Everything You Need to Know About Whiteheads: What Causes Them and Proven Methods to Remove Them
Whiteheads are a stubborn, unwanted pox on your face. Typically manifesting as a collection of raised, flesh colored bumps on your face, whiteheads seem to magically appear overnight without any sort of fanfare. Removing them seems to be a near-impossible task, with even the gentlest extraction methods resulting in red marks and scars. Unlike pustules or even nodules, they refuse to go away on their own and require a full assault on their unwanted presence. If you’re looking for guaranteed methods to remove whiteheads from your face without scarring or permanently damaging your skin, then please keep reading. Clear skin is possible and easier to attain than you might realize.
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What Is a Whitehead?
Also known as “closed comedone”, many people erroneously call a pustule a whitehead. The fact is, they are significantly different in many aspects to a pustule.
A whitehead is a small, skin-colored bump that typically shows up on your face. However, it’s not exclusive to the skin above the neck; occasionally, whiteheads can show up on the neck, chest, back, or any other place that has pores.
Conversely, a pustule is a raised, inflamed lesion that has a white, pus-filled cap on the top of it. Telling a whitehead apart from a pustule is quite easy, but for those who may still be wondering the difference between a whitehead and a pustule, here are the key characteristics of each:
|Typically quite small, less than 1mm in diameter||Can range between 1mm-3mm in diameter|
|Flesh colored||Red toned with an infected white, green, or yellow cap|
|Not painful to the touch||Can be quite painful to the touch|
|Requires chemical or mechanical extraction to remove||While responsive to extraction, will go away on its own over time|
|Generally shows up on the cheeks, forehead, and chin||May appear anywhere on the body, including the face, body, and buttocks|
Keeping these trademark features of both whiteheads and pustules in your mind will help you treat them properly next time you encounter one of these blemishes on your skin!
These Are the Top Causes of Closed Comedones
Those who suffer from whiteheads may often wonder why they have them and suffer the sting of the injustice of it. Why, for instance, does their best friend have baby-smooth, crystal clear skin but their own face reads like a book written in braille?
The bottom line is this: the number one cause of whiteheads is clogged pores. Nothing more, nothing less. However, the catalyst for these clogged pores varies from person to person.
For instance, one person may merely look at a chocolate bar and suddenly develop an unbecoming assortment of closed comedones on their face. Another person could literally roll around in the dirt and never wash their face and for some reason never experience a single blemish.
Life just isn’t fair!
What, then, clogs the pores and leads to whiteheads?
Blackheads and whiteheads come from the same family of acne, called “noninflammatory acne.” They are both comedones, but blackheads get their telltale trademark not from dirt but from oxidization. When the exposed pore comes in contact with air, the melanin darkens. Since closed comedones do not expose the sebum to oxygen, they retain their skin-toned appearance.
Whiteheads form when skin oil (“sebum”) mixes with skin cells and block the pore. This clogged pore may remain small and non-inflamed, resulting in either a whitehead, millia, or a blackhead. To find out more about blackhead removal, click here.
Other times, the pore gets infected with bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) and becomes inflamed, triggering a pustule, cyst, or nodule.
These are the main triggers for those who are susceptible to whiteheads:
- Diet: The diet/whitehead connection is a controversial one, with many people asserting that diet plays no role in acne. However, the fact remains that many studies have demonstrated time and again that poor diet does lead to acne. If you’re prone to whiteheads, cut out greasy, high-sugar foods and dairy and see if it makes a difference. Conversely, a diet rich in Omega-3s, whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and Vitamin B-6 can help clear skin.
- Stress: Having a high-stress lifestyle has been proven to lead to whiteheads. Some people are fortunate enough to remove stressors from their daily life, but for those who simply cannot avoid stressful situations, instead, try practicing self-soothing remedies like yoga and meditation.
- Hormones: Hormones are almost always behind acne on your skin. Androgen, the male hormone, is particularly culpable. Fluctuating hormones often lead to whiteheads. Many women of menstrual age find that they get breakouts around the time of their period, and certain oral contraceptives can also lead to whiteheads. Young men are especially prone to them, too.
- Irritation: Sometimes a whitehead will show up simply because the site of the zit became irritated. For instance, your eyeglasses resting on the bridge of your nose or cheek can cause whitehead breakouts. Clothes rubbing and chafing on your skin may also lead to blemishes. If possible, consider switching to contact lenses and more breathable clothing.
What Causes Whiteheads on the Common Parts of the Body?
The location of a whitehead is largely determined by the various factors that can trigger it. For instance, what causes a whitehead on your eyelid may be vastly different than what causes one on your chin.
Knowing the primary triggers of whiteheads and what causes them to appear on the various parts of your body is the first step in preventing them from showing up in the first place.
On Your Eyelid: Many people are stunned to discover that their eyelids also have pores which can get clogged. Yes, even your eyelids can get whiteheads! Keep an eye out (no pun intended!) for meibomian gland dysfunction (when the lubricating glands on your eyelids become clogged), chalazia (bumps on the lid that may become cysts), and hordeolum (also known as styles).Immediately consult your optometrist for any bumps on your eyelid.
- On Your Chin: If you’re the type of person to touch your face, especially rest your chin in your hand when you’re tired or feeling thoughtful, cease immediately! One of the major causes of whiteheads on your chin arises from touching your face, transferring bacteria from your hands onto your skin Other causes of whiteheads on your chin can result from comedogenic creams, lotions, and cosmetics. Food sensitivities can also lead to breakouts on your chin, too.
- On Your Nose: Be especially cautious if you encounter whiteheads on your nose. While the typical causes of whiteheads on other parts of your body can lead to closed comedones on your nose (including creams, cosmetics, and allergies), the nose is a particularly vulnerable part of your body. If you observe a sudden outbreak of flesh toned bumps on your nose, be careful to not pick at them. This area is more likely to suffer from a potentially deadly disease called MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).
- Under the Skin: By default, whiteheads typically occur underneath the skin. The breakout on your face today began as early as three weeks ago and has just now made it to the outer layer of your skin. The trick to get rid of it, therefore, is to bring it up to the skin’s surface faster using a process called “cellular desquamation”. You can do this using a variety of retinoid creams, designed especially for this purpose.
- Around the Mouth: Many of the same irritants that cause whiteheads on your chin and cheek are also the same ones that cause closed comedones to manifest around your mouth. To prevent them from showing up, take extra care to avoid touching your face and using heavy balms and creams. Be especially careful when eating oily foods that may drip onto your skin. Lastly, pay close attention to your use of lip balms. Many of the ingredients that soothe chapped lips (including lanolin and petroleum) can clog the pores around your mouth.
While following a laundry list of rules and regulations may seem annoying at first, having acne breakouts is even more obnoxious. By taking careful steps to avoid using heavy creams and balms, avoiding touching your face, and taking proper care of your eye health, you’re investing in the long-term clarity and health of your skin as well as your overall self-worth.
Who Are the Common Targets?
Whiteheads do not discriminate. A baby isn’t immune to them, and neither is a 90-year-old granny.
Anyone can develop closed comedones, but certain demographics certainly are more prone to this specific type of breakout.
If you fall into any of these subgroups, pay close attention. You may be more likely to suffer from whiteheads.
- Athletes: There is conflicting information on the role of sports and athletics on the formation of acne. Many people argue that you can “sweat out the gunk” from your pores and that by simply working out, you can earn clear skin. The fact is, sweat leads to extra oil production, triggering whiteheads. Furthermore, athletic gear (including sweatbands and helmets) can lead to comedonal acne on your face, cheek, neck, and chin.
- Teenagers: Everyone is aware of the trope of the “pimple-faced teenager”, and while this stereotype is both unflattering and unkind, its rooted in legitimacy. Pubescent years are loaded with hormonal changes. Fluctuating hormones in both boys and girls can lead to whitehead breakouts. Not every teenager will get a breakout, but they’re in the minority; 85% of teenagers will experience an acne breakout. To read more about teenage acne treatment, click here.
- Women (of all ages): Poor women; they simply cannot get a break. Not only do teenage girls get acne, but so do many women of menstruating age. Changes in cyclical hormones, such as those that occur during ovulation or during your period, can lead to whitehead breakouts. If you think pregnancy is the secret, hidden cure to your acne woes, think again! Some women struggle from acne breakouts throughout their entire gestation. Contraception may provide relief for some ladies, but be careful: some types of birth control can make breakouts worse.
- Young Men: Men are more likely to suffer from whiteheads up until their thirties. After that, their skin may clear up for good. If not, then a trip to the dermatologist may be in order. An excess of male hormones (like testosterone) can lead to acne. For men who work out, synthetic steroids may also lead to skin problems. Finding the right balance between a buff body and a clear face can be a challenge, but smooth skin is definitely possible for young men!
- Babies: It seems like a cruel joke, but yes, babies are also prone to developing whiteheads. While all babies are beautiful and little angelic sweethearts, some still struggle with a blight of comedones across their face. If your baby has acne, don’t stress out! (It might lead to more breakouts for you!) Typically, they outgrow it within 3-6 months of age. Avoid using harsh treatments on baby, and for more information on how to treat baby acne, please click here.
Treatment and Self-Care
If you’re part of a group of people who are more likely to suffer from whiteheads, don’t panic. Treating closed comedones is actually much easier than you might think.
Having whiteheads isn’t a death sentence for your face. If you struggle with whiteheads, try these proven methods to remove them for good:
- Start by washing your face with a gentle, non-stripping foaming cleanser.
- Lightly pat your face dry using a microfiber towel.
- Fill up a heat-proof bowl to the brim with steaming water.
- Rest your face over the bowl for up to five minutes to soften the pores.
- Using a comedone extractor, and using extreme care, press gently against any visible whiteheads.
- Swipe a toner-soaked cotton ball across your face to kill any remaining bacteria.
- Splash cold water across your face to close your pores.
- Finish with a chemical exfoliant such as salicylic acid or tretinoin.
In addition to following those steps, always make sure to change your pillowcase every night. To avoid having to do excessive loads of laundry, you can flip your pillow once before throwing it into the wash.
Other methods that you may employ at home to treat your whiteheads – that actually feel like a pampering spa treatment! – include:
- Oil Cleansing: You can use a combination of avocado oil, jojoba oil, or sweet almond oil. Massage into skin, using gentle but firm pressure. Since oil dissolves oil, you can extract many of your comedones this way. Finish with a swipe of micellar water on a cotton pad.
- Egg White Masks: Eggs are full of beneficial amino acids and enzymes that can unclog To use this treatment, whisk an egg white until frothy, then smooth onto your skin. Pry apart a facial tissue to make it single-ply, then apply to the egg mask on your face. Let it set. Once dry, lift and peel the mask away. You’ll see the trapped skin debris adhering to the tissue. This method is great for removing whiteheads on your nose, too! Click here for more ways to how to get rid of whiteheads on nose.
- Baking Soda Scrub: Mix one tablespoon of baking soda with one teaspoon of water. Massage onto skin, then rinse off. Follow up with a light mist of apple cider vinegar to neutralize the basic nature of the baking soda. This will balance your skin’s pH, resulting in fewer breakouts.
- Honey and Oatmeal: You can use this as either a mask or as a scrub. Mix ¼ cup of finely ground oats into a powder, then add 1 tablespoon of honey. To use as a scrub, rub into the skin then rinse off. As a mask, smooth it on and let it sit for up to twenty minutes then rinse off. Oatmeal is naturally soothing, and honey is antimicrobial, so your new skin will be glowing!
These tips aren’t the only way to attain soft skin! For more information on how to get rid of whiteheads, click here.
Foolproof Ways to Prevent Whiteheads
Once you have whiteheads on your face, your only source of relief is to treat the existing problem. It’s like the other old adage states: you’re closing the barn door but your horse has already escaped.
Understanding the underlying cause of your breakouts and knowing how to stop closed comedones from forming in the first place will save you from the burden and shame of whiteheads. These same tips can be used to eradicate blackheads, too. To learn more about how to get rid of blackheads, click here.
You can prevent whiteheads from developing by using the following methods:
- Wash your skin nightly with lukewarm water and a non-stripping soap. If your skin is especially greasy, add an additional wash when you wake up in the morning.
- Never, ever touch your face. Any bacteria on your hands can be transferred to your face, causing whiteheads. This includes squeezing them with your hands; always use a sanitized comedone extractor.
- Keep your clothes, towels, and linens clean. Bacteria love to proliferate and can build up quickly in unexpected places.
- If you shave your face, be careful to go with the grain and use a sharp blade each time. Check that your shaving cream is non-comedogenic.
- Use only non-comedogenic creams, lotions, and cosmetics to avoid whiteheads.
- If you use hair product, wash your hair nightly before you sleep. Creams, gels, and hairspray can be easily transferred to your face and lead to clogged pores.
If you follow these steps, you’ll be certain to have beautiful, smooth, clear skin.
Acne isn’t the disease of dirty, disgusting people. Even the cleanest and sanitary people can suffer from whiteheads. Knowing the proper ways to both prevent and treat closed comedones can save you from years of embarrassment and agony. By following the advice in this article, you can expect to have smooth skin within days and enjoy it for the many years ahead of you!
You can find further details of Acne here.