Blackheads and Whiteheads: What They Are And How To Get Rid Of Them

July 3, 2006

Blackheads, whiteheads… people shudder at the thought of them yet half of the people out there prolly have them. If you are one of the few lucky ones who do not, congratulations and good job on keeping your skin free of blackheads and whiteheads! As for those who are less fortunate, don’t fret! Read on for a couple of solutions on how to treat/prevent them.

What Are They
Before we start, let’s first get a better understanding of what blackheads and whiteheads are. Basically, they are comedones – sebaceous follicles which are clogged with sebum/oil, dead skin cells, and possibly small hairs and bacteria. The only difference between a whitehead and a blackhead is that a blackhead is an “open” comedo with a visible dark head caused by oxidation while a whitehead is a “closed” comedo with a whitish or skin coloured protruding plug caused by cellular debris at the follicle opening.

Here are a few things you can do to treat/prevent blackheads and whiteheads:

1. BHA (Beta hydroxy acid)
Unlike AHAs, BHAs are lipid soluble meaning they can dissolve dead skin cells not only on the surface but also in the pore. This makes blackheads easier to extract and helps to prevent new ones. BHAs work best at concentrations of 1% to 2% at an optimal pH of 3, diminishing in effectiveness as the pH increases beyond 4.

2. Benzoyl peroxide
BP has an anti-bacterial effect and may also decrease the chemical reaction that changes the lining of the hair follicle. This may help reduce the plugging that causes comedones. Benzoyl peroxide may be used for a mild case of comedones or to help prevent formation of others.

3. Tretinoin (Retin-A, Avita, Renova)
Tretinoin is a derivative of vitamin A and works by increasing cell turnover and reducing the “stickiness” of the sloughed cells. It causes expulsion of the plugged material and converts closed comedones into open comedones. The material in these newly converted open comedones can be easily extruded. Tretinoin can be irritating though so please use with care.

4. Extraction
This can by done on open comedones either at a beauty salon or at home. This process is performed using a device called a comedone extractor which is a small, metal, circular instrument that is centered on the comedone and pushes down the surrounding skin, causing the plug to extrude. To help make extraction easier, steam your face with a facial steamer or a pot of hot water for 10-15 minutes to loosen embedded blackheads.

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  • Reply sr.girl July 5, 2006 at 4:47 am

    hi! love ur blog!
    i wanted to ask a question (it’s unrelated to your post tho sorry!), when i use foundation, i look ok in ‘real-life’ but in photos i look WHITE! do you have any reccommedations on what foundations would not do this?
    thanks so much 🙂

  • Reply Phyllis July 6, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    The reason why you look paler in pictures is because the SPF or shimmer in your foundation/moisturizer is reflecting off the flash. The only way to avoid this is to use a foundation without SPF and high shimmer. Or you can simply go with a shade slightly darker. People on TV do this to avoid having that white-face look.

  • Reply Anonymous August 15, 2006 at 9:15 pm

    hi phyllis,
    i was just wondering if you heard of a product called bio-oil and if you have tried it?

  • Reply Anonymous October 25, 2006 at 10:49 pm

    Pesky blackheads are a mixture of dead skin cells, oil and bacteria that builds up inside our skin’s pores.Use the same tools as professional aestheticians or dermatologists use to extract blackheads, pimples & clogged pores.Using our Blackhead Extractor is the safest, most ideal way to remove them without damaging your skin. They can be exterminated by using a quality professional comedone extractor. Huh? Yes, a comedone extractor like Venus Worldwide Comedone extractor Blackhead Remover. First, lay a warm, wet washcloth on your face for a few minutes. After a shower is an ideal time to extract.steaming the face, or using a hot water compress is strongly recommended to help soften comedones.This will make them much easier to remove.When you’re ready to begin the extraction process lay the looped side on top of the blackhead – basically encircling this area with the loop. Apply slow and even pressure lightly until the trapped sebum is forced out of the follicle. The blackhead — oil and all — will ooze up and out of the pore. Do not continue to attempt the extraction if the trapped sebum is not released easily. Applying too much force can cause infection and scarring.When piercing a whitehead with lancet (Pointed end), wait until the whitehead breaks open, then gently roll the tool over the whitehead. Be sure to disinfect the area when finished and clean your tool off with alcohol or hot water.A deep, cystic pimple should not be opened with the lancet. When dealing with deep acne, it’s best to visit a dermatologist. A doctor may use a sterile needle, but only after a pustule has formed. Additional treatments depend on the severity of the acne.
    Always use Professional quality tools for your skin rather than buying cheaper and lower quality implements.

  • Reply Anonymous July 8, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    …i heard that you shouldn’t forefully take your blackheads out with a tool b/c it may damage your pores and stop them from working correctly forever…instead u should try to dissolve them with a cleanser..X__X

  • Reply Anonymous October 24, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    Here’s a very simple method… buy some proactive :). Works like a charm! Btw, don’t buy it in Canada, order from the States because it is WAY too expensive.

  • Reply Blackhead remover June 9, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    You should always use your own skin care tools to prevent blood born infections.

  • Reply Suga so fly July 17, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    omg Biore pore strips r great for takin out the blackheads on the tzone area <3 !

  • Reply Amanda July 21, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    thank you so much for the helpful tips T___T I'm going to try to buy some benzoyl peroxide this weekend n see if it helps my breakouts i'm getting on my forehead >__<…I luv ur site n all the pretty makeup tutorials but I was wondering could you add more skincare cleansers/moisturizer reviews for people who wanna clear up their skin problems?

  • Reply Anonymous October 30, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    I was wondering–did you hear about benzoyl peroxide being banned out of Europe? Do you know why? That’s scary.

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