Non-Conventional Advice on How to Treat and Prevent Milia

Milia – not exactly acne, but it kinda looks like it!

Either way, milia is another unsightly and annoying skin “disagreement” that we would like gone (at least that’s what I gather from those who have been asking me for an article on it!)

I guess I am lucky that I have only ever encountered one milium seed on my own face. So I don’t have a ton of personal experience with milia, but I have done some research to help you get rid of these little guys.

What is Milia?

For those of you don’t know what I’m talking about, milia look like hard white balls – almost like a tiny pearl – that sit just below your skin’s surface. They are most commonly found under and around the eyes, but can also appear any where on the face. They are essentially dead skin cells that get trapped in pockets near the skin’s surface, keratinize, and become hard like a little seed. The difference between them and acne is that they do not grow in a pore. Therefore, they can’t be popped or squeezed out.

How Do I Get Rid of These??

Well, here’s the thing – you could probably just google milia on the internet and every site you come across will tell you the following things. It will say this is what causes milia: 

  • Heavy, rich, pore-clogging skin care products
  • Sun damage
  • Not enough exfoliation
  • Bad genes

and so as prevention, they say avoid these things. Avoid heavy, rich, pore clogging skin care products (I agree with that one). Avoid the sun. Exfoliate more. Sucks to be you with your bad genes.

To get rid of existing milia, they say:

  • Wait it out till the top layer of skin wears away and it escapes
  • Exfoliate
  • Get your dermatologist or beauty therapist to lance them out of your face

Much like acne, the conventional information that circulates on the internet about milia is pretty lame. It’s bland, it’s generic, it probably does work in plenty of cases, but mostly it’s all just fluff coming out of the medical community’s ass.

Sounds like the truth is that no one really knows squat about milia. Including me. And because I haven’t had a lot of milia, I can’t infuse this post with plenty ‘o’ first person wisdom about how I got rid of them (my solution to my one milium was to lance it out of my own face with a pin. Which frankly worked pretty well!)

I did come across one site that was also skeptical about the conventional milia wisdom, and had a different perspective to share. While I can’t personally verify that their suggestions work, it will give you some food for thought if you’ve already tried it all and your milia persists.

From The Health Wyze Report:

It is widely believed that this condition is due to an exfoliation problem, whereby tiny flakes of dead skin clog the skin’s pores. Our research indicates that this is likely only half of the equation.

The other half is an excess of cholesterol in the skin, where the body frequently deposits its excess cholesterol. This in turn, leads us to a third contributing factor, which is a deficiency of sunlight. A body removes its excess cholesterol in the skin using sunlight, which begins a process of converting it into vitamin D3. Sunlight does not cause this condition, as some other health-related sources have claimed, and in fact, sunlight can cure it in some cases.

and their recommendations for treating milia naturally are:

  • Take frequent showers.
  • Exfoliate the skin.
  • Supplementation with niacin is the single most effective treatment for some sufferers.
  • Avoid sunscreens. (when reasonable)
  • Avoid heavy facial cosmetics.
  • Get moderate sunlight exposure frequently.
  • Reduce high cholesterol foods.
  • Supplement with biotin, because many sufferers find that biotin supplementation alone cures their milia.
  • Do not take vitamin D supplements. *
  • CoQ10 is produced by the body during intense exercise, and is found in meat and fish.  It is used by the body to emulsify oils, and to increase energy.  Emulsifiers make oils water soluble (like soap), which assists in their removal, and thus reduces milia.

* The part about avoiding vitamin D supplements may be shocking to some readers, but people with milia are in a special category. Their bodies need to remove excess cholesterol from their skin, and it does this by converting that cholesterol into a form of vitamin D following sunlight exposure.  If these people have excessive vitamin D, then this process will not occur, and the cholesterol build-up in their skin will continue.

So there you go – if you are a long time milia sufferer and none of the conventional recommendations work, then maybe some of these left-of-centre tips will sort them out for you. I wish you the best!

Watch This Article in Video Form

Have you ever had milia? Share with us what you have done to treat and prevent them!

photo by knoxderm

49 Responses to Non-Conventional Advice on How to Treat and Prevent Milia
  1. Janna
    September 21, 2012 | 12:41 pm

    I get milia on my face and at one time I had quite a few of those white dots around my eyes/upper cheek. I mentioned them to my doctor at a check up one time and she mentioned that most people get them and they will usually go away on their own. They didn’t really bother me too much although they were noticeable to others. Now though, they’re pretty much gone! And although I’m no expert, mine started to disappear when I started taking better care of myself and following your guidelines for acne. About 3 months ago I stopped using drug store cleansers and switched to manuka honey and jojoba oil and I no longer load on the makeup and let my natural skin shine though. I went from drinking zero water to loads, and I am a huge green smoothie fan and veggie eater! Maybe it’s a coincidence, but my skin (acne included!) have improved so much since paying more attention to whats on the inside and out.

    That’s my experience!

    • Tracy
      September 21, 2012 | 3:28 pm

      Great, thanks for sharing your experience Janna :)

      I kind of suspected that milia is probably the same as acne and would respond to a healthier lifestyle in the same way, but wasn’t sure. The one milium I had was before I started “getting healthy”, and I haven’t had one since, so maybe that is saying something?

    • Pat
      May 27, 2013 | 2:10 am

      Coconut oil is the very best. !!! I also tried neem oil for a crusty patch next to my right eye, I thought it was a wart so I continued to use the neem oil for only a couple of days and woke up the next morn. And this growth//wart was gone. Now I use neem oil on most problems.”

  2. Christelle
    September 21, 2012 | 12:47 pm

    Hmm, interesting post. I get milia from time to time – one or two here and there, luckily never a whole bunch at a time (I tried the pin thing too, with worked well for me also). But since I’ve been taking cod-liver oil (about 4 months now), which is high in vitamin D, I haven’t seen any bumps appear. Although having said that, it might be because September has been really sunny in France… my mum told me about the cholesterol thing though. It seems there are many theories as to what causes it.

    Also, and I know this has nothing to do with milia, but still, on a subject that seems to divide the real-food community. I read recently that drinking green-smoothies, or consuming pretty much any dark leafy green raw can cause long-term damage to the thyroid, and cause calcification of soft tissues due to high oxalate levels. I wouldn’t usually have batted an eyelid if it hadn’t been for the fact that the blogpost was written by Sarah from The Healthy Home Economist, and she’s a fervent W.A Price follower… I just wondered if you knew about the whole oxalates/green veg thing, and what your take on that debate was… :-)

    • Tracy
      September 21, 2012 | 3:38 pm

      Hi Christelle,

      Yes, I remember reading that article at the Healthy Home Economist. I remember being fed up at the time because I was in a phase (well, I still kind of am) where I was SOOO sick of nutrition and the fact that no matter what you think you know, someone out there will come up with a perfectly valid sounding argument about why it’s not true. Perfect example being this greens thing. And to be honest, sometimes I do suspect that her and Cheeseslave will write things that are controversial just because they know it will get attention.

      That being said – I’m not necessarily saying she’s wrong, but I agree with what Nathan says below. I have always heard (since the first I ever heard of green smoothies) that you should be rotating your greens, because of these oxalates and other alkaloids. They are generally fine, but if you eat the same green every day for years, the particular ones in that green may build up too much in your body. So to avoid problems, it’s good to get variety, and probably to eat a mixture of cooked and raw greens.

  3. Nathan
    September 21, 2012 | 1:44 pm

    @ Christelle

    I remember reading something about that in a book my Victoria Boutenko (the green smoothie queen, in particular in the ‘Green smoothie revolution’). The oxalic acid is harmful because it can combine with calcium and leach the body of it. Spinach is well known for this, but it is also in coffee, grains and beans.

    The most important thing to do is simply rotate your greens. Don’t eat spinach for weeks on end. As calcium levels are related to the thyroid, this is why it can play havoc with it.

    • Christelle
      September 22, 2012 | 12:29 am

      Thanks Tracy & Nathan, it can get confusing! :-) I agree, “as varied as possible” is probably the most sensible food motto!

      Also, yes, Tracy. I think Sarah definitely likes to play the controversial card, and get people panicking. It’s a shame because her blog is informative, but the patronizing tone doesn’t do it for me. I once read one of her readers’ very pertinent comments to an article asking her to cite her sources instead of just ordering us to do “what’s best” like a bossy mummy. I totally understood what she meant.

      • Tracy
        September 22, 2012 | 8:52 am

        Yes! the “patronizing tone” – those were the words I was looking for. Every time you go there, it’s just another article about why you can’t do this or you can’t do that

  4. Lorena
    September 21, 2012 | 6:20 pm

    Hi! I was confusing milia with whiteheads. I think what I have are whiteheads, they have invaded my ENTIRE face! Some are under the skin but most are exposed and peaking out and so it’s easy to pick at them to get rid of the hard sebum..eeew it’s gross, I know, I’m sorry! I’m having a very hard time keeping my hands off my face. They often become infected and turn into postules:( I don’t wear make-up nor do I exfoliate out of fear of causing more breakouts. I started using jojoba oil (Mountain Rose Herbs brand) along with manuka honey and aloe vera) Do you have any other suggestions? Also, I was wondering if you will be making another post on scarring and hyperpigmentaion (I’m using MSM cream and while it has helped some, it hasn’t gotten rid of my scars/marks…I’m getting kind of desperate. Thanks!

    • Alexa
      September 21, 2012 | 7:08 pm

      sparingly dab pimples with tea tree oil (as well as keep face clean and hands off face) to sterilize zits if you must pick. it helps to prevent inflammation and infection on my face.

      • Alexa
        September 21, 2012 | 7:10 pm

        Also, vitamin e and d internally, in safe quantities as they are both fat soluble, may help with skin. vitamin c is also good for skin – pretty much all vitamins. scars will go away over the months and years, but if you keep picking your face then you will not see scar reduction as you keep creating more scabs.

    • Tracy
      September 21, 2012 | 8:18 pm

      Hi Lorena – if you’ve just started with the jojoba, manuka, and aloe, then just keep going with it! Give it a bit of time. And as Alexa says, try to keep your fingers off your face as much as possible. I know it’s hard though!!

    • Kensi
      September 25, 2012 | 7:43 am

      I had the same problem a bit ago. I ended up turning to conventional skin care products which have helped me tremendously, but I also found a great, totally natural acne-killer. It’s a toner you can make up yourself using equal parts apple cider vinegar and witch hazel, and a few drops of tea tree oil (I use 10 drops per 2 oz of vinegar/witch hazel mixture). I apply it right after washing, morning and night, with a cotton ball, all over my face. Everyone’s different, but this has helped me a lot, and worked quickly.

  5. Alison
    September 22, 2012 | 7:33 am

    Yeah, they are annoying! Luckily, I’m an Esthetician so I just extract them myself! Super simple:)

  6. Brandie Maraziti
    September 22, 2012 | 9:45 pm

    I had one of these just under my left eye not too long ago! Never knew it had a name! (I thought I was just weird. Which I am, but I digress…)

    It was probably there for a couple of weeks — of course, I thought it was a pimple at first and so I tried to pop it… No dice. It seemed to get slightly larger and became more noticeable after a little while and I knew I needed to do something to take care of it. And quick.

    The thought of a needle that close to my eye, however, made me wary. I am rather clumsy, after all! In the end, I sterilized a pair of tweezers and “squeezed” it out that way. And ta da! :)

    Excited to stumble upon your blog — going to explore some more now!

    • Tracy
      September 23, 2012 | 11:07 am

      Lol – yes, it’s pretty simple if you just have one! I can imagine how frustrating it must be though if you’re someone who gets them continuously. Anyway – enjoy the blog, hope you find some useful stuff :)

  7. Stella
    September 23, 2012 | 1:43 am

    Haha, I’ve once extracted them with a needle. It did work pretty well, but looking back now I’m cringing at the thought of getting a needle so close to my eyes :/ I haven’t had them in a long long time, though – knocking on wood!!

    • Tracy
      September 23, 2012 | 11:08 am

      Me neither :D *knocks on wood*

  8. Lauren
    September 23, 2012 | 11:55 pm

    Hi Tracy! I am so happy you posted this, I have milia but have always thought they were whiteheads that were not ready to be popped. What would you recommend for proper exfoliation? Also, would lowering the cholesterol in my diet be in any way effective? I usually eat scrambled eggs every morning, and often for a quick dinner too. The quantity of eggs I eat is larger than most. I am following the Paleo diet, which encourages that I eat a lot. I have also done some baking with coconut flour and the recipes require a lot of eggs because the flour is a bit dry. Anyways, I would love to hear your advice on this matter, I can rely on you better than any google search I could run on skin matters! Thank you Tracy!!!!

    • Tracy
      September 24, 2012 | 8:54 am

      Hi Lauren – there were some recommendations in here that I wasn’t entirely sure about – because lowing cholesterol in your diet is not something I would normally recommend. Did you find that your milia got worse after you became paleo/started eating a lot of eggs? Also, do you get much sunlight on your face (unadulterated, no creams, sunscreens or anything)?
      As for exfoliation, lots of exfoliation is also not something that I would recommend, but I would recommend using like… a yogurt mask, or kefir to exfoliate. The lactic acid in it is a gentle chemical exfoliation, I think manual exfoliation can be a bit much. Normally I would say only exfoliate a couple times a week, but if you suffer from a lot of milia, more might be beneficial.

      Also, niacin or biotin may be an interesting thing to try and see if it helps the milia

  9. Megan
    September 24, 2012 | 7:36 am

    I totally have this and never knew what it was! Thanks for the info!

    • Tracy
      September 24, 2012 | 8:41 am

      No worries :)

  10. Angie
    September 24, 2012 | 11:11 am

    I started reading your blog about a year ago. I have suffered cystic acne since i was about 13. Tried everything in the department stores and some prescription stuff. Nothing worked! Switched to the manuka honey and my face got really red and dry. Switched to regular honey. Same results. Turned out my skin just didn’t like the honey. It also hates aloe and tea tree oil. I was so fed up I started only washing with oatmeal twice a day and doing a benonite mask twice a week. It took about two months but my cystic acne is gone! now I only have to wash my face once a day or every-other day. It is so great. Thanks for getting me started in the right direction. I think everyones skin is different, maybe some readers who haven’t had the best of luck with honey should give the oatmeal and clay a try!

    • Tracy
      September 24, 2012 | 3:36 pm

      Hi Angie – That’s fantastic to hear :D It is true that everyone’s skin is very different – sometimes I can be narrow minded with the honey, lol. However, if that doesn’t work for people, I like to direct them to this article http://thelovevitamin.com/3477/14-natural-face-cleansing-alternatives/

      Lots of alternatives there! Glad to hear you found one that worked so well for you.

  11. John
    October 4, 2012 | 6:55 pm

    Hi Tracy, Thanks for your informative website. I had one of these milia just below my eye. It finally burst all on its own. I attribute this to using a natural glacier mineral soap on my face. It gently purges the skin much the same as a clay mask. I downloaded your ebook and I’m checking out all your discoveries. Im also in the Vancouver area.

  12. M
    October 25, 2012 | 12:44 pm

    Woah. I am happy you did an article on this. Milia is pretty much the only kind of acne I have ever had besides blackheads. They are horrible, and I went in to have them removed by my dermatologist when I was about 19. This effectively got rid of all of them but then when more stress in my life popped up, so did the Milia. I exercise a lot too, and I am curious if this is why I have all this cholesterol build up…as well as high cholesterol running in my family, so this makes sense. I also noticed my brother, who has nearly perfect skin, also has a few milia bumps.
    I don’t eat meat really other than fish, and only occasionally, so what other high cholesterol foods foods are we talking about here besides meat? Cheese?

    • M
      October 25, 2012 | 12:48 pm

      Oh and also, I take a supplement of this Krill Oil, 2 a day for omega 3. It has a high DHA rating apparently, but is this something all people with Milia should avoid? It seems unreasonable that we cannot take supplements with vitamin D.

      • Tracy
        October 26, 2012 | 8:49 am

        Hi M – I’m not really sure.. since I took this information from a website that didn’t elaborate on what it meant exactly, your research and guess is as good as mine, as far as “low cholesterol foods”, and whether it’s unreasonable to take Vitamin D or not when you have milia. Since they seem a little confusing to me too, you might want to check out some of the other suggestions before embarking on those, like giving niacin a try, perhaps?

        As for DHA – DHA isn’t vitamin D, it’s a form of Omega 3

        • M
          October 26, 2012 | 2:33 pm

          Ay ya yai! Some of the health information out there is incredibly loose. I don’t know what to believe anymore! You are right on about the DHA though, I just checked the label…whoops. There is also so much controversy on all these topics. I commend you for having stamina.

  13. Mandy
    December 3, 2012 | 5:54 pm

    Does biotin makes you breakout? I just got my Herbalife shake(protein shake) and it has loads of vitamins on it, it has 20% of biotin, so can I breakout from it??

    • Tracy
      December 3, 2012 | 9:27 pm

      Someone just mentioned on another article that biotin increases sebum production. So maybe!

  14. Debbie
    March 27, 2013 | 11:34 am

    I got one of these little brats under my eye and I know exactly what I did to get it!! I was tired and instead of using eye team I used night cream.. Way to rich!! Any way I heard that exfoliating may help … But seeing that we are dealing with very thin skin I didn’t want to be aggressive with an exfoliater. I used a cleansing face cloth from Norwex (does exfoliate in a more softer way) and in a couple of days ALL GONE!!

  15. Shan
    May 12, 2013 | 9:37 pm

    Think you for posting this!!! It has been near impossible for me to find any ‘real’ info on the topic.
    I started getting these when I was 9 years old- ugh!! Back then, my mom would get rid of them w/a needle. This method still works but is painful & makes me nervous. Have you heard of anyone else getting them at such a young age?
    I’ve been to a few dermatologists, who all say that they are calcium deposits. They typically recommend Retin-A, but it is really drying on the skin under my eyes (& on my eyelids).
    What type of Niacin do you recommend and what dose? I’ll run it by doc before starting anything new.

  16. N
    May 26, 2013 | 2:10 am

    Hi,i got milia under my eyes since i was 16.Its really irritate me from time to time,i’m using exfoliant cleanser but its getting bigger and more :( plz tell me how to get rid of it,nextyear i will apply for job and i want to be look presentable.hope u can help me.thank you.

    • Tracy
      May 26, 2013 | 10:05 am

      Hi N,
      I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling with Milia… have you thought about trying some of the suggestions in the article?

  17. Janet
    June 26, 2013 | 6:36 pm

    I have Millia on my chest. They bother me and then I pick at them! I just want them gone!

    • San
      June 29, 2013 | 7:49 pm

      Hi, everyone, seems I’ve found a very inexpensive way to deal with the milia thing! I was at my mom’s this evening and just happened to see her wash her face with baby shampoo. I asked her why she was doing that and she told me that she had had some skin irritation around her eyes and the doctor suggested she try washing her face with baby shampoo. I thought it was very odd so I just googled “baby shampoo as a facial cleanser” and sure enough, it’s a big hit and sooo many people sing it’s praises. One lady in particular was going on and on about how she had always suffered with milia and how she had a huge milia cyst on her eyebrow for years that refused to go away. Apparently, that big one on her eyebrow took several weeks but eventually came to the surface and popped within a month or so. She swears by the baby shampoo as a face wash. I used it tonight and followed up with my normal moisturizer. It’s worth a try, and inexpensive to boot!

      • Svea
        June 30, 2013 | 1:56 pm

        Hi San,

        thanks a lot for your input! Yes, baby shampoo might be a good idea, but I think you‘ll still have to use the right one (without any petrochemicals and harsh conservatives, if possible). Personally, I like the Weleda Calendula one, but I‘m sure there are still many other great options out there.

  18. Kelley Cornwell
    July 11, 2013 | 11:23 am

    I have had two milia and I never knew what they were called. I had a feeling that they were encapsulated oil plugs because although they were hard they hurt when I tried to mash them. I began scrubbing the area around my eyes and at night mashing up Vitamin C tablets with water to form a paste after a couple of days the bumps dried up so much I literally scratched them off with my fingernail. What was inside was a hard plug that looked like wax. This was years ago and I haven’t had them sense.

  19. Rahul Rawat
    July 25, 2013 | 11:59 pm

    Today i went to a doctor for treatment of milia . i have less number of milia on my face. doctor remove milia from my face through a small needle. doctor advice me to stay away from sunlight.

  20. Leora
    July 26, 2013 | 3:28 pm

    I am so frustrated and I’m trying to figure out what it is I have exactly, I am not sure if its milia but its similar.. i am hoping you can help me or give me some advice.. I know I commented before on this and thank you so much sevea for your advice.. i did look up pics and I think it might be milia but after more research I to be exact its acne comedonica…

    little flesh colored bumps .. it doesn’t show so much but some of them do because there more red.. shows a lot if im under light or when i wear make up because all the bumps pop out.. even tho i dont wear make up so often except when i go to a event its so sad and hard because i have all these tiny bumps and even tho im happy because its not deep acne it actually looks worse.. :(

    i wanted to know if you know anything about it.. what you think the cause can be, what you think I should do..

    my skin routine at the moment.
    I cleanse my face every morning with a natural neautrogena gentle cleanser.. then i put witch hazel on it for toner..

    at night, i cleanse with same cleanser then with hazel, then 5 percent sacylic acid on the spots with all the little bumps.. then 100 percent natural aloe vera to moisterize

    once a week i do an exfoliating toner thing that I leave one which is really good and natural as well, its from kalologie brand not sure if your familiar.

    im taking a multi vitamin ( EVE for women by nOW ) 3 times a day, 17 billion probiotic ( rly good brand got it from whole foods) and ZINC FOR ACNE BY good N naturals- 2 tablets a day ( it has 50 mg zinc, Vitamin B 6 – 20 mg, Vitamin E 50 IU, vitamin C 150 mg, Vitamin A – 1,000 IU as well as Rose hips 10 mg

    (its mostly the right side of my face, my chin, & forehead.. right side of face from mid nose to jaw and chin are the worse parts.

    I hate how your skin takes over your life sometimes I just want to hide :(

  21. Ariell
    July 26, 2013 | 6:29 pm

    It seems like many of you have been quite lucky with your milia. I, however, seem to be a lot less lucky. I have had milia for eight years now. None have ever gone away on their own, and I get more all the time. I eat very well and take good care of my skin in addition to not wearing makeup. I have no idea what to do to remove mine, and I have been to three dermatologists who also were baffled. I don’t really know what to do. :/

  22. e.p.
    August 23, 2013 | 9:14 am

    i had one of these spots between my eyebrow and eyelid. when i visited BC/alberta this summer, i went to the hot springs there. the next day i noticed the milia spot was gone. this could be a total coincidence though. case in point: i am pretty sure hot springs are awesome for your skin :)

  23. Natasha
    September 3, 2013 | 9:22 am

    I dont really know whether i actually have milia seeds, or maybe its just hormones, but some of them turned in to pimples
    So i really dont know what they are:/

    • Svea
      September 4, 2013 | 8:05 am

      Hi Natasha,

      maybe you could see a dermatologist (or naturopath) to make sure if you have milia or regular spots?

  24. Dennis
    November 26, 2013 | 12:41 pm

    Hi

    I had milia on my eye lead since last 5 year, they are small in size so it doesn’t effect me but from last two year they are increasing there size and area.I tried the pin thing too but it doesn’t effect them they come again.

    So can you please suggest me what to do with them.

    Thanks

    • Tracy
      November 27, 2013 | 9:38 pm

      Hi Dennis, try some of the suggestions in this article :)

      • Dennis
        January 20, 2014 | 1:01 pm

        Hi Tracy

        I consult with my dermatologist and take a removal treatment also via needle but they come back please suggest me a permanent sollution.

        Thanx

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