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Reader Q&A: "What are These White Bumps on My Face? And How Can I Get Rid of Them?"

Posted 07/25/11 at 02:17PM by Audrey Fine

Ever have a whitehead (or three) on your face that just will not go away? You're not alone. Dawn K. in Redlands, Calif. writes: "Dear Total Beauty: What are these white bumps on my face? I've tried popping them and they just won't leave! How Can I Get Rid of Them?"

Dear Dawn: We won't lecture you about how you're not supposed to "pop" things on your face, because we're pretty sure that was just a momentary lapse in judgment brought on by the frustration you must've been feeling over the bumps. ('Cause you do know that poking and squeezing your own skin usually causes more harm than good by introducing bacteria and irritating already irritated conditions, right?)

Rather, we'll try to set your mind at ease by telling you that those "white bumps" are milia -- or large whiteheads/little cysts -- and they're extremely common. Milia happen as a result of keratin (a substance that occurs naturally in skin and hair) getting trapped beneath the top layer of the skin. They're usually found on the cheeks, under the eyes, across the forehead and on the nose.

The misleading thing about milia is that they look like whiteheads, and people try to lance them with a needle and squeeze out the contents. Bad idea. Unlike a whitehead, what's "inside" a milium is a hard substance and extraction is difficult.

Instead, try treating the offending bump(s) with a topical retinoid or product containing salicylic acid -- both will help to slough off dead skin cells and work towards "eating away" at the milia.

You can also head into the dermatologist's office to have them professionally removed via an acid peel or microdermabrasion treatment.

Have more skin questions? Our Expert Q&As address a whole bunch of common concerns.
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1-6 of 7 Comments

  • Posted by GigiSD on 05/23/13 at 08:27pm

    Thanks--these make me crazy!

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  • Posted by EricaC123 on 12/30/12 at 06:55am


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  • Posted by Kiara on 07/01/12 at 07:29pm

    I have them as well. I've been trying Neutrogena's 3-in-1 Acne Stress Relief Hydrating Acne Treatment with 2% Salicylic acid on the tiny ones just under my eyes. So far very little, if any, improvement.

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  • Posted by beautybody on 03/26/12 at 09:24am

    Good tips. I just met someone who was complaining of this exact thing. At least I can mention this article and the tips mentioned.

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  • Posted by powerwoman033 on 03/13/12 at 04:50pm

    I always have at least one of these of my face at all times. Now I know what to call it! I had one on my eyelid and after dotting a salicylic acid product on it for about a month, it came off. There is hope!

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  • Posted by kiley_marie on 11/22/11 at 10:33am

    I have them too :( thanks!

    Report Abuse

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