Small White Bumps on Face Causes, Treatment, Not Milia or White Pimples on Face

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White bumps on face may be caused by sun exposure, milia spots or whiteheads. For some people, small raised white spots on face appear after shaving. The little bumps may appear as pearl-shaped, small cysts, goosebumps, acne pimples, moles or even a rash depending on the cause. When they are not pimples or not milia spots, what are the small white bumps on face that won’t go away or pop? Here are the causes and treatment to get rid of raised lumps on the face.

White dots on your face are majorly an esthetic problem. However, they could also be a symptom of a more serious skin problem. Fungal infections can show signs of small white spots on the skin. Likewise, bacterial infections can lead to small pimple-like zits on the face, usually with pus. To get rid of the raised white lumps on the face, you have to address the cause.

White bumps on face milia
Small white spots under eyes.

What causes white bumps on face?

It is easy to assume that small white bumps on your face are pimples. What if they are not pimples or acne? Excessive exposure to sunlight, fungal infections, milia spots, too much face makeup, infected pimples etc. can all cause tiny white bumps on the facial skin. Here’s a comprehensive list of all the possible causes.

1. Sun exposure causes white sun spots

According to Paulas Choice, “It is believed that the same accumulated sun damage that causes brown spots also causes white spots.” At the end of summer, most people who like sunbathing end up with little white spots on their faces from sunburn.

Sun damage is not just a cause for sunburn, dark spots, and skin cancer among other skin ageing symptoms like wrinkles. It is also a precursor for rough, thick skin that culminate in milia (which is manifested as white bumps).

2. Milia around eyes and under eyes

Milia spots on face
Milia spots on face

If you have tiny, raised, pearly-white bumps on the face or under eyes, you could be dealing with milia. Milia spots around eyes are usually filled with a protein called keratin and tend to occur on the cheeks, nose, and eyelids even though they can occur on nay part of the body.

  • Milia are so much like acne bumps but they are not accompanied by a red rash as is typical of acne outbreaks.
  • Although they can affect people of any age, milia tend to be more common in infants or babies.
  • Milia spots can appear around the eyes and other parts of the face that have no active oil glands.
  • Milia spots won’t pop easily, and won’t go away easily.

Paula Begoun, the author of “Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me” says that this is attributed to the fact that baby’s skin is still “learning to exfoliate”.

How do you get milia? Milia form when dead skin cells get trapped under the surface of the skin rather than exfoliate naturally. These cells then become engulfed into small, hard cysts beneath the surface of the skin.

This can happen as a result of using heavy moisturizers, cleansers and creams or due to sun damage. These typically make the skin leathery and thick making it more difficult for dead skin cells to slough off (exfoliate) as they should normally do.

3. Whiteheads and zits from clogged pores

Whiteheads on the face
Whiteheads on the face

Whiteheads are pale, white-topped pustules on the skin. Whiteheads are common in people with oily skins. They are generally caused by clogged pores on the face. According to Amoils, “whiteheads are formed when excess oil from the sebaceous glands clogs up the pores or hair follicles on the skin. This sebum gets trapped along with other debris and some bacteria…”

Whiteheads and zits can appear as tiny white bumps on the forehead, cheeks, jawline and under eyes. With proper oily face care, you can prevent whiteheads. Here’s what to do:

  • Gently wash your face with natural soap – at least twice a day.
  • If you use make up, go for water-based makeup and not oil based ones.
  • Drink enough water everyday.
  • Avoid smoking and eat a well-balanced diet.

4. Raised white bumps on face after shaving or waxing

Shaving or removing hair on your face can also lead to raised bumps. These bumps are called razor bumps or razor rash. Poor shaving techniques cause the skin to be irritated. The irritation can easily turn into a razor rash.

When razor rash or waxing bumps are not treated, they can turn into a white rash on the face and neck. Always apply an antibacterial aftershave after shaving or waxing to prevent the white bumps from forming.

5. Small white bumps on face from allergic reaction

Allergy UK reports that “Strong allergic reactions can develop causing a lot of swelling and redness of the ears, face and neck as well as the scalp.” The most common signs of an allergic reaction on the face is small red bumps.

However, it is also common for allergy to show symptoms of a whitish rash or small white bumps on the face, around mouth, lips, scalp, arms, neck or even legs. Irritants vary a lot. They can be foods, cosmetics, contact dermatitis, pets etc.

White bumps on the face from allergy, especially those occurring around the mouth may also be caused by irritation of the skin by fluoride containing toothpastes and some makeups.

6. Keratosis pilaris hard bumps on face

Keratosis pilaris is a skin condition that leads to “small, hard bumps that may make your skin feel like sandpaper.” [WebMD.com]. If you have hard white bumps that look like goosebumps on your facial skin, it is likely that you have keratosis pilaris.

  • Buildup of a protein called keratin keratin under the skin leads to the little raised bumps to form.
  • A dry skin, atopic dermatitis and genetic predisposition may all cause the small, hard keratotic bumps to form on the skin.
  • Keratosis pilaris affects nearly 50-80% of all adolescents and approximately 40% of adults.” [Medscape.com]

Although this skin condition typically affects the arms and thighs, it can occur on any part of the body including the face, back and buttocks. The condition tends to become common and get worse with dry skin and may get particularly worse during winter months when humidity levels are at their lowest.

7. Cholesterol little white bumps on skin

Cholesterol bumps appear as whitish or yellowish, raised lumps. They grow around eyes or under eyelids or on the upper eyelids. Cholesterol deposits around eyes are a condition called xathelasma. According to the National Health Service, the yellow spots around eyes “are mostly made up of cholesterol and can be treated cosmetically, but are also a warning sign of raised cholesterol.”

  • If you see soft yellow marks on your eyelids, you are likely to be running the risk of a heart attack.
  • Ensure you see a doctor and have your cardiovascular risk assessed.

8. White pimple-like bumps from STD

Some sexually transmitted diseases and viral infections can also manifest themselves as white lumps. Herpes can cause bumps around the mouth, nose etc. The herpes simplex virus is contagious and can be transmitted through kissing or exchange of fluids.

Molluscum contagiosum is another STD that can show symptoms including whitish bumps on the skin. The infection of Molluscum contagiosum virus thrives in warm, humid and overcrowded environments.

  • The virus is transmitted through sexual intercourse or via direct contact with infected lesions and materials e.g. towels that have come into contact with the virus.
  • The bumps (called mollusca) will go away on their own without any treatment. But if they make you uncomfortable, you can talk to a dermatologist about treatment and removal options

Treatments range from cryotherapy (freezing them) and curettage (removal with sharp instrument) to the use of creams with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, tretinoin, and cantharidin, and prescription of cimetidine.

9. Calcium deposits under skin

Small bumpy lesions can develop on the skin or under the skin. These can be calcium deposits. The process of forming white calcium deposits under the skin or on the skin is called calcinosis. According to LiveStrong, “These bumps often look like firm white or yellowish papules on the surface of the skin.”

The most affected parts are the fingers, legs, joints such as elbows and knees. However, white bumps on face can also be caused by calcium deposits. When this occurs, a patient is likely to have a cluster of small papules on the skin site.

10. White pimple on face

Infected pimple on the face
Infected pimple on the face, chin

Do you have white bumps on face not milia? Acne and pimples, cysts and zits can also appear as white spots on face. Acne and pimples develop into pus-filled white bumps. White or green pus inside a pimple is an indication of a bacterial infection.

Pimples commonly form all over the face. According to Treat Cure Fast, “Pimple infections occur when the pores in your skin get clogged with dirt, sweat, excess oil dead cells and bacteria.” An infected white face pimple or bump has symptoms such as:

  • Formation of cysts
  • Yellow pus, sometimes white or green
  • Pain and swelling or inflammation
  • Bleeding and scabbing

11. Fordyce spots near mouth or lips

Fordyce spots are a form of sebaceous prominence. They appear as small, raised white or yellow bumps on the skin. They appear on various parts of the body, including vaginal lips (labia), penis, and lips of a person’s face.

Fordyce spots on the lips usually don’t need treatment. They go away on their own. However, since they are an aesthetic problem, they may require treatments such as the use of tretinoin gels, acid peels and cryosurgery to remove.

12. Pityriasis Alba

Pityriasis alba is highly associated with eczema and dermatitis. It is a skin disorder that is highly common in children or young adults. It is characterized by small lesions on the face. Pale patches on the face or oval, flat bumps on the face are some of its characteristics.

Pityriasis alba bumps have no known cause. They are however common in people who have eczema and dermatitis. It is easy to confuse this condition with vitiligo, but boarders on the white spots distinguish pityriasis alba.

13. Too much facial makeup

Moisturizers do a good job at keeping your skin hydrated, supple and smooth but some heavy varieties often trap dead skin cells and interfere with normal skin exfoliation resulting in a condition known as milia. This is characterized by white bumps on the affected areas.

Other causes of little white bumps may include chalazia, cancer (causing white bumps that won’t go away), tinea versicolor or skin fungal infections and even ringworm. Eczema and rosacea are known to cause red bumps on the face, but in some instances, the white flakes can appear as whitish bumps around the face.

Little moles on a pale skin may also appear as seed-like bumps on one’s face. Similarly, in people with a pale skin, white warts on face may manifest.

Treatments and How to Get Rid of White Bumps on Face

Some skin conditions that manifest in white bumps don’t pose a health concern and heal without treatment. Others may benefit from simple home remedies and yet others warrant the attention of your doctor.

Medical treatments for white raised spots on face include cryotherapy, laser removal, chemical peels and curettage. Surgery may also be used to get rid of white face bumps. Here are treatments and home remedies for the removal of white dots on face.

  1. Topical treatment with appropriate creams containing certain active ingredients e.g. salicylic acid, tretinoin, benzoyl peroxide etc.
  2. Surgical removal for large bumps on face: May be used for milia or molluscum contagiosum
  3. Cryotherapy: Freezing of the bumps with liquid nitrogen.
  4. Laser treatment: Laser beams are used to remove the offending bumps.
  5. Curettage – The bumps are scraped off using a sharp a sharp instrument.
  6. Prescription of oral medicationsg. cimetidine for molluscum contagiosum and antibacterial ointments for infected white bumps on the face.
  7. Dermabrasion: This entails removing the top layer of skin using a special ablative tool
  8. Chemical peels: As the name suggests, a chemical is applied on the skin to burn off the affected areas of skin.

Home remedies for little white bumps on skin

Whether milia, shave bumps or pimples, some home treatments such as sugar scrubs, face masks, sandalwood and honey can help get rid of the blemishes. Whiteheads too can be removed and prevented naturally to avoid the occurrence of these spots.

1. Honey facial scrub for milia removal

Honey can moisturize the skin to prevent dryness. When combined with a facial scrub, it can get rid of milia bumps on the face. Here’s how to use honey to remove raised white spots on face.

  1. Mix a tablespoon of granulated sugar with honey, oatmeal and jojoba oil.
  2. Mix well to make a consistent paste.
  3. Scrub your face gently with the paste for a few minutes.
  4. Rinse it off using lukewarm water.
  5. Repeat two times a week until the bumps are removed.

You may also spread and leave raw honey on your face for 15 minutes daily. It will help reduce infections that cause raised zits and pimples.

2. Cornstarch + vinegar to remove bumps naturally

This natural treatment will get rid of whiteheads on your face. It is useful for oily skins that are prone to pimple-like bumps. The cornstarch works as an excess oil absorber while apple cider vinegar works as an astringent. Here’s how to use this natural remedy.

  1. Put a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a bowl.
  2. Add cornstarch enough to make a paste.
  3. Mix well to make a consistent paste.
  4. Apply it on the area with white bumps on your face. Leave it for 30 minutes.
  5. Rinse off the paste using a soaked washcloth.

Repeat the treatment once every two days until the bumps are cleared.

3. Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil has antibacterial properties. It can also dry up the bumps and reduce them significantly.

  1. Cleanse your face thoroughly.
  2. Using a cotton swab, dab a little tea tree oil on the area with bumps.
  3. Do this before going to bed.
  4. Rinse it off in the morning.

Repeat this treatment until the bumps go away. Do not use tea tree oil on a sensitive skin. It can caused irritation and worsen the symptoms. You should also talk to your doctor or a dermatologist about the most appropriate option for your specific case.

Sources and references


1 COMMENT

  1. I was looking for the treatment of bumps and I found it here, I will try the cornstarch and vinegar remedy to cure my skin issue because I think it will work.

    Please share a remedy to get rid of blackheads as well.

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