Small white skin cysts, also known as milia, can be a frustrating skin concern. These tiny, raised bumps often appear on the face, especially around the eyes, nose, and cheeks, but they can occur anywhere on the body. While milia are typically harmless, they can be bothersome from a cosmetic perspective. In this article, we’ll explore what causes these skin cysts, how to remove them, and ways to prevent their recurrence.
What Are Milia?
Milia are small, dome-shaped, white or yellowish bumps that form when dead skin cells become trapped in small pockets near the surface of the skin. They are often confused with whiteheads or pimples but are different in their composition. Unlike acne, milia are not associated with the sebaceous glands or oil production.
Causes of Milia:
- Keratin Buildup: The most common cause of milia is the accumulation of keratin, a protein found in skin, hair, and nails. When dead skin cells become trapped, they form tiny cysts.
- Injury or Trauma: Milia can develop at the site of a minor injury or trauma to the skin, such as a burn, blister, or laser treatment.
- Topical Products: Heavy or greasy skincare products, especially around the eyes, can sometimes lead to milia. These products can trap dead skin cells and prevent them from shedding naturally.
- Sun Damage: Sun-damaged skin is more prone to developing milia, as the damaged skin cells can become trapped more easily.
While milia typically resolve on their own over time, there are treatment options available if you’d like to expedite the process or remove them for cosmetic reasons. Here are some common methods:
- Exfoliation: Using a mild exfoliant, such as a facial scrub or a product containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), can help remove dead skin cells and facilitate the shedding of milia.
- Retinoids: Topical retinoid creams can promote skin cell turnover and may help in the removal of milia. However, these products should be used cautiously, especially around the eyes, as they can be irritating.
- Lancing: A dermatologist can perform a procedure called lancing, in which a small incision is made in the skin to extract the cyst’s contents. This should only be done by a trained medical professional to avoid infection or scarring.
- Cryotherapy: Cryotherapy involves freezing the milia with liquid nitrogen. This can be an effective method, but it may cause temporary redness and scabbing.
- Electrocautery: In this procedure, an electric needle is used to puncture and remove the cyst’s contents. It’s a quick and effective method performed by a dermatologist.
While milia can be treated, prevention is often the best approach. Here are some tips to help prevent milia from forming:
- Choose Non-Comedogenic Products: Look for skincare and makeup products labeled as non-comedogenic, as they are less likely to clog pores and contribute to milia.
- Gentle Exfoliation: Regular, gentle exfoliation can help prevent the buildup of dead skin cells that can lead to milia. Avoid harsh scrubs that can damage the skin.
- Sun Protection: Protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays by wearing sunscreen daily and avoiding excessive sun exposure. Sun damage can make the skin more susceptible to milia.
- Hydration: Keep your skin well-hydrated with a non-greasy, water-based moisturizer. Well-moisturized skin is less likely to trap dead skin cells.
- Avoid Squeezing: Resist the urge to squeeze or pick at milia, as this can lead to infection, scarring, or worsen the condition.
When to See a Dermatologist:
If you have concerns about milia or if they are persistent, it’s advisable to consult a dermatologist. They can provide a proper diagnosis, recommend appropriate treatments, and perform procedures like lancing or cryotherapy if necessary. Additionally, if you notice any changes in the appearance of milia or experience skin irritation, seek professional medical advice promptly.
In conclusion, milia are common, benign skin cysts that can be bothersome from a cosmetic perspective. While they often resolve on their own, there are treatment options available to remove them. Additionally, taking preventive measures such as using non-comedogenic products and practicing gentle exfoliation can help reduce the risk of milia formation. Consulting a dermatologist is recommended for persistent or bothersome milia and for expert guidance on the best treatment options for your skin.