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What Are Whiteheads?

Acne, spots, blackheads, and whiteheads are the bane of our existence as teenagers, but don’t think you’re immune once you’re past this phase. Many adults still face breakouts, so don’t feel like it’s just you! Having said that, pimples and whiteheads can hurt your self-esteem, so teens and adults alike are constantly looking for the best remedies to get rid of them. The best way to get rid of whiteheads is to understand how and why they suddenly erupt on your face or body. So, let’s get stuck in to tackle whiteheads once and for all.


What are whiteheads?

What causes whiteheads?

How to get rid of whiteheads

Preventative treatments to avoid whiteheads

What are whiteheads?

Whiteheads and blackheads are essentially one and the same – the only difference is that blackheads have been exposed to the air while whiteheads have not.

What happens is that one of your pores becomes blocked by a combination of two things:
— Oil that the glands in your pores naturally produce (aka sebum)
— Debris – i.e. dead skin cells and bacteria

The result is what’s known as a comedo – that little bump you get on your skin. As long as the clogged pore remains sealed, it will appear white. It is only when the pore opens up that it is exposed to oxygen and turns into a blackhead.

So, when you squeeze a whitehead (we’ll cover why you shouldn’t do this in a short while), the white stuff that comes out is just sebum and the debris that it has collected.

The oil that you produce is completely natural, and the presence of dead skin and bacteria does not mean that you’re unclean. But the result can be unsightly and leave you grasping for the concealer. To help you avoid this, the rest of the article will cover some ways to fight whiteheads and keep your skin looking fresh and smooth.

What causes whiteheads?

Lots of different factors can cause breakouts. You can be more genetically prone to things like whiteheads, or certain lifestyle factors might contribute to them. But, essentially, whiteheads are caused by an excess of sebum produced by your sebaceous glands. With more of this oil present, it’s more likely that your pores will become clogged by debris.

There are a number of things that might contribute to your glands producing an abundance of sebum, such as:

  • Puberty
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain birth control pills
  • Your diet
  • Menstruation
  • Excess stress

Most of these are related to hormonal changes in your body, which affect your glands. This is why acne tends to become a problem when we hit puberty and our bodies start releasing a lot more hormones. Applying overly greasy or oily products to your skin will also increase the presence of oils that can trap dirt and bacteria in your pores.

How to get rid of whiteheads

So then, what can you do when you see whiteheads? Our first word of warning is to resist the temptation of squeezing. We know whiteheads, spots and other blemishes can be frustrating, so much so that you’ll be looking for an instant solution.

Squeezing and picking might improve the appearance of your skin in the short-term (although there’s no guarantee of this – it could leave it looking worse!), it will certainly harm it in the long-run. Picking spots or scrubbing your skin too hard can lead to permanent scarring. When handled correctly, whiteheads and their effects are temporary and manageable.

Professional extraction

If you still want to go down the extraction route, then you can see a specialist doctor or a dermatologist to do this correctly and safely. With their tools and experience, they can extract the whitehead and leave it looking less noticeable without the risk of any permanent damage.

Skincare products for whiteheads

Skincare products for whiteheads There are different products designed to reduce the inflammation that comes with whiteheads and help to get rid of them faster. Look for creams that contain retinoids, salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide. Make sure you don’t choose products that dry out your skin too much as this can cause your glands to produce more oil. Or you can combine your topical products with a moisturising and hydrating solution.

Natural whitehead treatments

If you’re looking for natural ways to treat whiteheads at home, then there are a few promising ingredients to look for. Applying tea tree oil or products containing it is great for reducing inflammation. Aloe vera is a soothing product that can also do wonders for our skin, while witch hazel can help to open up your pores to help get rid of the whiteheads.

Cleanse and exfoliate

While it’s not an instant fix, gently cleansing and exfoliating your skin regularly will help to aid the recovery process of your skin. Just don’t try to overcompensate by scrubbing your skin too hard. This can irritate the skin and cause damage.

Preventative treatments to avoid whiteheads

Once your skin is clear, you want to keep it that way. While breakouts aren’t always avoidable, there are certain things you can do to help ward them off. Here are our top tips to help keep your skin blemish-free.

1. Wash regularly and gently

While whiteheads aren’t necessarily a sign of bad hygiene, an increased presence of bacteria does make them more likely to appear. Washing your face morning and night using lukewarm water and a gentle face wash can help to control the bacteria that can cause whiteheads. Just don’t wash too often or too harshly as this can make whiteheads more prominent.

2. Don’t let sweat linger

Sweat is a breeding ground for bacteria, so leaving it to sit on your skin can increase your chances of getting whiteheads. Showering after exercise or at least rinsing your face off will wash off any lingering sweat and keep your skin clean and fresh.

3. Keep greasy hair at bay

Excess oil on your face is one of the things that leads to whiteheads. If your hair gets greasy, then this is another oil that’s contributing to the development of whiteheads. Wash your hair regularly to keep it from getting greasy, and try to keep your hair out of your face whenever possible.

4. Don’t sleep in your makeup

Leaving makeup on your face clogs your pores and means that they aren’t able to breathe freely. This can damage your skin and makes acne breakouts much more likely. To keep your skin clear, you should always remove your makeup before going to bed.

5. Wash your makeup applicators

Another breeding ground for bacteria is your makeup brushes and sponges, especially if you never wash them. These applicators collect all the bacteria and dead skin cells from your skin when you use them to apply makeup. Left this way, the bacteria will grow, and you’re just wiping it over your face the next time you use your brush. Be sure to wash your applicators regularly.

6. Avoid oil-based products

Some makeup and other skincare products are oil-based, adding to the oil levels on your face and making your pores more likely to become clogged. Opt for water-based products rather than oil-based, and look for terms like oil-free or noncomedogenic on the products you buy. There are also gentle products that help to reduce oil levels on your skin.

We know whiteheads can be frustrating, but practically everyone gets them at some time in their life. So, don’t stress out over finding an instant fix for them. Following the skincare tips listed here will help to rid your skin of whiteheads over a few days to a week, and then stop them from rearing their ugly heads again.

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