Milk spots: What are milk spots and how do you treat and prevent them?

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  • Milk spots, also know as milia, are nothing to worry about in fact, around half of all newborns will develop them.

    Milk spots are very common. However, if you don’t know what they are and have never seen them before you might be worried when your little boy or girl shows signs of them.

    Even singer Aston Merrygold admitted that he went into panic when his newborn had milk spots come up on their face.

    What are milk spots?

    baby milk spots

    Credit: Getty

    Dr Andrew Thornber, GP and chief medical officer at Now Patient, explains: ‘Milk spots are relatively common and are actually small raised spots (1-2mm) underneath the skin. They are very common in small babies and usually appear around the nose, ears and mouth.’

    In fact, according to the NHS 50 per cent of all newborn babies will develop milk spots. They usually clear within the first four weeks after birth and are caused by blocked pores.

    Although they are commonly referred to as milk spots or baby acne, the scientific term is milia or milium cysts.

    A common misconception is that milk spots are caused by breastfeeding but they have nothing to do with milk.

    Dr Thornber dispelled this popular belief, saying: ‘They have nothing to do with milk (or breastfeeding) apart from being white. They are often referred to as baby acne.’

    However, milk spots are also very different to actual acne as the spots have no opening or pore.

    Dr Ross Perry, medical director of CosmedicsUK, explains: ‘It is important to understand that they are a tiny form of cyst rather than whiteheads, which they are sometimes confused with.’

    It is important not to squeeze the spots because this can cause irritation and may lead to permanent damage to your child’s skin.

    What are the symptoms of milk spots?

    The most obvious sign of milk spots is the appearance. Dr Perry says that they do not generally cause any pain or itch unless they become irritated. Dr Thornber also says that some babies show symptoms like small bumps on the roof of the mouth, gums or genitalia.

    How do you prevent and treat milk spots?

    baby milk spots

    Credit: Getty

    Some babies, and people, are more prone to them so it can be difficult to prevent milk spots from developing.

    Dr Thornber says: ‘They can often be caused by a poor skin care routine and products which contain heavy oils and/or mineral oil or lanolin. So maintaining a good skin care routine with suitable products can help to prevent milk spots from developing.’

    For babies, you should focus on washing their face with water and a mild moisturiser which will help to improve the appearance of their skin. You should steer away from creams and medicines that are designed for older children or adults.

    Adults with milia may wish to use facial steams or seek professional advice to get them removed.

    Dr Perry says: ‘Milia may be treated in a number of ways depending on the nature of the problem. Laser offers the ultimate treatment, as it not only destroys the cysts but also stimulates the skin’s healing and cell renewal, so the skin looks healthier.

    ‘Other options for medical treatment of milia are micro-cautery, or micro-needling / blading to incise and remove the collection of sebum [nose grease or oil].’

    He stresses that you should seek help from professionals if the above opens appeal to you.

    Home treatments can include the use of retinoid creams but again, purchase products with caution as misuse can lead to scarring. Basic skin care and regular exfoliation can help improve your skin health and may well stop the milia from returning.