What Is a Whitehead?
A whitehead is a type of acne that forms when dead skin
cells, oil, and bacteria become trapped within one of your pores. Whiteheads
can be annoying, and they may seem to develop at the worst times. The good
news, however, is that whiteheads can be prevented with a combination of
lifestyle changes and medical treatments.
Causes of Whiteheads
the cause of whiteheads can help you know what to do to prevent future
breakouts. Clogged pores are the main cause of whiteheads.
Your pores can become blocked for several reasons.
One cause of blocked pores is hormonal changes, which are
common triggers of acne. Certain life stages can increase the amount of sebum,
or oil, your pores produce. The increased oil production causes clogged pores
and whiteheads. These stages include:
Taking birth control pills can also increase hormone
levels and cause acne in women. Likewise, some women notice more acne during
certain stages of their menstrual cycles once they stop taking birth control pills.
Genetics also play a role in the development of different
types of acne, including whiteheads, according to the University of Illinois McKinley Health Center. If someone in your family suffers from whiteheads, you
have a higher risk of developing them too.
How Common Are Whiteheads?
A whitehead can develop anywhere on your body. The nose,
chin, and forehead are collectively known as the T-zone. The oily parts of your
face, such as the T-zone, are the most prone to acne. But you may also develop
whiteheads on your chest, back, shoulders, and arms. Acne can occur in both
genders and at any age. Even if you never had problems with whiteheads as a
teen, you can still develop them at some point during adulthood.
How to Treat Whiteheads
Whiteheads are considered a mild form of acne. They are
relatively easy to treat. Both over-the-counter and prescription washes and
ointments can treat this condition. Products that contain benzoyl peroxide can
help reduce oil production in your pores. Products containing salicylic acid
work by directly breaking down existing whiteheads.
Unfortunately, there’s no overnight cure
for whiteheads. It can take up to eight weeks for a particular treatment method
to work. If whiteheads don’t
improve after this period, contact your doctor about other treatment options.
Your doctor may prescribe a topical or oral prescription
medication to clear up whiteheads and other types of acne. One option is
retinoids, which remove dead skin cells and help unblock clogged pores. Your
doctor might also prescribe antibiotics, which destroy excess skin bacteria and
reduce inflammation and redness. Birth control pills can also reduce acne in
young girls and women.
Your doctor may recommend other acne drugs and treatments
as well. These include:
- light therapy
- chemical peels
- whitehead extraction
- steroid injections
Preventing Whiteheads and Acne
Oral and topical medications are both effective
treatments for whiteheads, but these aren’t the only options.
You can also enjoy clearer, healthier skin and reduce the risk of future
breakouts by making certain lifestyle changes.
For example, those who wear makeup should look for
cosmetic brands that are noncomedogenic+. These products might be a better fit for people who are
prone to acne because they don’t clog pores, reducing the
likelihood of acne and whiteheads. You should also use oil-free lotions or
moisturizers to limit the amount of oils added to your skin.
Wash your hair and skin on a regular basis, and don’t forget to remove makeup before going to bed. But you
should avoid excessive washing. Stripping your skin of oils only increases oil
production, which increases your risk of developing whiteheads. Use a mild
cleanser to wash your face twice a day.
Misconceptions About Whiteheads
There are some common misconceptions about acne and
whiteheads. Understanding what can and cannot cause acne is important for
getting rid of whiteheads. According to the Mayo Clinic, these
factors have little to no effect on acne:
washing and scrubbing doesn’t prevent
whiteheads. Dirt doesn’t cause acne, and washing your
face too hard can irritate the skin and worsen existing acne.
- Greasy foods don’t cause acne, but if you cook with grease, cooking oils can
splatter and stick to your skin and clog pores.
- Stress doesn’t trigger whiteheads, but it can worsen an existing acne problem.
Possible Complications of Whiteheads
The way you deal with whiteheads can affect the health of
your skin. If you constantly pick at a whitehead, it’s more likely to become irritated and infected. In severe
cases, irritated whiteheads may cause acne scars or dark spots on your skin.
Surgery may be required to treat severe scarring.
Talk to Your Doctor
Acne and whiteheads can be unsightly, embarrassing, and damaging
to your self-esteem, but help is available. If you’re dealing with a mild case of whiteheads, see if you can
control acne with over-the-counter medications. You can also try switching your
facial and body products with those that are oil-free and gentle on your skin.
If this doesn’t work, speak with your doctor or a dermatologist. Your
doctor may be able to recommend alternative treatments or prescribe medications.