How To Treat Milia—the Tiny White Bumps on Your Face

Photo: LeventKonuk /

Do you ever notice texture on your face that isn’t quite acne but is still…there? There may not be any redness, itching, or irritation typically associated with acne, but these tiny white cysts may still add texture to your skin. You may be dealing with milia.

What is milia?

When keratin—a type of protein—gets trapped under the skin’s surface and the dead skin cells don’t exfoliate on their own, these tiny bumps form. They tend to make an appearance on the cheeks, nose, or forehead and are usually harmless. The good news is: they can be treated at home with just a few tweaks to your skincare routine.

What causes milia?

Like most skin concerns, certain skin types are genetically prone to milia. Several factors, like buildup and sun damage, can instigate it.

Treating milia

If milia doesn’t bother you, you can let it be and it’ll naturally disappear within a few weeks. If you get impatient like me, here are a few ways to speed up the exfoliation process.


Dirt and sweat can cause additional buildup to clog your pores, forming milia. Your first line of defense against milia—and any type of breakout for that matter—is thoroughly cleansing your skin.

To make sure you’re getting all of the dirt and debris off your skin, try double cleansing. Start with a nourishing cleansing balm that instantly melts off makeup, dirt, environmental pollutants, and other impurities, without stripping the skin.

Beautylish recommends Good Molecules Instant Cleansing Balm or Sunday Riley Blue Moon Cleanse-Rinse Cleansing Balm

For your second cleanse, go in with ingredients suited to your unique skin. For example, green grape can boost radiance, and honey can serve as a humectant, drawing moisture to the skin to nourish and soothe it.

Beautylish recommends Caudalie Vinoclean Instant Foaming Cleanser or PSA Reset Acai & Manuka Honey Nourishing Cleanser


Active acids—including salicylic and lactic—can help exfoliate the skin and encourage natural cell turnover. Here’s a surefire way to scoop away dead skin cells and help clear pores.

Beautylish recommends Holifrog Halo AHA + BHA Evening Serum or Moon Juice Acid Potion Resurfacing Exfoliator

Try Retinol

Retinol is also super effective in unclogging pores and improving skin texture, helping reduce milia.

Beautylish recommends Sunday Riley A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum or Peter Thomas Roth Even Smoother Glycolic Retinol Resurfacing Serum.

If you’re looking for a natural retinol alternative, Beautylish recommends Herbivore Moon Fruit Retinol Alternative Sleep Mask


Since extended sun exposure can lead to milia, sunscreen is one of your best defenses. And if you amp up your use of exfoliators or retinol, sunscreen is even more essential to your routine.

Beautylish recommends Peter Thomas Roth Max Clear Invisible Priming Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 45 or Chantecaille Ultra Sun Protection Broad Spectrum SPF45

You can also visit your dermatologist for personalized options—extractions, chemical peels, or prescription retinol may help. Word to the wise—don’t try to extract them at home.