Blackheads and whiteheads are actually two slightly different versions of the same kind of acne worse, also known as comedonal acne. While they both result from clogged pores, with the difference in physical appearance, the opening to the pores is generally open with a blackhead while closing with a whitehead. The only noticeable difference between the two is that one looks black instead of white, while the other also has a distinctly unpleasant odor. This article will briefly examine the basic symptoms of these two acne types. Then you’ll learn how to apply a simple home remedy to banish them forever.
First things first: What exactly are blackheads?
Before you go about trying to rid your oily skin of blackheads, it helps to first understand what they actually are. “Blackheads are just an oxidized mix of oil and dead skin cells that are sitting in pores, [and] the exposure to air is what causes them to oxidize and turn black,” explains Rachel Nazarian, a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.
The technical name for a blackhead is an open comedone (and comedone is the scientific term for an acne lesion). There are two different types of comedones: open (blackheads) and closed (whiteheads). As Shari Marchbein , a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University explains: “[Blackheads] is characterized by a dilated opening of a hair follicle, caused by the build-up of sebum, which is oil, P. Acnes bacteria the primary bacteria responsible for causing acne and inflammation.” In other words: A blackhead is essentially a hair follicle that’s so blocked up with dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria that it becomes a wide opening at the surface of the skin. When all of this gunk hits the open air (because of the wide opening), it oxidizes and turns black.
Despite their off-putting color, blackheads have nothing to do with dirt. “Having [blackheads] is not a sign that you’re too dirty,” Nazarian says. So, at least that’s good news. The bad news, for some, is that there is a genetic component to blackheads, meaning that certain people are more prone to developing them, although the underlying reason for this isn’t yet fully understood.
What Causes Blackheads and Whiteheads
Blackheads and whiteheads are both similar in their causes. These are caused by the over-accumulation of dead skin cells, as well as debris that gets trapped in the follicles on the skin’s surface. When a pore or a gland becomes filled with these clogs it can become infected and inflamed. When the infection becomes too inflamed the comedones that are formed will bulge out from the pore or gland. The white-colored plugs are known as blackheads and the blackened or infected lesion is called a whitehead.
How do you treat blackheads?
When it comes to getting rid of blackheads, or any type of acne for that matter, there are two ways you can go: You can DIY at home, or, for more severe or persistent cases of acne, you can see a dermatologist. The best plan of action for you will depend on a lot of different factors, of course, but here are the best over-the-counter and prescription treatments to look out for, per top dermatologists.
1. For mild blackheads try a salicylic acid scrub
“If you have blackheads, your go-to ingredient should be salicylic acid,” explains Joshua Zeichner, board-certified dermatologist, and director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “This beta hydroxy acid helps remove excess oil and exfoliate the cells from the surface of the skin.” The best way to utilize salicylic acid? Try a gentle face scrub, which acts as a sort of one-two punch for combatting blackheads, providing double the exfoliation powers. “The combination of physical exfoliation from the scrub, along with chemical exfoliation from the salicylic acid, can help keep the pores clear,” Zeichner says.
2. Clinique Blackhead Solutions 7 Day Deep Pore Cleanse & Scrub
However, you won’t want to exfoliate with a scrub every day. The general rule of thumb is three times per week for oily or combination skin, and just once weekly for sensitive skin, Marchbein says. On the days you don’t use a scrub, swap in a gentle salicylic-acid-containing cleanser, like Neutrogena’s Acne Proofing Gel Cleanser, which contains 2 percent of the ingredient, or Murad’s Acne Control Clarifying Cleanser, which is formulated with 1.5 percent salicylic acid.
3. Murad Clarifying Cleanser
For more stubborn blackheads, go with a retinoid cream “Retinoids can help treat blackheads and clogged pores by reducing the stickiness of the cells that clog pores, as well as speeding up the rate at which the skin turns over and regenerates,” Marchbein says. While there are many retinol myths out there, the underlying truth about the ingredient is that the right percentage and regimen can totally transform your skin and that includes helping to keep blackheads at bay.
4. RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Skin Night Cream
For peskier cases of blackheads, prescription retinoid creams typically do the trick. “Prescription retinoids such as tretinoin, Retin A micro, or Tazorac can be effective,” Marchbein says.
Another New York City-based board-certified dermatologist, Sejal Shah of SmarterSkin Dermatology in New York City, agrees, saying that “topical retinoids are my first-line recommendation” for clearing up blackheads.
5. For severe cases, oral acne medication may be necessary
When all else fails, your dermatologist might prescribe an oral medication to help clear things up. “If topical medications are not doing the job, medications like birth control pills and spironolactone decrease oil production and can effectively treat blackheads,” says Zeichner. “They will get rid of blackheads and prevent new ones from showing up in the future. But these medicines are reserved for people with more than just the occasional blackhead; they are more for people with moderate to severe acne.” Both oral contraceptives and spironolactone work on a hormonal level to help decrease oil production in the skin.
Tips to Remove Blackheads and Whiteheads
Blackheads and whiteheads need to be removed by competent dermatologists or skin care specialists who have had training in this area of medicine. There are many home remedies that claim to be able to remove blackheads and whiteheads, but you need to exercise caution when using such remedies. Since these can be infections in of the skin can become irritated, even scarred, if they are not taken care of properly. If you have any doubt about what you are using on your skin, then use a variety of chemical-free non-harmful products.
There are some over-the-counter topical medications, which are said to be able to remove blackheads and whiteheads. One of the most popular is benzyl peroxide, which is applied directly to the affected area. Another chemical that is available which may help prevent clogged pores is salicylic acid. Both of these over-the-counter medications should only be used on the skin where they have been applied and never in areas where there are open cuts or sores. These medications may also contain ingredients that are harmful to the skin so you should consult your doctor before using them.
Tips to remove whiteheads and blackheads
There are several ways to remove whiteheads, including:
- We put a little toothpaste on the places of the whiteheads, and leave it overnight, and then wash the face with water.
- Put two tablespoons of ground oats in a cup of water and mix well, then put the mixture on the face and leave it for ten minutes, and then wash the face with water.
- Put the face over the steam of hot water, cover it with a towel and leave it for ten minutes, being careful not to burn the face, and then wipe the face well with apple cider vinegar.
- We put two tablespoons of crushed orange peels, two tablespoons of chickpea flour, in addition to two tablespoons of honey and mix well until the mixture is homogeneous, then put the mixture on the face and leave it for twenty minutes, and then wash the face with water, and it is preferable to work the mixture daily to get the best result.
- Put four strawberries and a quarter cup of tomato juice in an electric mixer and mix well, then put the mixture on the face and leave it for ten minutes, and then wash the face with warm water.
- Put two tablespoons of lemon juice, two tablespoons of milk, and one tablespoon of non-iodized salt in a bowl and mix well, then put the mixture on the face and leave it for twenty minutes, and then wash the face with water.
How to Get Rid of Blackheads, According to Dermatologists
Experts explain what exactly blackheads are and recommend the products that reduce (and remove) them without squeezing your poor pores.
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Blackheads, much like cockroaches, are the worst for this very reason: Every time you squeeze one of them away, you find dozens more to tackle. (How’s that for a fun visual?) As satisfying as that squeeze may be in the moment, the peskiness of blackheads can wear on anyone. They just keep. Coming. Back. In search of answers, we turned to top dermatologists to find out how to get rid of blackheads for good.
Home remedies are perhaps the easiest and most affordable whitehead removal options. They usually involve using things you may already have around the house. Beware of potentially damaging ingredients, though. You should also stop any remedy that causes skin irritation.
While some home remedies help, other items can irritate the skin. For example:
apple cider vinegar or lemon juice may be too acidic for sensitive skin
baking soda is too harsh
sugar crystals can worsen inflammation and even cut the skin
Natural remedies are increasing in popularity as alternative skin treatments. While the term “natural” seems promising, the downside to these treatments is that they may not go through the same testing standards. Use the following items with caution.
Vitamin A cream
Vitamin A is a nutrient with powerful antioxidant properties. In terms of skin health, vitamin A has the potential to decrease redness and inflammation while also promoting healthy cell growth.
Some creams sold over the counter and in natural health stores contain vitamin A. These are applied directly to your face once or twice per day. Vitamin A products can cause redness and sensitivity to the sun. You should always wear a daily sunblock when using these products.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is touted as a natural anti-inflammatory. It may also have antimicrobial benefits. These effects mean tea tree oil could help clear up whiteheads.
The oil may be available as an extract you pat directly onto the face. Certain skincare items, such as cleansers, masks, and spot treatments, also contain tea tree oil.
Learn more: Essential oils for acne treatment »
Aloe vera is another plant-based ingredient. Like tea tree oil, aloe vera is available as an extract or in OTC skincare products. Although studies on the efficacy of aloe vera alone are inconclusive, the Mayo Clinic reports that the ingredient may be helpful when used with other acne products.
Derived from a flowering plant of the same name, witch hazel may help heal whiteheads with its astringent, pore-opening qualities. Witch hazel is the most convenient to use in the astringent form. Simply wet a cotton ball with it and use it twice per day.
Treating whiteheads and other forms of acne often takes trial and error. If natural and home remedies fail to clear your whiteheads, you may consider OTC treatments.
Take care not to use all the following ingredients at once. Using too many acne products together can dry out the skin. Patience is also important with OTC acne products. These treatments can take months to take full effect.
Benzoyl peroxide can be helpful as both a spot treatment and a full face treatment. It helps get rid of bacteria and excess oil. If you have multiple whiteheads in one spot, benzoyl peroxide may be helpful because it can reduce inflammation in the surrounding area.
Look for a product with at least 2% benzoyl peroxide. Examples include Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment Murad Acne Spot Fast Fix Simply apply to the affected area once per day. You may increase the application to twice per day once your skin gets used to it. Also, wash your hands immediately after using products with benzoyl peroxide the ingredient may bleach hair and clothing.
Tips to avoid whiteheads and blackheads
To avoid whiteheads and blackheads, follow the following
- Cleaning the skin permanently with skin lotion, and it is preferable to use skin peeling products to remove dead and damaged cells.
- Permanently applying moisturizing cream to the face.
- Not to put pressure on the places of whiteheads, because it increases the inflammation significantly.
Drink enough water. Water helps keep the skin hydrated.
- increases the secretion of sebum on the skin.
- It is preferable not to overuse various cosmetics. Always use sunscreen.
- It is preferable not to place contaminated hands on the skin because contaminated hands increase the possibility of germs and dirt being transferred to the skin.