It may sound like some kind of exotic flowering plant but the reality of milia is far less fancy. We’ve almost all been there – you see a tiny ‘milk spot’ on your cheek and debate gouging it with a sewing needle or squeezing it to within an inch of its life, only to realise it isn’t budging and you’re left looking like you’ve done ten rounds with Mike Tyson.
Well, that’s because milia are most certainly not spots and in fact, are almost impossible to release just by squeezing, which can result in permanent scarring. So, to help on your quest for flawless skin we spoke to cosmetic dermatologists Dr Sam Bunting and Dr Mervyn Patterson who gave us the low down on just about everything there is to know about these pesky imperfections.
What are milia?
Apart from being unsightly and annoying, milia are a trapped build-up of surface (keratin) cells in one area. They look soft but are surprisingly hard when you feel them after removal – a bit like the texture of a grain of rice under the skin. ‘They’re very common on the face, particularly on the cheeks and around the eyes,’ explains Dr Mervyn Patterson, cosmetic dermatologist at Woodford Medical. At least we know we’re not alone in this battle of the bumps!
Why do we get them?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer as they are very common and can affect any age group from infancy to the elderly. But, as Dr Sam Bunting explains ‘it’s likely that smothering your skin in heavy creams contributes to their formation, hence their frequency in adult women.’ So maybe it’s time to think about that table spoon of brightening face cream we put on before bed in a bid to wake up looking like Sienna Miller. ‘A prolonged history of sun damage is also a potential aggravant – it can discourage cells from naturally exfoliating, encouraging the formation of these tiny annoying cysts’, she stresses. Another reason (or excuse) to invest a little more money into your summer beauty routine we think. That and making sure you stay super safe in the sun, of course!
How do we treat them?
This is the good part – there are many things you can do to help banish these unwanted facial ‘friends’, though Dr Patterson advises ‘prevention is better than cure. Don’t forget gentle exfoliation on a daily basis – I recommend the Epionce Lytic TX, £50.50, containing salicylic and azelaic acids which help to remove surface skin cell debris and clear the pores which have also been shown to reduce the chance of milia forming.’
It’s also worth noting that choosing the right beauty products is just as important. Seeking out skincare products labeled non-comedogenic, especially if the product is designed to stay on skin for protective reasons, like sunscreen. Make sure you take particular care when choosing products for eye makeup removal – we love French pharmacy brands like La Roche Posay, Avene and Bioderma.
If your milia are a little more stubborn, though, and no amount of exfoliation is helping them pop out, a doctor will remove them by making a microscopic incision in the roof of the milia with a needle. Through this small hole the contents can then be expressed or picked out gently with a needle tip. ‘Don’t let anyone try to treat them with freezing through cryotherapy as this can cause too much collateral damage to the skin’ warns Dr Patterson.
So ladies, next time you see one of those bumps that’s disguised as a spot, catch it out and show it who is boss.
7 products we’re adding to our milia-battling shopping list
Avène Gentle Eye Make-Up Remover, £9.50
Epionce Lytic TX, £50.50
La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Ultra Light Spray SPF 30, £17.50
Bioderma Sensibio H2O Solution Micellaire, £10.20
L’Occitane Cedrat Pure Cleanser, £16
Pai Geranium & Thistle Rebalancing Day Cream, £34
NUXE Merveillance Expert Eye Contour, £29