Those stubborn white bumps on your face that refuse to go away? They might be a common skin condition called milia and not to be confused with the equally pesky whiteheads you battled as a teen.
In fact, milia, which are described as tiny pearl-like bumps that form under the epidermis, aren’t considered acne— and you can get them at any age (not even babies are exempt from this one).
Derived from the Greek word for “seed,” milia happens when there is a buildup of dead skin cells trapped beneath the surface, says Danné Montague-King, founder of DMK skincare. They’re typically found under the eyes, but can also appear in other areas of the face like the nose, chin, and apples of the cheeks.
While regular exfoliating (try Boscia’s Exfoliating Peel Gel, $34; sephora.com), facials, and mild chemical peels can help prevent the issue from developing, getting rid of the blemishes, Montague-King warns, is a bit more complicated. Unlike the whiteheads or blackheads you can safely remove at home, milia won’t budge, no matter how hard you squeeze. And he advises his patients not to try, as doing so can lead to the spread of bacteria, scarring, and actual pimples.
Instead you’ll want to visit an aesthetician or dermatologist for a proper extraction. From there, they’ll either slough off the dead cells with various treatments to naturally “flush away” the milia or gently pierce the skin with a lancet, or a pricking needle, and manually remove the dead cells. In other words, you should not attempt this at home.