Here at Beauty Collective HQ we receive an abundance of skincare and makeup related questions daily, one however in particular we have been asked a lot lately – how to get rid of milia – a common problem after winter! For those of you who have had this problem in the past or are currently experiencing it, read on.
Often mistaken for whiteheads, milia are keratin-filled cysts that form just under the skin that look like little white bumps on the surface. Nicknamed ‘milk spots’, Milia is commonly associated with newborn babies, but they occur in adults too, don’t we just know it!
What causes milia?
Most commonly, they occur due to dead skin building up and getting trapped in the pores just under the skin’s surface. If the build-up doesn’t get expelled naturally, it can become a small cyst. This is called Primary Milia.
They most commonly occur around the eye area due to skincare used in this area not penetrating properly. Unlike skin on the rest of the face, the eye area has limited blood circulation to filter excess oil – therefore eye creams need to be very lightweight and easily absorbed.
The other type, Secondary Milia, looks similar to Primary Milia but develops when something clogs the sweat ducts. This is usually caused by some kind of skin trauma or infection, (such as laser treatments or chemical peels or even cold sores), or contributing lifestyle factors, including lack of sleep, smoking, poor personal hygiene, using oil-based beauty products in excess, and long-term steroid use.
Before considering treatment for milia, it’s worth noting that they can simply disappear on their own. Depending how deep the milia lay; they can naturally come to the surface of the skin after a few weeks or months.
Milia treatment options
First up, forget squeezing. This will only irritate and cause damage to the skin without being able to remove the problem. Squeezing the bump with your bare fingers or nails is a big no, no! As is taking any tools to the milia. You don’t want to cause permanent damage to your skin!
Your best bet is to wait it out or take the pro route. Milia removal with a skincare professional usually requires an incision, especially when the cysts are deep below the skin’s surface, typically, it’s a quick and painless in-clinic procedure. Depending on the dermatologist or skin expert, they should be able to get rid of the milia using a lancing tool or needle. They will gently flick up the outer most surface of skin freeing the milia and enabling it wiggle it out like a tiny chalk ball. Sounds horribly satisfying!
Ways to prevent milia
As ever with skincare, prevention is better than cure (there’s no needles involved, for one), so try these suggestions if milia are a recurring concern for you.
- Thorough cleansing: Removing your make-up thoroughly before bed is vital, if you’re not already, try double cleansing in the evenings, particularly if you wear heavy make-up and/or live in a polluted area. The first cleanse removes your make-up, SPF and sebum (use something like an oil cleanser to melt make-up, we recommend the ELES Transformation Oil Cleanser), and the second – which is where your facial massage comes into play – should remove any further impurities and treat the skin.
- Acid exfoliation: Next up, know that regular exfoliation works wonders in preventing milia. Look for AHA and BHA acid exfoliators, a glycolic acid 5% or 10%+ and a salicylic 2% will suffice. Apply at least three times a week, paying special attention to areas of milia. Try: Pevonia Glycocides Cream or Vie Collection Glyco 10 on freshly cleansed skin in the evening.
If you have sensitive skin, or prefer manual exfoliation, try using a scrub three times a week such as the Phytomer Marine Scrub or Pevonia Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser. This way you’ll keep the dead skin cell build-up at bay and your pores tight and clean
- Retinols: Retinol is also very helpful for both fighting and preventing milia. This form of vitamin A assists skin cell turn over, allowing the milia to surface and preventing the build-up of dead cells leading to the cysts in the first place. Try: Medicalia Retinol Serum or L-Retinol Smoothing Cream, Pevonia Micro Retinol Serum, Pevonia Micro Retinol Cream or Vie Collection Retinopur Fluid.
- Choosing correct eye care: Skin under the eyes can be prone to puffiness if fluid builds up there, especially with aesthetic interventions which limit muscle movements [such as Botox] and lymph circulation. This, coupled with rich products loaded onto the thin skin with limited blood circulation is a recipe for clogging. Therefore, it’s vital to use lightweight eye creams, and ensure they penetrate effectively. Try: Pevonia “C” Evolutive Eye Gel or Vie Collection Chrono Eyes.
- Lifestyle choices: Finally, consider adopting lifestyle changes that can help prevent milia. For example, limiting your intake of cholesterol-rich foods (meat, eggs, etc), incorporating vitamin D supplementation, avoiding heavy oil-based skincare or make-up products and limiting sun exposure could all help.