Eye conditions & symptoms 2 min read

What is Milia?

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If you have noticed little white bumps on your baby’s nose, chin, cheeks or eyes, you might be worried at first. This is known as milia, or more commonly referred to as milk spots. These bumps can appear across large areas of the face, and may also be found on the outer layer of the eyelids. Milia often appears in clusters and is very common in babies. In fact, it’s found in nearly half of newborns, and it can also occur in teens and adults.


What causes milia?

Milia is the result of dead skin skills or keratin becoming trapped under the surface of the skin. Keratin is a protein found in your skin and hair. When the cells are trapped, they can form a raised bump on the skin.

Milia can often be associated with skin damage from the sun, injury and illness. Sun damage, in particular, can make the skin rougher, so it’s more difficult for the dead cells to reach the surface and shed normally. 

Milia on the chick of an adult

It’s not entirely known why milia happen, but it isn’t the same as traditional acne, which is triggered by hormones and can cause inflammation.

Can you treat milia?

Milia isn’t painful and often goes away on its own, and it won’t cause any scarring or lasting effects on the skin. For these reasons, milia don’t usually require any treatment and will resolve itself. In babies, it will disappear in a matter of weeks.

In older children and adults, milia will typically take a few weeks or months to disappear, but in some cases, it can persist particularly underneath the eyes.

If you have milia and it bothers you, there are some treatment options to remove it. Treatment can include chemical peels, laser ablation, cryotherapy, heat therapy and even cosmetic eye surgery. It’s important to remember that any treatment of milia near the eyes should always be performed by an optician.


What can you do to prevent milia?

Milia can’t always be prevented, but you can reduce your chances by looking after your skin. Keep the face area clean and dry gently, particularly with babies. For adults, you can try gentle exfoliation to encourage new skin cells to come to the surface.

If you or your baby has milia around the eyes and it doesn’t resolve itself, you can put your mind at rest by contacting your local optician. They can take a look at your overall eye health and help you to understand any treatment that might be available to you.

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baby boy with milia on his eye lid


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