Milia are tiny white bumps or small cysts on the skin. They are almost always seen in newborn babies.
Milia occur when dead skin becomes trapped in small pockets at the surface of the skin or mouth. They are common in newborn infants.
Similar cysts are seen in the mouths of newborn infants. They are called Epstein pearls. These cysts also go away on their own.
Adults may develop milia on the face. The bumps and cysts also occur on parts of the body that are swollen (inflamed) or injured. Rough sheets or clothing may irritate the skin and mild reddening around the bump. The middle of the bump will stay white.
Irritated milia are sometimes called "baby acne." This is incorrect since milia are not a true from of acne.
Symptoms may include:
- Whitish, pearly bump in the skin of newborns
- Bumps that appear across the cheeks, nose, and chin
- Whitish, pearly bump on gums or roof of mouth (they may look like teeth coming through the gums)
Exams and Tests
The health care provider can often diagnose milia just by looking at the skin or mouth. No testing is needed.
In children, no treatment is needed. Skin changes on the face or cysts in the mouth often go away after the first few weeks of life without treatment. There are no lasting effects.
Adults may have milia removed to improve their appearance.
There is no known prevention.
Habif TP. Acne, rosacea, and related disorders. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 7.
Long KA, Martin KL. Dermatologic diseases of the neonate. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 666.
James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Epidermal nevi, neoplasms, and cysts. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 29.
Review Date 4/4/2019
Updated by: Liora C. Adler, MD, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, Hollywood, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.