What It Means If You Have Bumps Under Your Eyes

Photo: vchal / Shutterstock
person with bumps under eyes

There are plenty of skin conditions and issues we all face on a daily basis. Maybe it's dry skin from the seasonal temperature drop in some areas of the world, or maybe it's a genetic predisposition to acne or blemishes.

No matter what it is, a very recognizable condition is bumps under the eye.

But if you have small bumps under your eyes, you're not alone. These bumps are usually relatively harmless and can be treated.

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Types of Bumps Under the Eyes

1. Milia

Milia are clogged pores that appear as tiny white bumps or cysts. There are a number of different ways to get rid of milia and keep them from coming back.

The most important thing to remember is that you should not try to get rid of the milia yourself. Because these tiny deposits are so deep-rooted in your skin, attempting to "pop" them can actually cause more damage to your skin.

"You develop milia when sebum and dead skin cells become trapped in the outer layers of the skin. After a while, they become keratinized, meaning that they gather keratin and then harden," explains "The Skin Nerd," Jennifer Rock.

When dead skin cells build up on the face and the skin isn't properly exfoliated, milia can form.

2. Styes

A stye is a bacterial infection that occurs along the small glands of the eyelashes. They are red and can be very painful, and though they look similar to boils or pimples, styes only form on the edge of your eyelid.

They most likely are filled with pus. You can have multiple styes at once.

Styes usually occur when an oil gland by the eye's edge becomes blocked, allowing bacteria to fester. They are typically treated with antibiotics and, in severe cases, surgery.

3. Chalazion

Similar to styes, chalazions are lumps that form on the edge of the eyelid when an oil gland is blocked. However, chalazions are usually painless, which makes them different from styes. They are common in adults ages 30-50 who also have rosacea or blepharitis.

Be warned that you should never squeeze or pop these; rather, you can treat them with a warm compress. Chalazions tend to go away when treated within a week, but if not, it may take 4-6 weeks.

4. Pimples

Pimples can occur under the eyes, as they do everywhere else. But this mostly has to do with clogged pores. Pimples are caused by excess oil, bacteria, grime or dirt, and are often skin-colored.

Washing your face can easily prevent pimples from forming. Washing your hands, especially if you touch your face often, can also be beneficial.

5. Xanthelasma

What separates xanthelasma from the rest of this bunch is that these bumps are yellow in color. Xanthelasma are growths that form on or near the eyelids and are caused by built-up deposits of cholesterol (also know as lipid or fat) under the skin.

They aren't itchy or painful, but they do not go away on their own and require medical surgery to remove them. The bumps are often benign but can be a sign of heart disease, so it's best to have them checked out.

What causes bumps under the eyes?

1. Bacteria

Bacteria can cause infections and inflammations that create bumps of different types, which includes pimples and styes. Bacterial infections on the skin can be treated with medications prescribed by a dermatologist.

2. Hygiene

Hygiene is a big reason for bumps forming. This is because bad hygiene leads to grime culminating in your skin and, thus, clogging pores. That grime can also cause oils to build up, seeping into your pores and creating bumps.

Be sure to never touch your eyes with dirty hands. This allows germs to get into your eyes, leading to infections and other diseases. In other words, wash your face and remove eye makeup before bed.

3. Genetics

Genetics or underlying health conditions could also be the culprit to your under-eye bumps. Styes or chalazions, especially, could be attributed to diabetes. Milia can be caused by a genetic or an autoimmune disorder.

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How to Treat Bumps Under the Eyes

1. Exfoliate the area.

Exfoliating three times per week can really help keep the build-up of dead skin cells in check.

"You can use retinols, alpha hydroxy creams, and gently exfoliate two to three times weekly. This will prevent build-up and keep your pores clean. Also use a non-comedogenic moisturizer," RealSelf Contributor Dr. Michele Green says.

2. Get regular facials.

Getting regular facials with extraction can greatly help keep milia, specifically, in check. Not only will an esthetician completely cleanse your face and rejuvenate your skin, but they can use a lancet, which is a small needle, to remove the small bumps.

In order to use a lancet to remove a milia, your esthetician will hold the skin around the bump taut using their fingertips. The sterile lancet will be placed at the top of the bump and should slide in easily. You shouldn't feel any pain at this point, as the small needle is going into dead skin cells. (It is possible that you will feel a very subtle pinch, but nothing excruciating.(

Once the lancet is removed, it's possible that a small amount of sebaceous material will come out, but it's simply wiped away. Your esthetician will then clean the area and continue on with the rest of your facial. A Board Certified Dermatologist can also extract milia using the same method.

3. Wash your face.

To keep milia from coming back, an at-home routine that includes regular face-washing (especially around the eye area) should be implemented. Not only should you want to wash your face with a gentle cleanser, but you should avoid further clogging your pores.

Just be sure to refrain from washing your face too much, as to prevent dryness.

4. Change your diet.

Another thing to consider when treating bumps under your eyes is changing your diet.

According to Dr. Debra Jaliman, a board-certified NYC dermatologist, Assistant Professor of Dermatology Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and author of the book, "Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist," fatty deposits can be caused by a high cholesterol intake.

"To get rid of these tiny bumps, you should get your cholesterol down to a normal range. You can usually achieve this with dietary changes," she explains.

5. Book a laser appointment.

If the bumps under your eyes are determined to be syringomas, getting rid of them can be a bit more challenging. Many get them removed by laser treatment.

"Destructive lasers can be used to flatten out syringomas, but there is a likelihood they will return since there is a deeper portion and a genetic predisposition to forming more," explains Dr. Jennifer T. Haley, a dermatologist from Scottsdale, Arizona.

"Treatment may also cause discoloration to the area. Some people are not bothered by under-eye bumps, but if you are, seeking treatment from a Board Certified Dermatologist is recommended for best results."

6. Avoid greasy skin creams.

According to Dr. Jaliman, you should avoid using greasy under-eye creams. The grease can clog your pores and cause milia to form over time. And using those skin creams, particularly around the eye, as this can increase your chances of seeing milia.

7. Apply a compress.

Depending on the type of bump you have, it will determine whether to use a warm or cold compress.

For pimples, use a warm or even hot compress to draw out the pus or oils trapped under the skin. For xanthelasma, use an almost freezing compress to stop the bump from getting bigger before receiving the medical treatment needed to remove it.

When to See a Doctor

If you are concerned that the small bumps under your eyes are caused by something other than dead skin cells or an issue that can be treated at home, you should talk with your doctor or dermatologist.

If the bumps become intrusive or don't go away, it's best to seek medical help from a professional since it may require treatment.

In short, bumps under your eyes can usually be removed by a beauty professional, eye doctor or dermatologist.

Adding additional skincare steps to your weekly routine can greatly reduce your chances of seeing a return or an increase in milia, or any of the other bumps you can encounter.

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Effie Orfanides is a lifestyle, entertainment and celebrity writer. Her bylines have appeared in Heavy, People Magazine, Yahoo, The List, and others.