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About half of all babies develop milia. Rarely, children and older adults may develop them. (Learn More)
Milia are very small, white, or yellowish dots that appear on the skin. Technically, these are benign cysts caused by a buildup of skin flakes, but they do not need to be removed like other types of cysts.
Milia are caused by a buildup of the protein keratin, from dead skin cells, just under the surface of the skin. They do not require treatment unless they appear to develop a crust, become red or inflamed, or seem to hurt your child. (Learn More)
Even if your child develops milia close to their eyes, you do not have to worry about them. They will go away on their own. Attempting to pop or remove these by yourself may damage their skin or eyes, so see a pediatrician if you are concerned. (Learn More)
Milia: Common in Babies With No Lasting Harm
Milia generally collect on the face, especially around the nose, eyes, and eyelids. They can also appear on other parts of the body.
One milium can be less than 1 millimeter up to 3 millimeters in size. Dozens of these collect at a time. They are typically white, but they might appear yellowish in color.
Milia are especially common on newborn babies, and they will typically go away on their own. In rarer cases, older children or adults may develop milia.
Since these are benign, it is unlikely that you will have to worry about milia on your child’s face. They do not hurt or itch.
You can simply wait until they go away without using any kind of treatment. In fact, some home treatments, like squeezing milia like a pimple, can make the problem worse, leaving an area that becomes infected, feels sore, or scars.
It is very important to avoid popping or treating milia with any home remedies when they are around your baby’s eyes, as you risk damaging your child’s eyesight. If you are concerned that milia have not cleared up from your baby’s face within a few weeks or months, you can regularly clean the area by gently wiping their face with a clean, damp cloth.
If milia lead to redness or swelling, you should see your child’s doctor. There could be an infection or the milia may actually be acne, which might need a topical cream to ease itching, pain, or swelling.
Milia Causes & Treatments in Babies
Milia occur when dead skin cells, which contain keratin, flake off and collect in specific areas just below the surface. They are common in newborns and young babies, with about half of newborns developing milia within a few days after birth.
They can take up to one month to clear. If they seem persistent, or your child seems to react to an itching or painful sensation around the milia area, speak with your pediatrician to determine if there is anything else going on.
- Primary: This is the most common form of milia, especially on babies. It will appear on otherwise healthy skin.
- Secondary: This type of milia appears on skin that also has another condition, like chronic acne or an infection. It is more likely to appear on older children or adults with a skin condition.
In children or adults, milia are less common and may be more persistent, indicating an underlying condition. Still, they typically go away on their own without any treatment. Simply keep the skin in that area clean, avoid perfumes or harsh chemicals, and do not pop or touch the milia.
In very rare cases, you may become concerned about milia and want them removed, but this is not advisable for young babies. If they are around their eyelids, and you are concerned about harm to your child’s eyesight, the best step is to talk to your pediatrician, especially if the milia do not clear up within three months after they first appear.
The most effective milia treatment is to keep your baby’s skin clean with regular baths in warm water, with mild soap. Using tear-free soap can help you feel confident cleaning the skin around your child’s eyes while reducing the risk of eye problems.
Your Baby’s Vision & Skin Will Not Be Harmed by Milia
Milia will not significantly impact your baby as they grow up. Issues generally only occur in regard to removing milia or attempting to treat them at home, which can damage the skin or eyes.
If you suspect that milia are not what they seem, have your child’s pediatrician take a look. While there is no diagnostic test for milia other than a general physical examination of the skin, your child’s doctor may identify underlying issues based on the appearance of the milia or other symptoms. These conditions may require treatment, which can also clear up the milia.
If your child has no underlying conditions, but you notice redness, swelling, or crust forming around the milia, take your child to the pediatrician. An infection or underlying skin condition may have caused the milia, and this will benefit from treatment.
It is possible that your child may have ongoing skin problems as they grow up, including recurring milia, but the milia itself are nothing to worry about. As they get older, teach your child good hygiene practices so they can keep their skin clear. Avoid using anti-acne creams or harsh soaps on their faces, as this will reduce the risk of scarring.
Even if you are startled when milia first appear, rest assured that it will not affect your child in the long term.
Milia. (June 2020). Health Direct.gov.au.
Skin Care for Your Baby. (March 2007). Paediatrics & Child Health.
Milia: What You Need to Know. (May 2017). Medical News Today.
Milia in Babies. (February 2019). News Medical Lifesciences.