How to Get Rid of Whiteheads
If you’re dealing with whiteheads or other forms of acne on your skin, chances are you wish you could snap your fingers and get rid of them in mere seconds. Unfortunately, getting rid of whiteheads in reality is not so simple. But don’t take that to mean that addressing your whiteheads is a total impossibility, but rather a process that’ll undoubtedly take some time. Keep reading to discover our best tips for tackling those pesky whiteheads once and for all.
What Are Whiteheads?
There are different types of acne, and the names of each type are often used interchangeably—even when they aren’t exactly the same. You may hear someone refer to a pimple as a whitehead, or a pustule as a cyst and vice versa. These different terms may seem interchangeable but when it comes to addressing acne, the type of acne blemish you are experiencing directly impacts the steps you take to get rid of it.
In reality, whiteheads are more similar to blackheads than they are to pimples. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), both blackheads and whiteheads appear when pores become clogged with excess oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells. When the pore stays open, it’s a blackhead. When it closes up, you see a tiny bump that looks white or flesh colored, and that’s a whitehead.
How to Address Whiteheads
Once you’ve determined that whiteheads are what you’re dealing with on your skin, it’s time to formulate a plan of attack. Here are some of our best tips to help reduce the appearance of whiteheads and keep them from reoccurring.
Whitehead Tip #1: Resist Popping
When you notice a new spot on your skin, you may be tempted to start pinching and poking at it. But, as you probably already know, that’s not a great idea. According to the AAD, picking at a whitehead is a job only a licensed dermatologist should take on. When you pop acne blemishes at home, unwanted side effects such as permanent acne scars, more-noticeable acne, more-painful acne, and infections are more likely. Leave it be or visit your dermatologist for assistance.
Whitehead Tip #2: Use Products Formulated with Benzoyl Peroxide
To help address whiteheads, and prevent new ones from forming, develop an acne-fighting skin care routine. This includes choosing products formulated with powerful ingredients that can help kill acne-causing bacteria. Enter: Benzoyl peroxide. Using an over-the-counter product formulated with benzoyl peroxide can help control acne and reduce flares, according to the AAD.
Whitehead Tip #3: Use Products Formulated with Salicylic Acid
Using a chemical exfoliant like salicylic acid is another option for keeping whiteheads at bay. Dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, MD, and Skincare.com consultant says, “Salicylic acid is a great keratolytic which means it helps remove excess dead skin cells from the skin’s surface and gently exfoliates clogged pores.” The only drawback? Salicyclic acid can provoke skin dryness, so it’s better to use it in moderation. “I usually have my patients with mild to moderate acne use it two to three times a week,” he says. If you are using products formulated with benzoyl peroxide, you may want to avoid incorporating salicylic acid products as well if your skin is particularly dry or sensitive.
Whitehead Tip #4: Incorporate a Retinol
Retinol is a powerhouse ingredient in that it can help address a wide range of skin concerns, including but not limited to acne blemishes accompanied by whiteheads. According to the AAD, retinol is one of the preferred methods amongst dermatologists for preventing new acne from forming. The good news is that you can find a wide range of over-the-counter products formulated with retinol, including serums, creams, and moisturizing gels. If this is your first time using retinol, be sure to start with a lower dose and concentration to build up your skin’s tolerance to the ingredient. Use the ingredient in the evening only and pair it with broad-spectrum SPF 15 or higher during the daytime hours, as retinol is notorious for triggering skin sensitivity to sun exposure.
Important Note: Tip numbers two and three recommend using a product formulated with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, and if you are, you should avoid incorporating a retinol into your routine at the same time. “Retinol and benzoyl peroxide can help ward off acne and prevent the formation of new blemishes, but when used simultaneously, they can counteract each other’s benefits,” dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, and Skincare.com consultant, warns. “Both are drying, exfoliating, peeling agents, and when they’re mixed together, they can cause skin irritation.”
Whitehead Tip #5: Moisturize Often
From salicylic acid to benzoyl peroxide, we just recommended effective ingredients that can work wonders on your blemish-prone skin. That said, they can also cause exceptional dryness. While you target your whiteheads, be sure to follow up with a hydrating moisturizer for your skin type to ensure your skin is comfortable and hydrated.
We share the best winter moisturizers for every skin type, here.
Whitehead Tip #6: Give It Time
One of the wisest and most important things you can learn is that instant fixes aren’t always what they seem. Like most things, addressing whiteheads and seeing noticeable results takes time. That means if you change up your skin care routine to help tackle the problem and after two weeks everything isn’t perfect, it isn’t a lost cause. Waiting it out to see results can be well worth it, and all you have to do is practice a little patience. The AAD suggests giving treatment 6-8 weeks to take effect. After that, it may be time to try something else.
Whitehead Tip #7: Consider Your Hair Care Products
Everyone knows—and has likely learned the hard way—that using the wrong skin care and makeup products can have a negative impact on their skin, but what about hair care? The cause of your whiteheads could be the products you use to take care of and style your locks. That’s right, the conditioner that’s giving your hair new life might be far from the best thing for your skin. If you notice whiteheads appearing along your hairline, forehead, or the back of your neck, the AAD says that hair products could be the culprit. To see them start to clear, you’ll need to change what you use on your hair and remove product residue that may be on pillowcases, sheets, hats, and headbands. Instead, look for hair care products that won’t clog pores, are oil-free, non-comedogenic, and non-acnegenic to play it safe.
Editor’s tip: When you’re in the shower, letting conditioner or a hair mask sit on your strands is practically a must, but it can be a mistake to leave your hair hanging down during this time. Conditioner-coated tresses sticking to your neck or back may lead to breakouts—especially if you don’t carefully wash those areas afterwards. An easy fix is to toss your hair into a bun atop your head while the product is on, that way none will get on your skin.
Whitehead Tip #8: See a Dermatologist
When whiteheads become a persistent problem, it may be time to seek out a dermatologist. An expert will be able to provide the next steps to help tackle your complexion concerns.