Understanding Milia: Definition, Characteristics, and Formation

Do you see those small white bumps on your skin, like on your eyes, nose, or cheeks? They are called milia, or "milk spots." These milia can appear on different parts of your body, but they are most common on your face. While they don't harm you, they can be frustrating or worrying when regular skin care doesn't help. In this blog, we will explain what milia is and its different types. We will also talk about the special things that make milia different from other skin problems, so you can easily recognize them. Lastly, we will discuss what causes milia formation and available milia treatments. Understanding all of this will help you deal with milia effectively.

Definition and Their Characteristics

Milia are small bumps that can be found on the skin. They have a shape that resembles a tiny dome. They can vary in size, from being as small as a pinpoint to a few millimeters in diameter. When you look at them, they usually appear white or sometimes have a yellowish tint. If you touch them, you'll notice that they feel firm and have a smooth texture.

One important thing to note is that they are different from acne or pimples. Unlike acne, milia do not have any redness or inflammation around them. They may seem like a small, isolated spot on the skin. They are commonly found on the face, especially around the eyes, nose, and cheeks. But they can also appear on other parts of the body.



Milia Formation: Keratin Buildup and Blocked Pores

Milia are formed when a protein called keratin experiences an unexpected change. Keratin is important for the health of our skin's outer layer. It helps to keep the skin strong and protected. However, in certain situations, this protein can get trapped beneath the surface of the skin. And it leads to an interesting transformation.

The buildup of keratin inside our skin gives rise to the development of small cysts, which are the core of milia. These cysts appear as distinct, dome-shaped bumps that catch our attention. 

Blocked pores or hair follicles play a significant role in the formation of milia. When these channels become clogged, the natural shedding process of keratin is disrupted. Instead of being shed smoothly, the protein accumulates and forms these captivating little cysts. 

Factors Contributing to Its Formation:

Understanding the milia causes is key to finding effective solutions. Several factors can play a role in the emergence of milia, including:

i. Excessive Sun Exposure

Staying in the sun for a long time can make your skin thicker. This thickening can stop your skin from shedding dead cells like it should. When this happens, keratin can build up on your skin and cause milia to form.

To avoid getting milia from the sun, it's important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. You can do this by using good sun care products. These products can keep your skin healthy and prevent sun-related milia.

ii. Trauma or Skin Damage: 

When your skin gets hurt, like from burns or blisters, it can mess up how your skin works. One thing it can mess up is how your skin gets rid of dead cells. This problem can cause a buildup of dead cells on your skin.

When too many dead cells build up, they can block your pores and stop the natural flow of oil in your skin. This trapped oil, along with the trapped dead cells, can make a good place for milia to form. Milia are those small, white bumps you see on your skin when this happens.

So, when your skin gets hurt, it can stop your skin from getting rid of dead cells like it should. This can cause milia to form, and those little bumps can bother you on your skin.

iii. Heavy Skincare Products: 

Some skincare products, like thick creams or lotions, and products with ingredients that block your pores, can cause problems for your skin. When you use these heavy products, they can make your pores get clogged, which means they get blocked.

When your pores are blocked, it can stop your skin from shedding dead skin cells like it should. One of the things that gets blocked is called keratin. When keratin can't come out of your skin properly, it can lead to the formation of milia. Milia are those small, white bumps you might see on your skin when this happens.

So, when you use heavy skincare products, it can stop your skin from getting rid of dead skin cells like it normally does. This can cause milia to form, and you might notice those little white bumps on your skin.

iv. Skin Conditions and Genetic Predispositions: 

Some individuals have a higher chance of getting milia because of specific skin conditions they have or because it runs in their family. If you have blistering disorders, where your skin easily gets blisters or sores, it can make you more prone to developing milia. Additionally, if your parents or other family members have had milia, you might be more likely to get it too.

Understanding your skin's unique needs is important in managing the appearance of milia. It's helpful to be aware of any skin conditions you may have or if milia is common in your family. This knowledge can guide you in finding suitable solutions to deal with milia.

Differentiating Milia from Other Skin Conditions

It is important to distinguish milia from other skin conditions. Milia may look whiteheads or acne but they are different. They have certain characteristics that set them apart. These include their firm texture, the absence of any inflammation or redness, and the lack of a central pore or opening.

When you touch Milia, they feel firm and don't give in easily to pressure. Unlike acne, which can be swollen and tender, milia don't show any signs of inflammation. Additionally, milia don't have a visible pore or opening in the center. Milia are not like whiteheads or blackheads.

By recognizing these distinctive features, we can differentiate milia from other skin conditions.  And ensures that we provide the appropriate milia treatment.

Types of Milia

Understanding the different types of milia is essential. It helps in identifying and managing this condition. Let's explore the two main types: Primary and Secondary Type

A. Primary Milia

  1. Causes and Characteristics:

Primary milia form when dead skin cells get trapped under the skin, creating small cysts. The exact cause of primary milia is not fully understood. But it is believed to be related to the following factors: 

  1. Inefficient skin exfoliation: When dead skin cells aren't shed properly, they can accumulate and form white bumps.
  2. Skin trauma or injury: Burns, blisters, or harsh skin treatments can cause milia to develop. 
  3. Overactive sweat glands: Higher sweat gland activity can contribute to primary formation. 

Primary milia are typically characterized by:

  1. Small, dome-shaped bumps
  2. Whitish or yellowish color
  3. Occurring on areas with thinner skin, such as the face, eyelids, cheeks, and nose
  4. Usually painless and not associated with inflammation

    b. Age Groups Affected

Primary milia can affect people of all ages. But they are most observed in newborns and infants. In these cases, the condition is often referred to as "baby milia" or "neonatal milia." Yet, primary milia can also occur in adolescents and adults. Those with a history of skin damage or excessive sun exposure, are prone to milia.

B. Secondary Milia

  1. Causes and Characteristics:

Secondary milia develop as a result of underlying skin conditions or external factors. Some common causes and characteristics include:

  • Skin trauma: Trauma to the skin can lead to the formation of secondary milia.  These trauma can include burns, blisters, or surgical procedures,  
  • Blistering disorders: Certain blistering disorders can cause secondary milia to develop. Examples are pemphigus or epidermolysis bullosa.  
  • Skin conditions: Certain skin conditions can be associated with secondary milia. These include bullous pemphigoid, porphyria cutanea tarda, or discoid lupus erythematosus. 
  • Topical corticosteroids: Prolonged use of topical corticosteroids can cause secondary milia.

Secondary milia share similar characteristics with primary milia. They both appear as small, dome-shaped bumps with a whitish or yellowish color. Yet, they are often found in areas affected by the underlying skin condition or trauma.

  1. Associated Conditions

Secondary milia can be associated with various underlying conditions, including:

  • Blistering disorders: Pemphigus, epidermolysis bullosa, or dermatitis herpetiformis.
  • Autoimmune disorders: Lupus erythematosus, lichen planus, or graft-versus-host disease.
  • Chronic sun damage: Excessive sun exposure can lead to the development of milia in sun-damaged areas.
  • Prolonged use of topical corticosteroids: Steroid-induced milia can occur as a side effect of using topical corticosteroids for an extended period.

Understanding the various types of milia, their causes, and related conditions is crucial. It helps people identify and distinguish them from other skin conditions. This knowledge is vital for milia treatment options. Also for seeking professional advice when needed.


Now that you understand milia well, you can get rid of them. You can check out the  best brands  for treating milia. And what's even better is using TreeActiv's Milia Spot Treatment for clear and smooth skin. TreeActiv’s Milia Spot Treatment is perfect for those pesky milia and works as a milia remover and milia spot treatment for eye where milia formation usually happens.

The Milia Remover Treatment by TreeActiv has many benefits. It's great for drying pimples on sensitive or combination skin. A milia remover cream can also help with hormonal acne for people of all ages, from teens to adults. TreeActiv’s milia spot remover works well for treating cystic acne, drying out acne spots, and removing blemishes.

You can trust TreeActiv's expertise to help you get the skin you want. We have a range of trusted products designed to address milia and give you a healthy and radiant complexion. With your knowledge about milia and TreeActiv's effective products, you can make smart choices for your skincare routine.

Ready to achieve the skin you deserve? Visit our website and explore our selection of Milia Spot Treatment and other skincare solutions. Let TreeActiv be your partner in achieving clear, blemish-free and milia - free skin. Start your journey towards healthier skin today!


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Medical News Today. (n.d.). What to know about milia under the eyes. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/313623

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StyleTips101. (n.d.). Understanding Milia Bumps: Causes and Effective Removal Techniques. Retrieved from https://styletips101.com/skin-care/understanding-milia-bumps-causes-and-effective-removal-techniques.html