What is milia?

Milia are tiny white bumps that appear across a baby’s nose, chin or cheeks. Milia are common in newborns but can occur at any age.

There are various types of milia. These cysts are classified based on the age at which they occur or the injury that causes the cysts to develop.

Neonatal Milia

This condition develops in newborns and heals within a few weeks. Cysts are typically seen on the face, scalp, and upper torso. According to the Stanford School of Medicine, milia occurs in about 40 percent of newborn babies.

Juvenile Milia

This condition is caused by genetic disorders. These include:

Primary Milia in Children and Adults

This condition is caused by keratin trapped beneath the skin surface. Cysts can be found around the eyelids, forehead, and on the genitalia. Primary milia may disappear in a few weeks or last for several months.

Milia en Plaque

This condition is commonly associated with genetic or autoimmune skin disorders, such as discoid lupus or lichen planus. Milia en plaque can affect the eyelids, ears, cheeks, or jaw.

The cysts can be several centimeters in diameter. This condition is primarily seen in middle-aged women, but it can occur in adults and children of all genders and ages.

Multiple Eruptive Milia

This type of milia consists of itchy areas that can appear on the face, upper arms, and torso. The cysts often appear over a span of time, ranging from a few weeks to a few months.

Traumatic Milia

These cysts occur where injury to the skin has occurred. Examples include severe burns and rashes. The cysts may become irritated, making them red along the edges and white in the center.

Milia Associated with Drugs

The use of steroid creams can lead to milia on the skin where the cream is applied. However, such side effects from topical medications are rare.

How common is milia?

Milia can occur in people of all ages, but they’re most common in newborns. They’re typically found on the face, eyelids, and cheeks. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of milia?

Milia are most commonly seen on a baby’s nose, chin or cheeks, though they may also occur in other areas, such as on the upper trunk and limbs.

Sometimes similar bumps appear on a baby’s gums or the roof of the mouth. These are known as Epstein pearls. Some babies also develop baby acne, often characterized by small red bumps and pustules on the cheeks, chin and forehead, which can occur with or without milia.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes milia?

Milia develop when tiny skin flakes become trapped in small pockets near the surface of the skin.

The cause of milia in newborns is unknown. It’s often mistaken for baby acne, which is triggered by hormones from the mother. Unlike baby acne, milia doesn’t cause inflammation (swelling). According to the Stanford School of Medicine, infants who have milia are born with it, while baby acne doesn’t appear for a few weeks after birth.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for milia?

There are many risk factors for milia, such as:

  • Blistering due to a skin condition
  • Burns
  • Blistering injuries, such as poison ivy
  • Skin resurfacing procedures, such as dermabrasion or laser resurfacing
  • Long-term use of steroid creams
  • Long-term sun damage

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is milia diagnosed?

Your doctor will examine your skin and can determine if you have the condition based on the appearance of the cysts.

How is milia treated?

There is no treatment necessary for infant milia. The cysts will usually clear up within a few weeks. In older children and adults, milia will go away within a few months. There are some treatments that can be effective for eliminating these cysts if they cause discomfort.

Treatments include:

  • Deroofing, or using a sterile needle to pick out the contents of the cyst
  • Medications, such as topical retinoids (creams that contain vitamin a compounds)
  • Chemical peels
  • Laser ablation, which involves using a small and focused laser to destroy the cyst
  • Diathermy, which involves using extreme heat to destroy the cysts
  • Destruction curettage, which involves surgical scraping and cauterization to destroy the cysts
  • Cryotherapy, which involves freezing and is the most frequently used method to destroy the cysts

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage milia?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: November 22, 2017 | Last Modified: November 22, 2017