Here’s yet another reason to heed the advice of dermatologists, estheticians, beauty editors and pretty much everyone with really amazing skin, and add exfoliation to your skin care routine already: milia. That’s the clinical term, but you may know them as those tiny white bumps that definitely aren’t pimples, but stubbornly live around your around your nose, eyes and cheeks.
As XOVain points out, these bothersome little blemishes are actually keratin-filled cysts, or dead skin that’s been trapped just below the skin’s surface. A few months back, during one of my monthly facials with the amazing Sophia Phan (best medical esthetician in Beverly Hills; if you live in the area or plan to visit, go see her), she pointed out that, in addition to an inordinate amount of blackheads, I had some milia under my eyes. I’ll be honest—I was kind of mortified. The truth is, I had been slacking off in the exfoliation department AND I had been using more SPF than usual, having recently spent 10 days in the sun on my honeymoon in the Caribbean. I had also been spray tanning a lot. I needed more extractions than usual, and Sophia had to lance the milia—which, to be honest, wasn’t that big of a deal and did not really hurt. Still, the congestion and clogged pores were, as Sophia pointed out, a consequence of inadequate exfoliation on my part. If anything, I am probably more often guilty of the opposite. Exfoliation is my thing! With that in mind, here are a few of my go-to methods. I’ve been ahead of the situation since that unfortunate incident, and there have been no further milia issues. Also—and this is going to hold true for pretty much everyone, save for those with ultra-sensitive skin—my complexion always looks better, smoother and younger when regularly exfoliated.
- Professional chemical peels. These are my ultimate answer to all skin woes—a heavy TCA or Jessner’s peel works wonders not only for congested pores, but for improving rough texture, making fine lines disappear, and fading dark spots. They’re not for everyone. If you have darker skin, proceed with caution and don’t try anything “professional” at home. (Nobody should try anything “professional” at home.) Also, don’t plan on getting a peel if you’ll be in the sun for extended periods of time in the weeks that follow. (Honestly, there is never really a great time for a proper peel, as there’s downtime involved, and it isn’t pretty. You may not want to go out in public for a good week, so that poses problems for those of us with office jobs.) If you can make the time just once a year? Trust me—do it. You’ll find that you can go longer between Botox injections, if you’re into those. You’ll basically discover a new face that looks like it’s from 5-10 years ago. And your pores will be clear, clear, clear.
- At-home chemical peels. Dennis Gross makes one you’ve probably read about—the Alpha Beta Peel. These are awesome because you can use them every day if your skin is tolerable, and given that they come in packets, they’re travel-friendly. I also love the 20% treatment pads from Glycolix. Relatively speaking, they’re inexpensive, and they get the job done wonderfully. Glytone also makes a great Mini Peel Gel, which many beauty pros actually recommend for the sole purpose of nipping milia in the bud.
- A heavy-duty scrub. It’s not for everyday use, and if you have sensitive skin, it’s not for you, but Replenix (sister brand to the aforementioned Glycolix, and nope, this is not a sponsored post) makes an AMAZING concoction called Fortified Exfoliation Scrub. It’s a hot scrub, meaning, it heats up upon contact with water, and let me tell you, it gets hotter than any other product like this I’ve ever tried. I’m talking the kind of heat you get from a hot stone massage. I use it maybe every other week; my husband is now obsessed with it and uses it once a week post-shave. It will make your face baby-soft and utterly glowing, but again—not something you want to get overzealous with. Try it, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
- A Clarisonic. There’s no way you haven’t heard of this wonderful device, and if you’re on the fence as to whether you need one, I’m here to tell you that you do. I think the brand claims that this gadget cleanses 5 times more thoroughly than with your hands alone—that is not marketing hype. But more than removing makeup remnants, it gives just the right amount of scrub. There are brushes for all skin types, too. (Ask someone at the beauty counter which is right for you.) If I’m wearing a full face of makeup, I use mine at the end of the night with whatever gel cleanser is closest (right now, I’m really into Phytomer Purifying Cleansing Gel… everything from that brand is heavenly) after a preliminary cleanse/makeup removal with DHC Deep Cleansing Oil. Then I put on a heavy night cream and wake up with plump, healthy-looking skin—like I just had an oxygen treatment with Sophia. (Almost.)
Check out the article on XOVain to see what else they have to say about milia.