will involve small incisions to the skin and the infected areas. If you’re someone who suffers from deep cystic infections, an incision will be necessary. Although this sounds painful, the procedure is quick and painless. For less server cases, the dermatologist will simply remove the milia using an extractor, needle or lancing tool [2].

Milia Prevention

There are ways to prevent these small irritants from forming on the surface of your skin and some may be easier than you think. When it comes to skincare, most of the time prevention is easy – when you know what you’re doing…

1. Cleansing

Cleansing should be an active and regular ritual in your skincare routine. If not, something needs to change. Throughout the day, your skin will collect dirt, grit and other unwanted germs from pollution, weather and other environmental factors, so it is extremely important to clean your face every day. Along with these aggressors, we also need to remove the layers of make-up and lotion we apply to our skin daily.

Here at Cel, we advise you to cleanse your face and skin before bed – maybe twice if you live in a heavily polluted city or wear thick, full coverage make-up. The first cleanse will remove the make-up or SPF cream and the second application will give you the chance to pamper your tired skin with a massage and remove any other impurities that may be damaging the epidermis layer of skin.

2. Exfoliation

After treating your skin to a deep cleanse, the next step is to exfoliate which can keep milia from returning or getting worse. When we exfoliate our skin, the tiny grains gently remove the dead and dull skin cells from the epidermis, bringing new, undamaged skin to surface. This process naturally occurs, but slows down the older we get, so we need to regularly apply an exfoliant to help keep our skin youthful, bright and fresh.

How does this help prevent milia? When the dead skin cells are removed, they’re not able to build up in the vulnerable pores – leaving your skin bright and clean. If the pores stay grit and dirt free, milia will not develop.

3. Retinols

Retinol is helpful in both the prevention and reduction of milia – amazing! Also known as Vitamin A, retinol can be found in many skin care products to help prevent fine lines and wrinkles. This wonderful vitamin can stimulate the production of new blood vessels, improving skin color and increasing the production of collagen – a protein formed in the skin and other tissues that keeps our complexion elasticated and youthful.

When a retinol cream is applied to the skin, it will assist in this skin cell turnover, helping to avoid dead cells from building up over time. Without the dull and dead skin cells, the pores around your eyes will be left dirt-free, leaving you with a little chance of developing milia.

4. Correct Eye Care

As mentioned above, the skin around the eye is very sensitive, thin and vulnerable, so making sure you have the correct eye care is important. The more we age, the skin around our eye starts to show signs first; fine lines, wrinkles and darkening in color, so it is no wonder so many people choose to get procedures such as Botox done to this area. Unfortunately, when paired with heavy serums and creams and limited circulation due to Botox, the skin around our eyes can clog rather quickly.

How to avoid this? Well, make sure that you’re using a cream suitable, both light and made to penetrate this sensitive skin effectively. An SPF 30+ Moisturizer and a good eye serum can not only add the needed moisture this area of skin is craving, but will also protect it from free-radials and environmental aggressors that will clog the pores. Whether you have had Botox or not, using the right eye cream is imperative in trying to avoid milia.  

Final Thoughts on Milia

Suffering from milia can seriously affect your confidence and self-esteem, but it doesn’t have to. With many ways of preventing this common skin condition and procedures to reduce the visible effects, you can say goodbye to these small irritants and help your skin return to its blemish-free state. A simple change to your skincare routine like exfoliating a few times a week or changing your oil-based skin cream, you can make all the difference to your skin and helping to reduce ‘milk spots’.




Becca Trigg

An enthusiastic content writer, in love with finding inventive ways to care for our locks. Over the past few years, I have been able to gain ample haircare knowledge; specifically stem cell research and how it can be utilised to give our hair the beauty boost it needs. When I'm not in the office, I'm sitting in a country pub or watching crime documentaries.