White bumps on the skin are usually a type of acne known as whiteheads. They can also be called facial milia or keratin-filled cysts. Treatments can include cryosurgery and excision.
White bumps on the skin are usually very small—between 1 to 2 mm in diameter—and may appear in clusters. They are fairly common around the delicate eye area. When poked or prodded, they may release a soft white substance. These bumps can even appear on newborns, but they usually go away on their own over time.
There are four types of milia: primary, secondary, eruptive and milia en plaque. Primary milia is the most common; it typically occur on the face and nose. Secondary milia occur in other places all over the body. Eruptive milia usually appear on the neck, head and upper body. Eruptive milia is characterized by a sudden onset of small white bumps. Milia en plaque is an inflammatory type of milia, but it’s also very rare and usually occurs near the ear or upper eyelids.
Your doctor or dermatologist will be able to diagnose the white bumps by observing them. No tests are needed. Get a professional opinion before attempting treatment—your doctor will also be able to determine if the white bumps are benign or something more serious.
White bumps, or milia, can be a result of certain skin disorders like bullous lichen planus and bullous pemphigoid. They can also be caused by certain types of skin trauma, such as burns or dermabrasion. White bumps on the body are usually a result of contact dermatitis.
Primary and secondary types of milia can be left alone to go away on their own. However, a dermatologist may also use a cutting-edge needle to remove the keratin manually. Milia en plaque is usually treated with cryosurgery, surgical excision and dermabrasion. Use of topical drugs like tretinoin, oral etretinate,17 and minocycline have also shown to be effective on milia en plaque.
References and Resources"Emedicine: Milia"; Susan Cooper; September 2009
"Dermatology Onlinee Journal: Bilateral retro-auricular milia en plaque, A case report and review of the literature"; Zahra Hallaji et al.; January 2010
"National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health: Multiple eruptive milia: report of a case, review of the literature, and a classification": R.G. Langley, N.M. Walsh, J.B. Ross; August 1997