Causes of Milia

Young man popping milia on his face
Rid yourself of pesky milia!

Are you wondering what causes milia? Many people, including newborn babies, suffer from this skin condition. Although harmless, milia can be a nuisance. Here's a closer look at what causes milia, and how to prevent the outbreaks.

What Causes Milia in Infants and Adults

There are two types of milia: primary and secondary millium. Primary milia is a common condition often seen gracing the nose, cheeks and under eye area of babies. While many parents are alarmed to see their infant affected by the whitehead-resembling breakout, the condition itself is relatively common and completely harmless. Eventually within two to three weeks, the milia will cure itself and the baby's flawless skin will once again take center stage.

The other form, known as secondary milia, is found in adults and can be caused by a multitude of products and lifestyle or environmental influences. While many people believe the cause of milia in adults is embedded dirt, the real factor in this condition is the body's inability to exfoliate dry and embedded skin cells. Once dead skin has embedded itself without an exit, it forms a small white bump very similar to a whitehead.

The following lifestyle and products may contribute to dead skin cells and their blockage:

  • Cosmetics: If you wear cosmetics daily, make sure you thoroughly cleanse your skin to remove excess oil and buildup. Heavy makeup and foundation can clog your pores and contribute to dead skin cell production. It's important to cleanse your face everyday and use an exfoliant at least once per week to aid in the removal of dead skin.
  • Sun damage: In addition to cosmetics, sun damaged skin is a drying condition that contributes to embedded skin cells, causing milia. Your best bet? Stay out of the sun! Harmful UV rays not only damage skin, they can increase the rate of the aging process, causing wrinkles and sun spots, all while increasing your risk of sun cancer. A daily moisturizer or cosmetics containing an SPF will help prevent dry skin cells.
  • Household irritants: Whether it be a household laundry detergent or an irritating and scratchy bed linen, many environmental factors can contribute to the blockage of dead skin. If your milia is a new condition, try to figure out if you have made any major changes in your household environment or cleansers, and then pitch any products that could be to blame!

Visit a Dermatologist

While both primary and secondary milia will cease on their own, the waiting game can be frustrating for many. If you've battled with milia and have stripped your home of any irritants and pitched heavy cosmetics, chances are you may need to book an appointment with a professional for treatment and prevention options. Milia will eventually clear itself up once the skin has regained ability to exfoliate dead skin, normally with the help of a once a week exfoliating cleanser. If your plan of attack has reaped no results, a dermatologist will likely be able to help and properly diagnose the cause of your milia symptoms.While many people have had at-home treatment success by gently pricking a milia head with a sterilized sharp needle, procedures like this are strongly discouraged. Not only can you cause an infection that will most likely require further treatment, poking and prodding at the skin may cause undesirable and permanent scarring. Prompt treatment of any skin condition that ails you is the best way to ensure the health and integrity of your body's most vital organ.

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