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Dermatology series: examining milia

Dermatology series: examining milia

When it comes to the skin there are some conditions you will probably have heard of but which you don't really understand. Milia will likely be near the top, as they are something often chatted about but rarely explained.

Put simply, milia are hard, pearly white bumps which crop up under the surface of the skin.

"Sometimes called milk spots, they are tiny little cysts containing dead skin cells, they contain no pus. They are completely harmless," explained Dr Emma Craythorne of Cedars Dermatology to Cover Media. "They are commonly found on the face, in particular the cheeks and/or eyelids, and they may come in crops. They occur most commonly in babies and they resolve spontaneously."

Even though they don't pose a health risk, they can make people feel self conscious as they usually form in clusters.

So what causes them? Well as is usual with skin conditions there is no easy explanation, which is why it's best to see a dermatologist.

"In teenagers it is usually an hormonal reaction but in older people it can be caused by oil-based make-up, including thick moisturisers," Dr Ravi Ratnavel, Consultant Dermatologist at BMI Chiltern Hospital in Great Missenden, said.

"It can also be caused by smoking and, like many skin complaints, it can be the result of severe sun damage."

If you're suffering from them one of the first things you can do is change the way you cleanse. Using something gentle which you remove with a flannel is best if you're suffering from milia, so ditch those foaming gels as your first port of call. Milia can also be the result of dehydration and a build-up of dead skin, so try some exfoliation as well.

"In some cases a salicylic wash and a topical retinoid at night is sufficient to act as a gentle chemical exfoliator," Dr Craythorne said. "For stubborn lesions, milia extraction can be performed; this involves nicking the surface of the milia lesion with a sterile needle and expressing the contents out."

Topical retinoids might also be prescribed if necessary.

Cover Media