How to Get Rid of Whiteheads
Perhaps not as well known as their counterparts, blackheads, whiteheads are a common type of spot that can cause annoying bumps on the skin. Not technically a common skin condition, whiteheads are more of an annoying, less overtly visible form of acne.
Although common (most of us have had one or two whiteheads in our lifetime) they can affect different people to differing degrees. Some may only suffer the occasional one, whilst others may struggle to clear their skin of them and struggle with them on a regular basis.
So what are whiteheads and how do they form? And more importantly, how do we banish a whitehead and help to prevent them from returning? Should we be popping whiteheads? What's the best treatment for whiteheads and acne? What about trying home remedies?
Here’s the Sönd lowdown on whiteheads.
What Do Whiteheads Look Like?
Whiteheads are a type of acne spot that can be common on acne prone skin, but can also appear on the skin of those who don’t necessarily suffer with acne breakouts.
They stay under the skin, leading to small white bumps. Whiteheads are closed spots, in that the oil glands and pores get clogged with sweat, bacteria and cellular debris, and form no head.
Whiteheads can appear anywhere on the body, but they’re more common on the face across the T zone, that is, the forehead, nose, jawline and chin areas that are more prone to oiliness. They can also form on the chest, neck, back, shoulders and upper arms.
What's the Difference Between Whiteheads and Blackheads?
Whiteheads differ from blackheads as unlike these spots that have a visible dark head, whiteheads appear as small white, raised bumps on the skin.
They’re generally not filled with pus like other acne type spots and pustules can be. Therefore, the appearance of whiteheads and other forms of closed spots can be harder to clear.
Why Do I Get Whiteheads?
Both blackheads and whiteheads are caused by the same thing - a buildup of dead skin cells and other cellular debris, dirt, old makeup, grime, pollution and sebum (the waxy, oily substance produced by the skin) in the pores.
This buildup causes a plug within the skin pore, leading to a blackhead or a whitehead. Blackheads occur because the clogged pore isn't covered by a layer of skin, allowing the air to get to it, causing oxidation and discolouration, hence, a visible, dark coloured blackhead.
In the case of a whitehead, the clogged pore is covered by a thin layer of skin. Therefore, the plug isn’t exposed to the air and won’t oxidise or discolour, hence a whitehead. This means that arguably, a whitehead is more difficult to remove than a blackhead, since it’s covered with a thin layer of skin. Whiteheads can also tend to linger around more, for this reason.
Can Hormones Cause Whiteheads?
Hormonal changes can also cause the formation of whiteheads since the hormones can cause an increase in the amount of sebum the skin produces. This can be especially prevalent during pregnancy, menstruation and the menopause, and excess sebum can lead to a higher prevalence of both whiteheads and blackheads.
Whitehead Acne on the Nose, Chin and Elsewhere
Whiteheads, pesky little things that they are, can form anywhere on the body. The oilier areas of skin, including the T zone, chest and back are usually more prone to the development of whiteheads however.
As with any type of spots or acne, whiteheads can occur in both male and female bodies and at any age. Some people find that even if they’ve never experienced spots before, they sometimes find that whiteheads may develop in their adult lives for the first time.
Should I Pop a Whitehead?
Like blackheads, whiteheads can be extremely annoying, but popping them (or attempting to pop them) isn’t advised by top beauty therapists or skin specialists and dermatologists. Doing so can cause the surrounding skin to break, leading to more inflammation and stressed out skin.
However, we know how tempting it can be to pop a spot. So, if you simply can’t resist, then you’ll need to do it carefully.
First up, avoid any whiteheads that look red or inflamed, or too far under the skin such as a cyst. These will be too difficult to squeeze and will more often than not, look worse after a few minutes of prodding in front of the mirror.
The experts then advise that you wash your face - cleaning the area with a gentle exfoliant such as salicylic acid will prepare the skin. Then, warm the skin with a warm cloth for a few minutes to help to open the pores.
Using the pads of your fingers over the top of a tissue placed over the whitehead (never, ever, use your fingernails, however tempting, they’ll break the skin) use a firm hand to apply pressure either side of the whitehead. It might help to stretch the skin away from the whitehead to begin with, before applying pressure. If after a few attempts, it doesn’t pop, then leave well alone!
Failing that, see a skin specialist or therapist that specialises in ‘extraction facials’, a facial where your therapist is trained in the expert removal of any spots they think are worthy of being squeezed.
What Over-the-Counter Products Get Rid of Whiteheads on My Face Skin?
If you’re successful in popping a whitehead, hurrah! But resist the temptation to have a go all over your face. Instead, immediately wash your entire face to rid the skin of any debris left behind and any oil from your fingers.
You could also use a gentle exfoliant on the area to help clear any other debris left behind in the previously blocked pore and to remove dead skin cells from the area.
As a general rule, to help prevent the formation of whiteheads and other spots around the hairline, cleanse your face after washing your hair to remove any shampoo or conditioner that may block the pores.
Makeup-wise, always use non pore blocking or non comedogenic makeup products that are oil free and won’t lay heavy on the skin. We always recommend using a powder foundation, rather than a liquid one.
Also, it’s worth considering all the things that come into contact with your skin. This includes your hands, touching your face, mobile phone, desk phone and your pillow case. It’s important that these are all kept clean, to avoid transferring dirt, bacteria and oil to your skin that could block the pores. This is especially important if you have an oily or acne prone skin type.
How to Remove Whiteheads on the Eyelids
Whiteheads can form on the eyelids, and this is one place you definitely don’t want to be popping in at at home whitehead treatment session. In fact, they’re probably not even whiteheads, instead being skin lesions called milia, a type of tiny cyst.
These usually disappear on their own, but if you’re concerned, speak to your GP or optician for further advice.
Ways to Get Rid of Whiteheads on the Body
Some people notice a collection of whiteheads causing bumps on their upper arms. This is a condition called keratosis pilaris, caused by a buildup of keratin, a protein found in the hair, in the hair follicles of the skin.
Gently exfoliating the area with a loofah or a product containing glycolic acid can help to remove whiteheads on the arms.
Salicylic Acid and Other Skin Care Spot Treatments and Home Remedies to Treat Whiteheads
Salicylic acid is a gentle fruit acid that exfoliates by removing the top few layers of skin. It can be one of the best ways to get rid of dead skin cells that can lead to whiteheads or acne. It can however, make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it's best used at night time.
Other over the counter or OTC acne products include tea tree oil and witch hazel. These can be quite harsh on the skin, despite their natural claims. So use them sparingly and do a patch test first. Benzoyl peroxide is an ingredient found in many OTC products designed for acne, but again, use small amounts as it can be harsh on sensitive skin.
Can I Prevent Whiteheads? Do Whiteheads Go Away?
Getting rid of whiteheads for good, so that you don't have to worry about squeezing them or not, is possible. The best way to care for non conformist skin is to use skin care developed with stressed out skin in mind.
The Sönd range of cleansers and day and night moisturisers was developed with exactly that in mind! We use only natural, plant derived ingredients and alkalising silica salts that support and nourish the skin.
Skin prone to whiteheads won’t react kindly to skin care products that strip the skin of its natural oils or products that will clog the pores with excess oils. Our skin care products are ideal as they’re the perfect pH balance for the skin.
Using products such as these will help to get rid of the whiteheads that can build up around the nose and on the forehead and chin. This is a better approach (treating the whole area holistically with the right skin care products) than squeezing individual spots and potentially aggravating the skin.
Best of luck!
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.