Milia vs. Whitehead: What are their differences?
The little white bumps in different areas of your body, especially the face, may not be acne but a skin condition called milia.
- Whiteheads are a common type of acne that occurs when bacteria, dead skin cells, or a type of oil produced by the skin's sebaceous gland clogs the pores of the skin. Milia, on the other hand, is not a type of acne but a skin condition caused by old skin cells trapped under the skin.
- Whiteheads and milia differ, particularly in their causes and symptoms. Also, while milia is more common in newborns, whiteheads tend to occur more in teenagers and adults due to hormonal changes.
- Milia affects people of all ages, including newborns, is usually harmless, and often does not require treatment as it usually clears up. However, some home remedies can help clear milia, such as washing your face thoroughly twice daily.
It is common for some skin conditions to be mistaken for others because they have remarkable similarities, and two skin conditions that fall into this category are milia and whiteheads.
Without the assistance of a dermatologist, differentiating between the two conditions may not be easy because both conditions cause little whitish bumps to appear on the skin.
While it is essential to specify that milia is not a type of acne and its causes differ from those of whiteheads, it is also necessary to know what distinguishes both conditions from one another.
What is milia?
It is common for your skin to shed every once in a while. But in some people, as it sheds, old skin cells get trapped under the new skin, causing milia.
Milia is common in newborns, with about 40–50% of them experiencing it. Neonates experience this condition due to their delicate skin, which is prone to shedding. However, adults can also develop milia due to other factors such as the overuse of steroids, exposure to sunlight, and skin damage from rashes.
What is whitehead?
Whiteheads—also called closed comedones—are a type of non-inflammatory acne with a white or yellowish head. They occur due to clogging of skin pores by oil (sebum) produced by sebaceous glands in the skin, dead skin cells, or bacteria.
Whiteheads can form on your face and other parts of the body, like the chest, upper arm, and back. But you can treat them using over-the-counter treatments like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and AHAs (glycolic acid and lactic acid).
This skin condition is common in teenagers and adults undergoing hormonal changes.
The difference between milia and whiteheads
Milia and whiteheads may seem alike due to their appearance, but they are different from each other and do not have the same cause.
One of the primary distinctions is that whitehead is a type of acne caused by oil (sebum) and bacteria clogging the skin pores, whereas milia occurs when the old skin cells that should shed get stuck under your skin.
Milia is a common skin condition in babies, including adults, and is typically not a huge concern because it goes away within a few weeks or months after first appearing, in contrast to whiteheads, which require adequate care with over-the-counter medications.
Also, milia is typically painless and doesn’t cause itching or discomfort, while whiteheads can be painful and cause uncomfortable sensations.
Milia and whiteheads differ from one another in several ways, as shown in the table below.
Can skincare products help remove milia?
Yes, skincare products can help get rid of milia. In most cases, if your baby has congenital milia—a primary milia that occurs in newborns—it resolves within a few weeks or months of birth. But other forms of milia may not resolve on their own, and you may need some skincare products or procedures to get rid of them.
Some skincare products that can help remove milia
To eliminate milia from the skin, incorporating certain skincare products into your routine can simplify the process. Skincare products that may help eliminate milia include:
- Skin exfoliators like glycolic acid and salicylic acid
- Retinol creams
- Chemical peels
Additionally, your dermatologist may use some beauty procedures to remove milia from your skin. Some of these procedures include:
How to get rid of milia that’s around the eyes using home remedies
The eyes are very delicate, and to remove milia around them, you do not need to use a harsh approach. Simple home remedies can help you get rid of milia around your eyes.
Some home recommendations that may help include:
- Washing your face twice
- Using exfoliators and facial peels
- Always use sunscreen with SPF 50 before you go out during the daytime. Also, reapply every 2 hours.
How long does it take for milia to go away?
Usually, milia will go away on its own after a few weeks or months, especially the congenital milia seen in babies. But other forms of milia may take a longer time to go away.
If your milia or that of your baby takes a longer time to resolve, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist.
When to see a dermatologist
If this skin condition persists after a few weeks or months and after home remedies, you should consider consulting a dermatologist for proper assessment and treatment.
It is discomforting to realize your skin is not looking its best, even if what you have is a minor skin issue. Both milia and whiteheads can be concerning for people who have them; however, it is important that you don’t mistake one for the other. This is where your dermatologist comes in—to help you figure out the exact skin issue you have and how to treat it.
Even though milia is not a skin condition of concern, the blemishes it leaves might make you feel uneasy and insecure. However, by using the suggested treatments, you can regain your confidence.