If you’re reading this then you probably already know exactly what I mean by ‘small ball like bumps’ that are super common under the eyes. Do you have some? Do you have something that sounds like this, but they aren’t under your eyes? Let me tell you my friend, these small ball like bumps are not fussy and they are also super common on your cheeks, nose and body (!)… I’ve also had them on my chin!
So what actually are these small ball like bumps? What causes them and what the heck can be done to persuade them to party somewhere else?
What Are These Small Ball Like Bumps Under My Skin?
Do you watch horror films? If there is one classic horror film moment that has me on the edge of my seat all the darn time (!) it’s the one where someone who’s ALL alone in the house, in the DARK, get’s a knock on the door, or the even scarier version, just hears a ‘noise’ outside and decides to go, open the door, step outside the front door and then announce that they are there, ‘hello, hello, is anyone there?’.
Yeek, I’m thinking about starting my own self defence classes for film stars that teach the normal response of curling up under a duvet with 999 on speed dial *winks*.
What makes that moment so darn scary is you’ve got literally no clue (well, apart from the scary, heart pound-y crescendo-ing music) what the heck is out there. It could be a next door neighbors cat, it could be a tree knocking against your window in the breeze or it could be a serial killer who’s luring you into his comfort zone!
It’s obviously always the last right?
Skin things, like small ball like bumps under the skin can feel scary because you got no clue what they are and if you’re not sure what they are, it feels like you can’t do anything about them.
Well my friend let me give you a little control back over those small ball like bumps.
Let’s start by giving them a name – these small ball like bumps under the skin are called Milia or Milium cysts for long.[Some classic milia pictures, here, here and here]
So, What Actually Are Milia?
Milia are probably one of the most benign skin conditions. They can be especially pesky, but they aren’t causing your skin any stress like inflammation (skin redness) and they are not going to be channelling Mt.Vesuvious vibes like the cycle of most other ‘spots’.
Milia are a collection of skin cells that’ve all gotten stuck together.
You’ll hear milia described as ‘collections of keratin’ and that is also completely right (just the more science way) of saying a lot of skin cells that’ve gotten stuck together *winks*.
These skin cells get super attracted to each other, which turns them into solid ‘ball like bumps’ that feel pretty hard, like a seed that’s been planted under your skin.
Why Do I Have Milia?
…and how have they gotten a free-pass to party on down on your skin? Because Milia are caused by too many skin cells, they generally have 2 reasons for popping up. Firstly your skin’s manufacturing machine is getting super excited and working a little too speedily, or secondly, your pores are becoming clogged because skin isn’t being ‘turned-over’ or ‘shed’ at the normal speed, basically it’s hanging around a little too long and that means you’re taking a visit to milia seed town.
These 2 causes of milia can be triggered off by lots of factors, let’s get our eyes on the most common milia seed triggers…
- Too much sun exposure/sun damage. If you love to sun worship (I am with you there!) then your skin will naturally make some changes to help protect itself. One of the most common changes is for skin to thicken itself. Skin does this by creating a deeper layer of your surface skin cells which are prime candidates to forming milia seeds.
- Blisters/Blistering skin conditions/Blistering plants like poison ivy and nettle stings. Blistering can cause damage to the ducts in your skin. It’s kinda like trying to cram a weekends worth of clothes into your handbag *winks*. The opening stays the same size but that bag expands into the ‘universe and beyond’, Mary Poppins how did you do it? Then you realise you left your car keys right at the bottom and you gotta dig around ‘by touch’ I mean there’s no way we’re unpacking this baby 1 item at a time! This damage causes skin cells to get trapped in effected skin ducts, which cause milia.
- Formed following a rash or skin injury. This could be after a rosacea episode or dermatitis type allergic response. These skin conditions effect your skin’s metabolism, both the way it grows at the rate it sheds at. Those are the 2 key factors in milia formation.
- Skin resurfacing procedures like dermabrasion. These cause tiny, tiny damages to your skin in order to jump-start your skins protective healing systems. Know how when you suffer a deep skin trauma scar tissue will form, it can stand up from your skin and look different to all the skin around it because it formed real fast and in a different way to how most skin grows. It was courtesy of your skins ambulance brigade that jump start skin growth. Skin resurfacing procedures can over-stimulate skin cell growth leading to milia.
- Steroid creams… and other oral medications have the side effect of milia. We don’t know the full scientific back-story of why they occur with these medicines, but you can bet your house on them stimulating too much skin cell growth or preventing natural exfoliation.
How Can You Treat Milia?
To take away the final piece of horror film scare from the pesky milia you need to know how to wave them away to milia heaven. There are 2 key super simple ways that I bet you’ve already guessed!
- Exfoliation. You know those filters at events entrances or in the London underground, the ones where you might be in the middle of a super important girl pal catch-up and you have to break for a second to negotiate the turnstyles. This is what exfoliation does for milia. It stops them getting so much opportunity to ‘stick together’. Physical exfoliation (for preventing) will help to physically and naturally speed up your skin cell turnover, and chemical exfoliation will help to treat existing milia by penetrating the actual milia seed and softening it until it’s no longer a seed. The 2 classic all-star chemical exfoliates are glycolic acid and salicylic acid. If you are a newbie to exfoliation, then this post, will get you to exfoliation savvy street.
- A visit to a qualified aesthetician or dermatologist to remove them. If you’ve tried chemical exfoliation for over a month (every day) and those pesky milia seeds aren’t budging then you might need an ‘extraction’. This is just like lifting up the lid that is holding the mila seed in, a quick (careful!) poke with a needle and that skin cell party is coaxed out.
Do you find your skin is prone to milia? Where do you usually find them cropping up? Come chat in the comments below…
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.