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Whiteheads and Blackheads: What They Are & How To Treat Them

December 19, 2023

If you deal with breakouts, you’ve likely encountered both whiteheads and blackheads before. But what exactly sets these two pimples apart? While they sound similar and both involve clogged pores, whiteheads and blackheads have some key differences.

Let’s break down these differences, along with how to go about treating both!

By: Mackenzie, Licensed Esthetician


What Are Whiteheads?

Whiteheads form when dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria become trapped within a hair follicle under the surface of the skin. This clogged pore remains closed, which causes a small, flesh-colored bump to appear on the surface. The top of the whitehead stays white or skin-toned since the contents are trapped below the skin.

Whiteheads are considered a mild type of acne. While they are usually painless, they can appear in large groups which many find unsightly. Common areas for whiteheads include the nose, chin, and cheeks.

What are Blackheads?

Blackheads also begin as blocked hair follicles where dead skin and oil get trapped. However, instead of remaining closed, the top of the clogged pore stays open. When exposed to air, the trapped oil oxidizes and turns black, causing the dark appearance of blackheads.

Blackheads are not actually dirt stuck in pores, but simply skin pigmentation forming at the surface. They often appear on the nose and chin area where oil production is high. While not painful, they can stretch pores and damage skin over time.

How Can I Treat Whiteheads and Blackheads?

If you deal with breakouts, you’ve likely encountered both whiteheads and blackheads before. Luckily, treatment for both is fairly similar. Here are some ways to both avoid and treat each:

  • Cleanse Your Face Daily: once in the morning and twice at night to make sure you are removing your makeup from the day and or the oils that have built up on the face. 
  • Exfoliate Regularly: this will help remove dead skin cells that contribute to clogging the pores. Using products with salicylic and glycolic acid will help dissolve dead skin cells to prevent your hair follicles from clogging. Using a retinol will also help exfoliate the skin the promote skin cell turnover over which will also prevent pores from getting clogged.
    • With this said, make sure you do not over exfoliate the face. Over-exfoliating can strip your skin from its natural oils and your sebaceous glands will try to overcompensate the dryness, which can cause clogged pores. 
  • Avoid Touching Your Face: While it can be difficult, try to avoid touching your face throughout the day, especially resting your chin on your hand. We collect a lot of bacteria on our hands and touching our face with our hands can cause breakouts. Try your best to not squeeze and black or whiteheads – this can cause more breakouts due to bacteria.
  • Moisturize: Referring back to oils being trapped underneath the skin due to lack of moisture, make sure you find a moisturizer that is right for you. If you tend to be oily, find a lightweight moisturizer that is still hydrating. If you tend to be a bit drier, find a heavier moisturizer, but one that will not clog the pores.

Some other Ways to Treat or Prevent Blackheads and Whiteheads

Staying on top of monthly Hydrafacials will help with exfoliation and clearing out your pores the proper way. Maintaining a consistent routine with facials in general is a great way to prevent whiteheads and blackheads in the first place.

Another great way to prevent them is to make sure your pillow cases are cleaned. I say wash your pillowcases once every week if not at least once every two weeks. Dirt, debris and oils will build up on your pillowcases which can cause acne. 

Finally, make sure to routinely clean your makeup brushes! Makeup brushes can harbor bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells from your face. If these contaminants accumulate on your brushes, they can lead to breakouts on the face. 

If you need help regaining control of your acne or struggling with clogged pores, request a complimentary consultation with one of our providers! They can help personalize both a product and treatment routine to get your skin back on the right track.

Be sure to follow us over on Instagram as well for more skincare tips!