How to Deal With Those Weird Flesh-Colored Bumps That Pop Up Around Your Eyes

Getting really close to the magnifying mirror can open your eyes to minuscule imperfections on your skin, like tiny, flesh-colored bumps that form on and around your eyelids and lash line. While they may look like a whitehead or a pimple, it turns out these bumps are totally harmless but can hinder your ability to get a perfect cat’s-eye. Here’s why they keep popping up and how you can deal with them. 

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Something Is Trapped Under Your Skin
Often mistaken for whiteheads or skin tags, these benign bumps, called milia, are incredibly stubborn and can last for weeks, months or sometimes even longer. Milia can form from oil glands that have not fully or properly developed and instead of the skin sloughing off like it normally does, it gets trapped and eventually turns into a bump. “Tiny white bumps along the eyelid or lash line are typically milia cysts which form when keratin proteins that make up the outer layer of skin are trapped under the surface of your skin over time,” says New York dermatologist Jody Levine, MD. “The most common tiny, flesh-colored bumps found around the eyes are milia; syringomas, which are caused by sweat duct tumors; and xanthelasma, which are caused by cholesterol deposits under the skin.” These can look similar to each other and a skin care professional can help you distinguish between them.

Your Makeup Might Make It Worse
Milia can also form as a result of pore-clogging cosmetics, skin care products like sunscreen and heavy creams, or even sun exposure. “While eye creams, eyeliners or under-eye concealers could be the culprits to their formation, milia can also be seen in individuals who have never used any cosmetics or skin care products,” says New York oculoplastic surgeon Irene Glastein, MD. “Don’t be too bummed about those weird white bumps—there is a silver lining. If you stick to a proper skin care regimen that includes regularly washing your face, you will see a reduction in the occurrence of milia and simultaneously improve skin quality, resilience, and overall health.”

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Avoid Heavy Products
The skin on and around your eyelids is very thin and more likely to experience milia due to comedogenic (pore-clogging) creams and lotions that may prevent the natural exfoliation process of dead skin cells. Washing your face and exfoliating regularly may help prevent the bumps from forming.“Due to the role of trapped oil in milia formation, it is best to avoid oil-based makeup removers and under-eye creams,” says Dr. Gladstein. “You might also consider switching from heavier cosmetics and skin care products to those with thinner formulations like gels or lotions.” Remove your makeup every night by washing with a gentle, detoxifying cleanser that has deep-cleansing properties like Kenzoki Amazing Cleansing Water ($25) or belif Problem Solution Cleansing Foam ($24).

Try Steaming Your Face
At-home remedies like facial steaming with a facial tea that contains a mix of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, exfoliating or oil-controlling ingredients may be helpful in treating milia and unclogging pores because it helps loosen and remove dead skin cells and debris. A nourishing tea-infused steam like Fig & Yarrow Winter Herbal Steam ($26) or Skin Owl Marigold Glow Beauty Steam ($48) delivers beauty benefits straight into your pores. The mix of herbs and botanicals can combat oiliness and soften skin while giving you a relaxing dose of aromatherapy. “Things like aloe, pomegranate peel powder, castor oil or sandalwood and rose water paste can help,” says Dr. Gladstein. “These may not be ‘magic potions,’ but they will keep your skin smooth, which is helpful in dealing with milia. It usually takes multiple approaches to produce the best results.”

A Doctor Can Help
Milia will often resolve on their own, usually in a matter of weeks although some can take longer. However, if the bumps on your eyelid or lash line don’t go away, schedule an appointment with your doctor or aesthetician to diagnose the cause and to develop a targeted treatment plan. Typically, your doctor or aesthetician can easily extract the contents of the milia, which will cause the bumps to shrink down to nothing, but don’t try to pick, pop or extract them yourself no matter what. If they keep popping up, treatments including topical medications, chemical peels or lasers are available. “If you are concerned about the bumps and see little to no improvement, speak with your dermatologist because they may be indicative of another associated underlying condition,” advises Dr. Levine.

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