Milia or milium cyst are very common and harmless little white bumps that appear on the skin. Although Milia are classed as a benign skin lesion, they can be an aesthetic nightmare as they usually appear around the eyes, cheeks and nose.
Milia is a plug of dead skin cells, keratin (a robust protein that’s typically found in skin tissue, hair, and nail cells), and oil which combined, form a yellowish or white, mostly round hard ball. Trapped in a mass, Milia appear just underneath the very surface of the skin. They are hard in texture and very different from a pimple, blackhead, pore obstruction or closed comedone.
Often Milia form due to our body’s individual, impaired exfoliation process. The shedding of our skin cells is determined by the health of our skin and sometimes our current proliferation (cell turnover) needs assistance.
Milia can arise in people of all ethnicities and ages.
In older children and adults, milia are typically associated with some type of damage to the skin. This may include:
- Blistering due to a skin condition, such as epidermolysis bullosa (EB), cicatricial pemphigoid, or porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT).
- Blister injuries, such as poisonous plants.
- Excessive dehydration.
- Long-term sun damage.
- Long-term use of steroid creams.
- Incompatible topical product use.
- Skin resurfacing procedures, such as dermabrasion or laser resurfacing.
Milia may also develop if the skin loses its natural ability to exfoliate as a result of ageing.
Attempting to pop milia can lead to red, inflamed marks and possible scarring on the skin. This is because the little milia ball is tucked away underneath the epidermis and has no real exit opportunity unless the skin is physically broken.
The most effective and safest way to remove milia is to choose a practitioner who may cauterise, diathermy to dissolve or cut a tiny incision just over the Milia to release the lesion. The wound will be minimal and the healing time will be faster under clinical conditions. In addition, there will be less potential damage to the surrounding skin. With the correct wound care, after about 7-10 days the marking will subside and the skin will look even in texture and colour.