What Are These White Spots on My Face?

What Are These White Spots on My Face?

We spend considerable time and attention on our faces. The skin on the face is some of the most dynamic and active skin on our body. In dermatology, one of the most common skin problems, or complaints on the face is small white spots on the skin. Though there are many different types of growths that can develop on facial skin. Two types of growths are the most common skin spots which will appear as small white bumps.

What Are These White Spots on My Face?

We can see both milia (milium-singular) and sebaceous hyperplasia popping up as small white bumps on the face. While milia and sebaceous hyperplasia most commonly pop up on the face, these skin conditions can appear on any part of the body. Both spots develop from pores in the skin. The skin of the face has many thousands of these pores. Any one of those pores may develop these spots.


Milia are extremely common in patients of all ages. In some cases, milia can be solitary with just a single spot, whereas at other times they can be numerous with dozens or more.

What Does Milia Look Like?

Milia look like small white bumps on your cheeks, chin, nose, stomach, arms, and legs.  The classic appearance of a milium is a small white bump in the skin. People oftentimes describe it as looking like a grain of rice.

A milium is a type of cyst, arising in the pore. When pores are functioning normally, they will secrete oil contents and skin cells onto the surface of the skin. However, when they malfunction, they close off and these materials accumulate below the surface. In turn, this causes small bumps.

How to Treat Milia

While milia are harmless, you can still treat them. In many cases, treatment is not necessary because they can disappear on their own over time. However, this may take months or even years.

The best dermatologists know that if milia linger or multiply, you can treat them with applied medications. However, salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, or retinoid over-the-counter exfoliating medications are not incredibly effective. Instead, simple office-based surgery techniques are generally most effective for removing these minute cysts. While you might be tempted to pick or pop the milia if you notice the white spots on your forehead, this will only lead to further complications such as scarring or an infection.

Sebaceous Hyperplasia

Sebaceous hyperplasia are common white bumps on the face; while they are not the same as milia, they can likewise be solitary or multiple. These are enlarged oil glands. Similar to milia, sebaceous hyperplasia develops around the pores. All these pores have a small oil gland surrounding their upper portion – this is called a sebaceous gland.

Sebaceous hyperplasia can be just a bit larger than milia. They may be white, yellow, or skin-colored. However, while milia can develop at any point in life, sebaceous gland enlargement generally occurs in middle adulthood. Hormones are thought to contribute to the enlargement of these glands.

How to Treat Sebaceous Hyperplasia

Like milia, sebaceous hyperplasia can be treated with applied medication or simple office procedure techniques. However, applied medication is often marginally effective at shrinking these glands and can take months to see results. Dermatologists hope that with future pharmaceutical studies, better treatment options will be developed. In the meantime, office-based surgeries are generally best to improve the appearance of the white spots. Sebaceous hyperplasia treatment options include:

  • Retinol
  • Warm Compress
  • Photodynamic Therapy
  • Electrocauterization
  • Laser Therapy
  • Cryotherapy

Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis (IGH)

Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis is a benign and asymptomatic skin manifestation. IGH appears as small white spots on the skin that receive high amounts of sun exposure. While IGH is most commonly found on patches of skin on your arms or legs, IGH can appear on your face. It is more common for people with lighter skin colors to develop idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis. Your dermatologist/doctor may prescribe a topical steroid to reduce the appearance of the skin spots.

Visit A Local Dermatologist

If you have white stuff/spots on your face that concern you, please consider seeing Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands in a consultation. When in doubt, it is best to have a dermatologist check to be certain.

Additional Reading: What can get rid of age spots?

Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands | Best Dermatologist Omaha, NE & Council Bluffs, IA | Board Certified Dermatologists

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