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Causes of Whiteheads, How to Treat Them

Updated on July 23, 2013
Alison Graham profile image

Alison is a freelance writer on health, nutrition, skincare, and pets, especially cats and dogs.

This article looks at the causes of whiteheads and blackheads and explains the skin care steps to prevent them from developing and treat existing spots.

Blackheads and Whiteheads are very similar in that they both contain a plug of sebum, dead skin debris and sometimes, other dust and grime inside them.

What is the difference between Whiteheads and Blackheads?

The contents of blackheads get exposed to the air and it is the oxidization process that takes place as a result which turns them to their characteristic black color.

Whiteheads on the other hand are not open to the air and the contents does not oxidize but remains the white or yellowish color beneath the skin. It is for this reason that these two types of comedones are called open comedones in the case of blackheads and closed comedones if they are whiteheads.

A great skin care routine using products with effective ingredients will help prevent whiteheads and blackheads.
A great skin care routine using products with effective ingredients will help prevent whiteheads and blackheads.

What Causes Whiteheads Explained!

How To Prevent Blackheads and Whiteheads

Now that you know what is the cause of both whiteheads and blackheads, you should adapt your skin care routine accordingly to try to prevent them from developing in the first place.

The first thing to do is to use a treatment which will lower the amount of bacteria that is living on the surface of your skin.

By doing this, you will be doing a lot to prevent the development of acne in the first place.

As it is these bacteria that are responsible for setting up the inflammation and infection that causes so much distress with acne blemishes.

Step One, An Antibacterial Cleanser

Now that you know what is the cause of both whiteheads and blackheads, you should adapt your skin care routine accordingly to try to prevent them from developing in the first place. The first thing to do is to use an antibacterial cleanser which will lower the amount of bacteria that is living on the surface of your skin. By doing this, you will be doing a lot to prevent the development of acne in the first place. As it is these bacteria that are responsible for setting up the inflammation and infection that causes so much distress with acne blemishes.

A good skin care routine will help keep your skin free from whiteheads and blackheads
A good skin care routine will help keep your skin free from whiteheads and blackheads

Step Two, Exfoliation

The next vital step in your skin care routine will be exfoliation. This is great for removing the topmost layer of dead skin cells which avoids the pores from becoming clogged and deprives the bacteria of a primary component of their food source.

It is easy to exfoliate your skin but you must be careful not to use anything too harsh or abrasive that could damage the surface of your skin as this could cause you further problems.

I have just reviewed a really brilliant exfoliating product called ExfoliKate which is made by Kate Somerville - you can read the full review here Exfolikate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment Review - I love it because it works in two ways, by physically removing surface dead skin cells with Microbeads and by using natural plant enzymes from Pineapple and Papaya to dissolve more dull-looking surface cells to reveal a more radiant complexion beneath.

You could learn more about another method of exfoliation that really works to remove the surface layers of your skin, revealing a younger-looking, brighter and clearer complexion below. Check out my hubpages article on the subject here:-

Microdermabrasion for acne, blackheads and anti aging

Skin Care Products That Really Work if You Have Whiteheads

If whiteheads and blackheads do get established on your skin, there are lots of products on the market to help you get rid of them. These vary from over the counter treatments such as benzoyl peroxide to prescription antibiotics in more serious cases that resist other treatments. Everyone agrees that it is a lot simpler if you can prevent the blemishes in the first place so effective skin care is a must!


The two pronged attack of using a mild anti bacterial cleanser in combination with an exfoliating scrub to remove dead skin debris is the most effective way of improving your skin. However as with most things, too much can be worse than nothing at all and overdoing your skin care routine can cause the skin to dry out too much and this in turn causes the oil producing glands to produce even more oil in an attempt to compensate.


It is a good idea before you go shopping for any skin care products, to familiarise yourself with ingredients that are really effective in treating acne, whiteheads and blackheads. If you do this before parting with any money, you will save yourself unnecessary expense in buying products that do not contain ingredients that will bring the results you want. It will also save you time if you know exactly what you are looking for when choosing from the vast range of products available.

If you would like more help and advice on skin care and in particular about whiteheads treatment, the link will take you to a website dedicated to the subject and which has many helpful articles and useful product reviews.

Not all Whiteheads Treatments Work for Everyone!

It is important to understand that not all treatments work for everyone. Your skin may not respond well to a product that your friends are raving about! A little trial and error in the first instance will result in you finding a product (or range of products) that works well for you.

However, some people find that after a period of use, a product that had previously been very effective, suddenly stops being effective. This may be due to a formulation change by the manufacturer, or just simply that your skin is not responding to the active ingredients in that particular product.

The good news is that there are so many on the market, you are sure to quickly find another that will help and, if all else fails, your doctor or dermatologist has a whole arsenal of prescription medications that will help to get your skin problems back under control again.

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