Leave Those Tiny White Bumps Alone: They Are Likely Milia

If you have tiny white bumps on your nose, chin or cheeks, resist the urge to try removing them. You likely have milia, a skin condition that’s common among newborns — so common, in fact, that up to half of all babies develop milia.

Milia happens when dead skin cells get trapped beneath the skin’s surface and form small, hard cysts. Milia are common in babies because their skin is still learning to exfoliate, or slough off dead skin cells, on its own.

Although milia are most commonly seen on the nose, chin or cheeks, they can occur on other areas such as the upper trunk and limbs.

In adults, milia fall into two types: primary and secondary. Primary milia are similar to the kind that babies get. Secondary milia happen when a skin condition that leads to blistering damages the pore lining. Burns or severe rashes, for example, can increase the number of skin cells trapped under the skin’s surface.

The best treatment for milia is to do NOTHING, they usually disappear in a few weeks. 
If you’re an adult with milia, you might try an over-the-counter exfoliating treatment that contains salicylic acid, alpha hydroxyl acid or a retinoid. These can improve the skin’s natural turnover by removing the dead cells, and may help the bumps go away faster.

For adults, sun damage can be a contributing factor to milia because it makes skin leathery. This makes it more difficult for dead cells to rise to the skin’s surface and shed normally.  Maintaining a good skin-care routine can help minimize the chance of milia appearing in adults.  Because secondary milia can be caused by sun damage, wear a moisturizer or makeup with at least SPF 15 every day to protect your skin.

If your baby is the one with milia, use these tips:
  • Keep your baby’s face clean by washing her face with lukewarm water every day. If your baby’s skin seems oily, especially around the nose, you can use a mild moisturizing soap that’s formulated for babies.
  • Dry your baby’s face gently by patting the skin dry — do not rub.
  • Don’t apply lotions with salicylic acid or other exfoliating agents meant for adults — a baby’s delicate skin can’t handle it.
  • It’s important that you refrain from trying to remove the bumps by squeezing or scraping them as you would a pimple.
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