What are Milia? How to get rid of white eyelid bumps

20 January 2022

Author: Melody Solaimaninajad


What are those small white bumps around your eyes?


Have you ever noticed that you have small bumps on your eyelids or the skin surrounding your eyes? These bumps are called milia, and while they may resemble acne spots, they are not the same thing. Milia are small cysts, normally white or yellow in colour, that usually don’t cause you any pain or irritation providing you don’t pick at your skin. They tend to appear in clusters rather than individually across large areas of the face, including your eyelids but also your upper cheek area too. Milia most commonly occur in newborn infants, with almost 50% of all newborn babies being affected by milia. However, it can also occur in adults as the skin loses its ability to naturally exfoliate as we age.


What causes milia?


Milia can develop on the skin when dead skin cells or keratin (a protein found in your skin and hair) get trapped beneath the skin’s surface. This can form a small, hard cyst that looks similar to an acne spot.  Milia are not the same as acne – unlike milia, acne can be triggered by hormones and lead to inflammation of the skin. One factor that contributes to the development of milia is sun damage, which can make it difficult for dead skin cells to rise to the skin’s surface and shed as normal. UV protection is not only important for the skin around your eyes, but also for your vision and eye health, which you can read more about here.


Milia are also associated with other kinds of skin damage which can be caused by injury to the skin or certain medications and illnesses. These less common forms are called secondary milia. Primary milia are the type that typically affects newborn babies, triggered by a build-up of dead skin cells rather than trauma or injury to the skin, as is the case with secondary milia. Another less common type of the condition is called milia en plaque, which usually affects middle-aged women. This type of milia can be found behind the ears and on the eyelids, cheeks and jawline. It also usually forms into multiple white clusters which means it’s easier to identify.


Treatment options for milia


Most of the time milia will disappear from your skin without the need to seek treatment. However, they can sometimes remain on your skin for longer periods of time, so following certain treatment options can help you to remove them. The most important thing to remember is that you should avoid trying to remove your milia by squeezing them like you would with acne spots. Milia aren’t able to scar your skin by themselves, but attempting to squeeze them could leave your skin with scarring. Milia are also harmless as they do not cause any irritation on the skin, so picking at your cysts will only do more harm than good.


To remove your milia without potentially damaging your skin (especially the sensitive skin around your eyes and eyelids), there are a few different treatments you can use. To remove milia surgically, seeing a dermatologist or an ophthalmologist who specialises in cosmetic eye surgery can help you get rid of them as safely as possible.


One procedure that can remove your milia is Curettage, which is when the milia are scraped off the skin after the skin is numbed, and then the skin is sealed with a hot wire. Other procedures that can remove your milia include chemical peels, laser ablation, and Cryotherapy, where the milia are frozen off with liquid nitrogen. Milia on the face can also usually be removed using a sterilised needle. However, we suggest that you visit a professional instead of trying this at home to treat milia on your eyelids or near your eyes. Treatment of milia near the eyes should only be performed by an ophthalmologist to reduce the risk of sustaining injuries or infections.


If you’d rather use home remedies to treat your milia instead of seeking medical treatment, there are a few different home treatments you can use. Exfoliating your skin regularly will remove the dead skin cells on your skin and help bring the trapped keratin to the surface, which prevents a build-up of keratin. Using steam from a hot shower or bath to open your pores can also help with milia removal, as well as avoiding any skincare products that are known to produce milia, such as paraffin oil.


Are milia a cause for concern?


Put simply, no they’re not! Milia are not painful and are harmless to your skin, so they tend to not cause any long-term problems. If you do decide to visit a dermatologist or eye care professional for medical treatment around the eyes, this will most likely be for cosmetic reasons rather than a health reason. Ultimately, the choice of treatment is yours – you can either use an easy home remedy to treat the milia, or visit a professional if the milia around your eyes are more bothersome for you. Either way, there is no real threat or concern when it comes to milia on the skin.

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