Milia: What they are and how to treat them

Treating Milia at Chicago dermatology Nima Skin Institute

Seeing small white bumps on your face? You’re not alone. Many of my patients have these and want them gone! They are called milia. Milia are small, white cysts under the surface of your skin. Milia are not whiteheads, a type of acne, nor are they painful or harmful. 


Trapped dead skin cells that form cysts below the surface of your skin cause milia. Your body naturally gets rid of dead skin cells by shedding them to make room for new cells to grow and take their place. When your old skin cells don’t fall off of your body, new skin grows on top of them and traps them underneath. Your dead skin cells can then harden and turn into cysts.

These can occur due to:

  • Genetics.
  • Skin damage from sun exposure or injury.
  • Long-term use of steroid creams or ointments.
  • An autoimmune response.


Milia most often appear on your face, or at least that’s where patients most often notice them. But there are other areas of your body where they can form. Patients come us with milia on their arms, legs, chest, and even on their genitals.

Treating Milia

There’s no medical reason to remove milia since they’re not harmful. But if you don’t like how they look on your skin…

DON’T: try to squeeze or scrape off milia on your own, as you might do with a pimple (although that’s not a great idea either). This can scar your skin or cause an infection. 

DO: talk with us about removing them as a cosmetic procedure. The most effective way we do this is by using a sterile needle or blade to open the skin surface to extract the milia, sometimes using special tools. 

Avoiding them

Now that we’ve removed them for you, you’ll want to try to keep them from coming back. Retinol is very helpful for preventing milia. Apply a small amount to your face in the evenings as tolerated, making sure to avoid your eye area. 

Here for your dermatological needs

If you have milia you don’t want, please feel free to contact us to make an appointment and have us remove them safely.