Milia are tiny white bumps or pimples. They occur when dead, normally sloughed-off skin becomes trapped in small pockets at the surface of the skin or mouth. Milia are common in newborn infants and appear as pearly white bumps, most commonly across the upper cheeks, nose, and chin. They are also commonly seen on the faces of adults or in areas of trauma or inflammation.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors 

Irritation of the skin by rough sheets or clothing may cause mild reddening around the bump, but the central portion remains white. Irritated milia are sometimes incorrectly referred to as “baby acne” (although it is not actually a form of acne).

As the surface of the white pearly bump wears away, the trapped dead skin is lost, and the bump disappears. Milia generally disappear after the first several weeks of life. In adults, milia may persist indefinitely.

This same type of cystic structure is seen on the gums and soft palate of newborn infants. In these mucous membranes, they are called Epstein’s pearls. These lesions also disappear spontaneously.


  • Whitish, pearly bump in the skin of newborns, typically across cheeks, nose, and chin  
  • Whitish, pearly bump on gums or roof of mouth

Signs and tests 
The doctor can usually diagnose milia just by examining the skin. No testing is necessary.

In children, no treatment is needed. In adults, milia may be removed by a physician for cosmetic improvement.

Expectations (prognosis) 
In children, the lesions disappear spontaneously without treatment and without any residual defect. In adults, milia can usually be removed without scarring.

There are usually no complications.

Calling your health care provider 
If you are concerned about milia, discuss it with your health care provider.

There is no known prevention.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Sharon M. Smith, M.D.

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