Milia are miniscule, benign cysts that usually go away in a month or less without any treatment or routine changes. For some older children or adults, milia can become persistent or recur regularly, which may indicate an underlying skin problem that needs treatment.
In some cases, you may want milia to be removed. Treatment may begin with exfoliating soaps or home remedy chemical peels. You can undergo a medical procedure to remove them, but this might leave a scar.
Prevention is the best approach to managing milia. Be careful with any treatments you pursue, and understand the risks of scarring or damage. Harsh chemicals or risky home treatments can lead to damage to your eyes.
Procedures to Remove Milia
If you have recurring milia, or milia that do not go away, you may be concerned more for cosmetic reasons than anything else since milia are not harmful. Aside from prevention efforts, there are some treatments you can try to remove milia.
- Exfoliation at home: Scrubs and exfoliating soaps are easy to find in stores or online, but be careful using these too often, scrubbing too hard, or using them around sensitive areas, especially your eyes. If you have an underlying skin condition, using these products can make it worse, so you may wish to consult a dermatologist before trying them.
- Steaming your pores: Steam from a hot bath or shower, or leaning over a bowl of hot water, can help open your pores, which allow smaller milia to be removed with a clean, damp cloth that you run over your face.
- Chemical peels: You can get a chemical peel with a cosmetic professional, or find one in a store and use it on your own. Like soaps and exfoliating products, it is important to be very careful with chemical peels around your eyes, and consider consulting a doctor before proceeding.
- Extraction: This is an outpatient medical procedure during which a doctor will use a small needle or scalpel to remove the skin over the cyst, then carefully manipulate the keratin lump out. Once the extraction is complete, you will be given directions to keep your skin clean to reduce or prevent further milia from forming.
- Laser ablation: A small laser, rather than a scalpel, opens the pore and allows the cyst to be removed.
- Minocycline: This antibiotic can be helpful with some persistent types of milia that can lead to infection.
- Curettage: Your doctor will numb the area, remove the milia, and then seal the skin with a hot wire. This can cause some mild scarring.
- Cryotherapy: Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the milia and then remove them from the skin. This is an uncommon approach, used only on persistent and larger milia. After this procedure, the new skin will be sensitive and can become irritated, so be sure to ask your dermatologist about how to keep the area clean. Scarring can also occur, and the skin in that area may become lighter or slightly change color, so this option may lead to long-lasting side effects.
Prevention is often the best approach for treating milia. This includes:
- Keeping your skin clean and preventing irritation.
- Avoiding skin trauma, including excessive scratching or picking.
- Using a topical or prescription retinoid if your dermatologist recommends it.
- Using sunscreen during the day and washing it off at night to keep your skin safe from ultraviolet light damage.
Be Careful With Home Remedies for Milia
Since recurring or persistent milia can indicate an underlying condition, especially if a standard cleaning routine does not help, go to a dermatologist and get a diagnosis. They may suggest over-the-counter methods for helping to clear your skin, or they may recommend an outpatient procedure to remove the milia and a process for carefully washing the area.
Getting help from a doctor is especially important if milia recur around your eyes or on your eyelids. If you treat this area poorly, it can put you at risk of damaging your vision.