Glowing and flawless skin is the dream of every woman. But no matter how much we take care of our skin, there are some ‘mysterious’ issues that keep haunting us! One of them is ugly white and hard spots all over the facial skin. If you notice carefully, you may find those ‘tiny monsters’ on your eyelids, around your eyes, or even on your cheeks. Well, we are talking about oil bumps. These unsightly spots may not be harmful to you but can come in the way of your beautiful appearance. So, here is everything that you need to know about them along with a number of natural remedies as well as other techniques to get rid of oil bumps.
What Are Oil Bumps?
Oil bumps are medically termed as ‘milia’ or ‘milium cysts’ or ‘milk spots’. These are tiny, dome-shaped ‘cysts’ or bumps that are 1-2 mm. in size and white or yellowish in color. They are typically found on different parts of the face like forehead, eyelids, undereye area, nose, cheeks, and lips in clusters. But they can appear on other parts of the body including torso and genitalia as well. Oil bumps are basically cysts filled with keratin protein, which are usually formed when the protein gets trapped underneath the surface of the skin. Unlike pimples, these hard bumps refuse to burst but they are not itchy, painful, or harmful in any way. They only look ugly if you have a lot of them and can cause discomfort when in touch with any cloth or sheet of rough texture. However, natural home remedies and certain medical treatments can remove them easily.
Though oil bumps are most common in newborns (often mistaken for ‘baby acne’), they can affect people of any age or ethnicity.
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What Causes Oil Bumps?
Well, the causes of oil bumps in newborns are still unknown. But in older children and adults, it is mostly caused as the keratin protein becomes trapped under the skin due to some type of damage to the skin. You can experience them from the blistering resulted from certain skin conditions (epidermolysis bullosa or EB, cicatricial pemphigoid, porphyria cutanea tarda or PCT, etc.) or injuries (burns, poison ivy rashes, etc.). Long-term exposure to sunlight or steroid creams can also lead to the appearance of oil bumps. You can even develop them after undergoing skin resurfacing procedures like laser resurfacing, microdermabrasion, and so on. In fact, aging can also cause oil bumps as the skin loses its natural ability to exfoliate.
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Different Types Of Oil Bumps
According to the causes lying behind, oil bumps or milium cysts can be divided into the following categories (1):
1. Neonatal Milia
Neonatal Milia affects almost 40% of all newborns in America. Found on the face, nose, inner mouth, upper trunk, and scalp of newborns, these bumps are usually present from birth and disappear on their own just within a few weeks. They all are similar in size with no redness around them.
Neonatal Milia are different from Neonatal Acne, which are white bumps of variable sizes with prominent redness surrounding them.
2. Primary Milia
In Primary Milia, those tiny cysts are found mostly on and around the eyelids along with forehead, nasal crease, cheeks, and genitals. It can occur in both children as well as adults and can take from a few weeks to several months to disappear without treatment.
3. Juvenile Milia
Juvenile Milia is caused by rare genetic disorders that have negative impacts on the skin. Some of them include Nevoid Basal Cell Carcinoma Syndrome (NBCCS), Pachyonychia congenita (PC), Gardner’s syndrome, and Bazex-Dupré-Christol Syndrome (BDCS). However, it is not very common.
4. Milia En Plaque
In this type of milia, multiple bumps are clumped together to form a wide, flat patch or plaque with a clear or defined border elevated above the adjacent skin. It appears on eyelids, cheeks, jaw, behind the ears, etc. and are occasionally associated with genetic or autoimmune skin disorders like pseudoxanthoma elasticum, discoid lupus erythematosus, and lichen planus. Though it mostly occurs in middle-aged females, others can also be affected by this condition.
5. Multiple Eruptive Milia
It is another rare type of milia in which numerous cysts appear together in the same area over a span of time (from several weeks to months). It can be found on the face, upper arms, and torso, which often feel itchy.
6. Traumatic Milia
Traumatic Milia, also known as Secondary Milia, is a type of milia that follows injuries to the skin. Such cysts usually look irritated with white centers and red edges. You can develop these after severe burns, blistering, rashes, etc. Excessive exposure to sunlight and skin resurfacing procedures can also lead to such milia.
7. Drug- Or Product-Related Milia
Use of certain topical medications, steroid creams, and beauty products can also lead to milia. Some of the most common ingredients that affect milia-prone skin are mineral oils (liquid paraffin, liquid petroleum, paraffin oil, paraffinum liquidum, petrolatum liquid, petroleum oil), lanolin, etc.
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Natural Ways To Get Rid Of Oil Bumps
Now, here are some simple natural remedies that can help you get rid of those pesky oil bumps:
1. Facial Sauna
The steam treatment is highly effective in unclogging skin pores by eliminating sebum and dead cell buildups. All you need to do is give yourself a nice facial sauna by steaming your face for 15-20 minutes daily. You can also dip a washcloth or soft towel in hot water, squeeze the extra water out, and place it over your face. The result will be visible in a few weeks.
2. Olive Oil
Warm up a little organic olive oil (extra virgin one is even better) and massage the troubled parts of your face. For faster and better outcomes, blend olive oil with some sweet almond oil or organic coconut oil. You can even add some castor oil and a little baking soda to the olive oil and scrub your face gently with the mixture. All these will loosen buildups from your pores and cure oil bumps naturally.
3. Castor Oil
Castor oil is not only a natural antibacterial agent but it also helps in controlling the production of oil or sebum. Hence, massaging the bumpy areas of the skin with it directly or a blend of castor oil and olive oil (1:1) will help you get rid of the issue effectively. However, make sure that your skin soaks up the oil completely after each application. Alternatively, prepare a paste by mixing baking soda with castor oil, apply it to your face, and wash off after 20 minutes.
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When it comes to healing skin issues like oil bumps, honey is considered as a magic ingredient. It is antibacterial, anti-fungal, antioxidant, and emollient by nature, which helps in maintaining the skin’s oil balance, thereby keeping skin pores clean. Either massage your face with pure raw honey or combine 2 tablespoons of it with 1 tablespoon of jojoba oil for better upshots. In order to increase the exfoliating power of your honey mixture, you can also add some oatmeal and granulated sugar to it.
5. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has amazing skin benefits, which can help us get rid of oil bumps too. Take some sap out of a fresh aloe leaf or get your hands on some pure aloe vera gel. Apply it to your problem spots, leave overnight, and see the magic! A blend of aloe vera gel and green tea or turmeric paste can also clear up your skin quite efficiently.
6. Pomegranate Peel Powder
Sun-dry some pomegranate peels, grind them into a fine powder and prepare a paste by mixing it with a little water. You need to rub it gently on your skin and let it sit for 30 minutes before rinsing off. A facial mask made of roasted pomegranate powder and fresh rose water or lemon juice can cure oil bumps in around 3 weeks.
Refrigerate a potato, grate it finely, and spread it over the troubled areas of your skin. Alternatively, extract the juice of a potato and apply it to your face with the help of a cotton pad. Both are highly effective in making oil bumps disappear fast.
Take a thick slice of a lemon and rub it on your oil bumps gently. Let the juice sit for 20-25 minutes and then, wash off with tepid water. The citric acid present in lemon juice will absorb excess oil from your skin and open up the clogged pores easily. You can also try a mixture of honey and lemon juice to eliminate the problem of oil bumps completely. A scrub made of lemon juice and granulated sugar is also known to have great anti-bacterial as well as exfoliating properties, which are essential for healing a bumpy skin.
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9. Tea Tree Essential Oil
The antibacterial and antifungal properties of tea tree essential oil make it a true herbal cure for oil bumps. Dip a cotton ball in the oil and apply to the affected areas of your skin 2-3 times a day. Do it at night so that the oil penetrates your skin deeply and eliminate the issue from the root.
10. Fenugreek Seeds And Leaves
Take a handful of fresh leaves and seeds of fenugreek and make a paste of it by using some distilled or rose water. Apply it to your skin and leave it on for 15-20 minutes. The antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory qualities of the herb will cure your oil bumps in just one week upon regular use.
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Medical Treatments To Get Rid Of Oil Bumps
Oil bumps usually clear up on their own and there is no treatment necessary for them. But if they start causing concerns, these clinical treatments will be helpful for you (2):
This is the most common technique in which liquid nitrogen is used to freeze off the bumps. But it comes with side effects like blistering or swelling, which take a couple of days to disappear.
In this method, a sterile blade or needle is used by the doctor to pick out the contents of the bumps. But never ever try it at home yourself as it can lead to infection.
3. Topical Retinoids
There are several topical retinoid (vitamin A) creams available in the market, which help in exfoliating the skin, thereby eliminating oil bumps too.
This is an oral antibiotic, which is effective in treating certain types of oil bumps like Mili En Plaque.
5. Chemical Peels
Chemical peels are used to remove the uppermost layer of the skin. As it is peeled off, the bumps also get ruptured with its contents released.
6. Laser Ablation
This technique makes use of a small laser beam to focus on the targeted areas of the skin and eliminate the bumps easily.
In diathermy, extreme heat is applied to the affected parts of the skin for destroying oil bumps.
8. Destruction Curettage
This is a mini surgical procedure performed by a doctor in which the target area is numbed, the bumps are scraped and cauterized respectively.
Medical treatments always carry the risks of adverse effects. So, it is always better to opt for natural remedies.
How To Prevent Oil Bumps?
Finally, here are some preventive measures that you can take to prevent the appearance of oil bumps (3):
- Keep the skin clean by cleansing it with a mild, paraben-free soap every day.
- Exfoliate the skin 2-3 times every week with a gentle exfoliating cleanser containing salicylic acid, citric acid, or glycolic acid.
- Avoid overexposure to the UV rays and always wear a high-protection yet lightweight sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) whenever you go out in the sun. Choosing one with mineral oil base will be helpful.
- Use a good quality topical retinoid cream or gel once daily in order to provide enough vitamin A to your skin.
- Do not use thick cream-based skincare and makeup products that can clog your skin pores easily.
- Never ever poke or pick at oil bumps to avoid the risk of infections.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are Oil Bumps Risky?
Oil bumps carry no to very few risks. Hence, there is no need to worry at all. Try to follow the natural remedies mentioned above and you should get back your flawless skin again.
When Should I Worry About Oil Bumps?
If none of the natural remedies work for you, you should seek the help of a doctor. If there is any condition underlying oil bumps, your doctor should figure it out and treat it separately.
- “Milium Cysts in Adults & Babies“, Healthline.com
- “How Can I Get Rid of Milia?“, MedicalNewsToday.com
- “How to Get Rid of Milia: 7 Ways“, Healthline.com