Milia aren't pimples, they're not your typical whiteheads, and they can't be popped and forgotten about the next day. But, if you're wondering how to get rid of milia — those teeny skin-colored bumps that mysteriously appear beneath your eyes — you should know that there are products that can banish milia bumps and prevent new ones from forming.
Since so few of us know much about the enemy we're dealing with, let's start by actually understanding why milia form on the delicate skin under your eyes:
“Milia are small epidermoid cysts — thin-walled balls of keratin that sit under the top layers of the skin,” says Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills. “Because the overlying pore has closed, these whiteheads – like lesions — can take a very long time to resolve on their own.”
Milia tends to develop on the face (cheeks, eyelids, nose, chin) as small, white-yellow bumps, Shainhouse says, and can occur in adults due to aggressive or irritating cosmetic procedures (dermabrasion, chemical peels, ablative laser treatment, tattoos) or within healing blisters and scars.
A dermatologist can express the keratin out of milia using a small blade (but do not try this at home) — or you can rely on over the counter ingredients that can get the job done.
“Topical alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid and lactic acid, can be useful ingredients for mild exfoliation of the skin to encourage the milia to come to the surface and eventually pop out,” Shainhouse says. “Try an acid toner or home peel twice a week, or look for a face lotion containing alpha hydroxy acids. On the spot salicylic acid treatments can be used over the milia to slowly peel the overlying skin, and thin out the layers that are trapping the milia cyst. Use this at night time.”
Topical retinoids may be helpful at preventing the development of new milia cysts, Shainhouse says, and advises to look for ingredients over the counter retinoids like adapalene and retinol that encourage cell turnover and reduce the stickiness of cells in the pore, helping to bring them to the skin surface, where they can be washed off.
While milia bumps aren't harmful, if you'd like to get rid of milia under your eyes these seven products can help.
1A Prescription-Strength Topical Retinoid Gel
As the first FDA-approved over the counter retinoid with 0.1 percent adapalene (which was previously available only with a prescription), this gel normalizes skin cell turnover and attacks milia and other forms of acne by unclogging pores and reducing inflammation. It's important to note that this treatment is strong and effective, which means that it's important to start slow and stick with it.
2Super Convenient Glycolic Acid Treatment Pads
Each of these glycolic acid treatment pads contains 20 percent glycolic acid for maximum exfoliation, as well as vitamins A, C, and E and Co-Q10 to promote collagen productions, moisturize, and even out skin tone. Start by using them at night once or twice a week until your skin adjusts — the convenience of these pads will blow you away.
3A Non-Irritating Liquid Treatment With Two Percent BHA
One of the concerns many of us (and especially those of us with sensitive skin) have when using salicylic acid is that it will dry out the skin or cause irritation. This exfoliating liquid with two percent BHA is non-irritating, fragrance free, and ideal for all skin types. It helps unclog pores and slough away bumpy skin, including milia. Use it up to twice daily after cleansing and toning and before applying moisturizer.
4An Exfoliating Cleanser With Glycolic Acid
With 2.5 percent glycolic acid and a combination of hydrating and soothing essential oils like rose hip, willow bark, tea tree, and jojoba oils, this exfoliating cleanser sloughs away dead skin cells and dirt, but leaves behind a smooth and soft complexion. To boot: its ingredients help lighten acne scars and hyperpigmentation.
5A Lactic Acid Peel With Yam And Pumpkin Enzymes
This gentle peel contains exfoliating lactic acid and glycolic acid blended with beta carotene-rich yam enzymes, antioxidant pumpkin purée, and willowbark extract to reduce the appearance of pores. It's pretty much one of the most nourishing and effective peels for removing milia and dead skin cells and adding moisture and a protective barrier to skin. It's safe for all skin types, but not recommended on areas with active acne.
6A Natural, Organic Retinol Serum With Hyaluronic Acid
This retinol serum contains 2.5 percent retinol, vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, and jojoba oil, which combine to unclog pores, fade acne scars, stimulate collagen production, and moisturize skin (retinol can be irritating and drying on some skin types and these added ingredients help keep skin hydrated). It's made with natural and organic ingredients and is formulated without parabens, harsh chemicals, artificial colors, dyes, or fragrances — it's even safe on sensitive skin. Apply this serum at night to your face, paying attention to milia (but be careful not to get it in your eye), and, with continued use, you should start seeing a difference within a few weeks.
7A Salicylic Acid And Sulfur Spot Treatment
This salicylic acid and sulfur acne spot treatment can be applied directly to milia at night to help exfoliate the skin on top of cysts and heal these bumps. It will take patience and endurance, but with continued use, reviewers say it works to clear up problem skin — and the added sulfur is gentle on sensitive skin and helps reduce redness from inflammation.
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