For people who have been battling acne for years, whiteheads are a familiar sight.
Even if you've rid yourself of the pus-filled bumps that most people associate with acne but still have whiteheads — the battle is still on!
To truly come out a victor from acne, we must eliminate all of its forms—including whiteheads. These tiny bumps may seem harmless, but don't let your guard down!
Treat these flesh-colored bumps as ticking time bombs—any moment, given the right circumstance, whiteheads can wreak havoc on your face.
The best thing for you to be victorious in battle is to eliminate these bumps as soon as possible.
Luckily, I've prepared for you 5 ways to eliminate whiteheads. Read on to know more about what whiteheads are and how you can rid yourself of these frustrating little bumps!
What Are Whiteheads?
Whiteheads are a type of blemish from the skin condition acne.
These blemishes form when pores are clogged but stay closed at the skin surface. That is why whiteheads are also referred to as closed comedones.
Like most blemishes associated with acne, whiteheads form when dead skin cells and sebum plug the opening of follicles.
When sebum continues to accumulate behind the plug, the plug can enlarge and form a visible comedo. A comedo that is closed by the skin is what we refer to as a whitehead.
A whitehead looks precisely the way it sounds—whitish in appearance.
This appearance is due to the thin layer of skin covering the pore, which keeps the oil and dead skin inside from being exposed to oxygen.
Whiteheads are non-inflammatory acne. No redness or swelling is associated with them.
However, if not eliminated right away, more oil can gather in closed comedones, increasing the chance for bacteria to multiply and lead to inflammatory acne: papules, pustules, nodules—the works.
5 Ways To Eliminate Whiteheads
In our journey towards clear and healthy skin, facing the challenge of eliminating whiteheads is inevitable.
Clearing inflamed acne is a job well done, but we must not forget about getting rid of closed comedones.
With that, here are five measures and treatments you can try in your battle against whiteheads.
1. Hands off!
It can be incredibly tempting to squeeze whiteheads. It's as if these little bumps beckon us to squeeze the sebum and dead skin cells out of them. But we must not fall for it!
Hands off! Yes, we must not touch these bumps.
This first step may appear quite ironic, but trust me, this step is essential. Touching your face not only invites more dead skin cells inside your pores, but it can also irritate.
Popping whiteheads doesn't work. Period. Have you tried popping one, only to have it come back a few hours later—this time bigger and angrier?
Touching, squeezing, or popping these damages the skin.
Not only are you creating an open wound where there was none before. You also push the contents of the whiteheads deeper into your skin.
The result? Instant level up for your whiteheads to turn into full blown inflamed pimples.
I know it is tempting to do, and I admit I do give in to temptation too (sometimes)—guilty as charged. What we must do is to muster enough self-control and go completely hands-free.
In cases where, like me, you failed to stop yourself from popping one, be sure to treat the spot immediately.
You first need to stop picking it, simply allowing it to heal. The next thing is to clean the spot. Wash the surrounding area with your gentle cleanser, making sure to not touch the popped pimple itself.
Then dry the area and apply a pimple patch (hydrocolloid patch) to prevent infection. Before this last step, you can also press an ice pack on the area to help reduce inflammation.
2. Salicylic Acid 2%
Salicylic acid (SA) is an exfoliating agent that effectively supports your skin in shedding dead skin cells and unclogging your pores.
It penetrates the follicle, encouraging faster skin cell turn-over within the follicle. This de-gunking helps keep the pores clean and fend off whiteheads.
It is also beneficial in reducing excess oil production. So it's an excellent fit for those with acne-prone, oily, and combination skin.
Now, some people consider SA bad for the skin, as it can cause irritation, itching, and redness. These effects can occur but only when SA is taken in inappropriate concentrations.
For daily use, a max of 2% SA is all you need in your product.
Also, misuse of SA could disturb the pH level of your skin and cause a burning sensation. So we need to be extra careful in using SA.
These are typically milder than other topical acne solutions, and most people don't experience side effects when using SA. But of course, your mileage may vary. Always listen to your skin's needs.
SA is available in many skin care products. To get the best out of this whitehead-controlling ingredient, make sure to get a leave-on product. Like toners, serums, or moisturizers.
Some brands include SA in cleansers. But since cleansers only stay on your skin for a few seconds, SA won't do much for your skin.
I have incorporated SA in my nighttime routine years ago, and this has helped me a lot. (Sometimes, if my skin looks very clear, I skip it.)
Side effects of SA include dryness, peeling, and flaking. To keep side effects at bay, make sure you apply moisturizer. When using salicylic acid to treat whiteheads, your skin will need your help in restoring its hydration. So, make sure you always finish your routine with moisturizer.
3. Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
If you find that salicylic acid doesn't do much for you and your whiteheads, then fret not, alpha-hydroxy acids are here to the rescue!
Like SA, AHAs are also exfoliating agents that can help with de-gunking your pores.
The main difference is that SA is oil-soluble and can penetrate the skin deeper. That's why it's often recommended for oily skin.
Meanwhile AHAs are water-soluble. They can't penetrate that deep but since whiteheads are not too deep in the skin, AHAs are still beneficial.
A huge plus to AHAs over SA is that they are humectants. This means AHAs slow down evaporation of water from the skin. So, if you have normal to dry (even very dry) skin, you might like AHAs better.
Combination skin can even use both AHAs and SA by applying SA on oilier parts of the face and AHAs on drier parts.
The most common AHAs in skincare products are glycolic acid and lactic acid. Glycolic acid is the most researched AHA while lactic acid is the better humectant.
You'll usually find AHAs in the form of toners and serums. As with SA, using them for the first time can make skin peel and flake. So, be extra careful and start with lower concentrations.
All AHAs makes your skin sensitive to the sun. So, when using an AHA, using sunscreen and other sun protection measures are non-negotiable! Yes, even if you use AHA at night.
4. Witch hazel
Witch hazel is derived from a flowering plant of the same name. Because of its astringent qualities, it is excellent for healing whiteheads. How?
Upon application, witch hazel extract tightens the pores. Then, the material clogging the pore is pushed outwards.
Plus, witch hazel has been known to be highly effective in removing excess oils, which as we already know is a circumstance for whiteheads to appear.
You can find witch hazel extract in a variety of products like cleansers, toners, and exfoliators.
Though products with witch hazel extract usually include hydrating and moisturizing ingredients, it can still be a tad drying. So, make sure you moisturize after using it.
Try restricting the use of witch hazel-based products to just once a day as astringents usually cause dryness. Remember to apply moisturizer after using witch hazel. Consider a patch test before introducing it to your skin.
5. Non-comedogenic makeup
While cosmetics don't necessarily cause breakouts, some ingredients and products may increase the chance of clogged pores. And we know that clogged pores are a definite no-no.
If your skin is already prone to bouts of acne, avoid heavy and thick makeup products.
The ingredients in these types of cosmetics can be promoting pore blockage. Oil-free and water-based products are less likely to clog pores.
Many dermatologists recommend that you look for products that contain non-comedogenic ingredients.
Products usually sport the label "non-comedogenic" and "non-acnegenic," so try and look for those.
In general, it is best to always read the ingredients label of makeup products before buying them. Stay away from toxic chemicals and products loaded with skin irritants.
Patience is vital when dealing with the blemishes characteristic of acne. Don't expect these treatments or any treatments for that matter, to make your whiteheads disappear overnight.
You will need to be consistent in applying these treatments along with your solid skin care routine.
Hold on a little longer and one day, you'll find yourself facing the mirror with the best skin you've always dreamed of!
I hope this post was helpful for both those of you looking for whiteheads treatment and those interested in preventive measures.
If you have other hacks to protect your skin from whiteheads, don't hesitate to share them with us in the comment section below.
Stay tuned and take skin care