It’s a typical Tuesday morning, and you’re stumbling into the bathroom to start your morning skin-care routine when you suddenly see it—a small, white bump near your eyelid. What the heck? These bumps, called milia, are surprisingly common and can fortunately be treated with OTC products. Here, celebrity NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe gives us the scoop on what they are and how to get rid of them for good.
So, what causes these white bumps? “Milia are small cysts filled with keratin and form as a result of the skin’s localized inability to exfoliate naturally. They’ve been linked to prolonged sun exposure and sun damage, and can also form when your pores become clogged from buildup of makeup or skin-care products,” Dr. Bowe explains. Anyone can get them, regardless of skin type or age (they’re actually super common in babies), and although they’re most often found on the face (especially around the nose and eyes), they can also form on your arms or hands.
How do I get rid of them? Whatever you do, don’t pick or poke them. Instead, look for products that promote gentle exfoliation and cell turnover—skip harsh scrubs that are more likely to irritate and inflame the skin than gently resolve the cysts. “Other excellent ingredients to address milia are glycolic acid and retinol, both of which promote cell turnover,” says Dr. Bowe. (Those with sensitive skin should test products first, however, as these ingredients can be aggravating.) Another top tip? Use sunscreen, since milia are linked to sun damage. Dr. Bowe loves La Roche Posay Double Repair Moisturizer with SPF 30 protection.
Any products to avoid? “Very heavy, comedogenic products can contribute to milia, so I always tell my patients to look for the words “non-comedogenic” on their skin-care products as these are non-clogging. I would also recommend avoiding ingredients such as petroleum if you are concerned about milia formation,” advises Dr. Bowe.
How long will it take for my milia to disappear? These pesky bumps can take anywhere between a few weeks and a few months to go away. Other factors, like skin trauma or heavy product use, can play a role in how long it will take, but if you’ve tried all the above tips and nothing’s happening, make sure to see a dermatologist who can bring out the big guns.