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Milia 101: Defining, Extracting, and Preventing

If you've ever had milia, you know how hard it is to get rid of. In this blog we talk why we get milia, how to get rid of it, and how to prevent it from ever happening.

Milia: What is it?

A milium is a small, white or yellow cyst that typically appears on the cheeks, nose, eyelids, and lips. A group of milium is called milia. Milia are common in newborns, but people of all ages and ethnicities can be susceptible. Milia are not painful, itchy, or do not cause inflammation like normal cysts. These tiny, hard cysts form when dead skin cells don't get exfoliated properly and get trapped under new skin. They sometimes occur spontaneously (Primary Milia), and other times result from skin damage (Secondary Milia).

Primary Milia: Result from no apparent reason, and usually clear up on their own within a few months or less. Primary milia is usually found on the: (1)

  • eyelids

  • forehead

  • cheeks

  • genitals

Some ingredients in skin care and makeup products can cause milia in some people. If you have milia-prone skin, avoid the following ingredients: (2)

  • liquid paraffin

  • liquid petroleum

  • paraffin oil

  • paraffinum liquidum

  • petrolatum liquid

  • petroleum oil

Secondary Milia: Occur from some sort of skin damage and are located in the area that's been damaged. These milia can sometimes be permanent. Causes of Secondary Milia include: (1)

  • Injury or irritation

  • Rashes

  • Burns

  • Abrasive skin treatments

  • Inflammatory skin conditions

  • Too much sun exposure

  • Heavy skincare products

How to Get Rid of Milia

Unlike pimples or pustules, the contents of milia are not fluid. Pimples and pustules are filled with sebum (oil), dead skin cells, and pus. When you pop a pimple, fluid spills. Milia have a tiny white lump inside of them, which is very hard, almost like a grain of sand. (1) It's made of keratinized (hardened) dead skin cells that have become trapped below a thin layer of the skin. This layer does not have a pore like a pimple does, therefore there is no opening in the skin to squeeze it out. Do not attempt to physically remove milia yourself, it won't work and you can damage your skin. Below are some alternatives to treating milia:

  • OTC Exfoliating Products: Salicylic acid and Glycolic acid products may help to remove dead skin cells. If you have a few milia, this may be the solution you need, but be ready to use an exfoliant for a few months before noticing any results. Milia are incredibly stubborn, and if your milia have been sitting for ages, it may be a good idea to see a dermatologist or come in to see our team. A GREAT OTC chemical exfoliant is The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Exfoliating Peeling Solution, which is only $8 at Ulta, and is safe to use on skin (including the lips). Use it 2-3 times a week.

  • Topical Retinoid Prescriptions: These are super helpful for milia-prone skin or milia that is extremely stubborn. Prescription retinoids not only exfoliate more effectively than OTC products, but they help loosen the keratin plugs in exiting milia and help them come to the surface so they can go away. Our team of PA's can prescribe these for you if your skin needs it.

  • Manual Extractions: Milia should ONLY be extracted by a professional, as doing it yourself can cause damage and scarring. The procedure goes as follows: a tiny hole is created on the surface of the skin above the milia with either a comedone extractor, lancing tool, or needle. The hard plug of material is then gently pushed out through the opening. (1) ...sounds satisfying to me... This procedure is usually pretty pain-free, and results are immediate! Our Aesthetician is certified to perform milia extractions. See the before and after of an extraction procedure done by our Aesthetician, Erica Cordoba:

How To Prevent Milia

The first best tool prior to a cure: prevention. Try these prevention suggestions to avoid stubborn milia:

  • Thorough Cleansing: Removing your makeup before bed is vital to clean, clear skin. Double cleaning at night is highly recommended if you use thick makeup products or live in an area with high pollution. (3)

  • Avoid Irritating Products: Some oils are not meant for milia-prone skin. As stated above, avoid certain ingredients that sit on top of your skin instead of being absorbed.

  • Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate: Milia occurs when new skin forms over dead skin cells that were not removed. Exfoliating also lowers your chance of developing acne and makes your skin look pretty, win win.

  • Incorporate Retinol: Consistent retinol use can brighten and tighten skin, shrink pores, decrease the chance of breaks out, and can help prevent and cure milia. Um, yes please? (3)

  • Limit Sun Exposure: Haven't we all learned by now that excess sun exposure is devastating to your skin? Use SPF (on your lips and neck too) and wear a hat when outside for long periods of time to prevent milia formation. (3)

If you notice milia on your skin, you're not alone and it's not irreversible. Milia is a cosmetic issue with usually no health concerns attached. Should you decide to get rid of them, we're here for you.

To book with our team of injectors: Click Here, DM us on Instagram, or Call/Text 210-774-2850.

To book your milia extractions, Click Here.

(1) Palmer, A. (2021, December 9). Getting rid of whiteheads (milia). Verywell Health. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from

(2) Kinman, T. (2018, June 1). Milia: Definition, causes, and removal. Healthline. Retrieved June 1, 2022, from

(3) March, B. (2021, October 14). How to get rid of Milia spots. Harper's BAZAAR. Retrieved June 1, 2022, from


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