Whiteheads are a common type of acne lesion. They are not painful or inflamed, but they are unsightly. Here you will find out how acne whiteheads are formed and how to get rid of them.
Acne strikes almost everyone; most people experience acne at some point in their lifetime, many of them have numerous recurrences of this skin condition. There are many kinds of acne lesions in various degrees of severity. One of the most common and least problematic kinds of lesions is called a whitehead.
What are Acne Whiteheads?
When a skin pore becomes blocked with sebum (the oil produced by glands in your skin), dead skin cells, hairs, and other foreign matter it is called a comedone. There are two kinds of comedones:
- Whiteheads. A whitehead is a blocked pore that has accumulated matter. It protrudes from the surface of the skin but is not inflamed, and it has no opening, so the matter inside remains white.
- Blackheads. These comedones do not protrude, but the pore is open to the skin’s surface, exposing the sebum and foreign matter trapped inside to the air. Sebum contains melanin, or skin pigment, which oxidizes and changes color, becoming black or brown.
Whiteheads are not painful, and although they are usually quite small, most people find them unattractive. There are several ways to help get rid of whiteheads.
The foundation of acne whiteheads treatment begins with a good skincare regimen. Make sure you wash your face twice daily, and that you refrain from touching your face as much as possible, since that increases the amount of oil on your skin and can cause irritation.
Over the Counter Acne Whiteheads Treatments
There are many good products to treat whiteheads and other acne lesions available without a prescription. Typically, these topical products come in a cream, gel, or liquid form, and can span the range of products from soaps and facial washes to toners and spot treatments.
Before using a spot treatment you need to cleanse the skin so that it is more effective.
You may need between four to six weeks for the topical treatments to work, and you may experience a temporary worsening of the condition before it gets better. Some of the most popular over-the-counter acne whiteheads treatments are:
- Benzoyl peroxide is great for acne whiteheads treatment because it kills the acne-causing bacteria, p. acnes. It also dries up excess sebum and dissolves the dead skin cells that clog pores and form comedones.
- Salicylic acid breaks down whiteheads.
- Sulfur and Resorcinol help eliminate whiteheads by removing dead skin cells from clogged pores and mop up the excess sebum.
Prescription Acne Whiteheads Treatments
Dermatologists can prescribe several different acne whiteheads treatments. They can be topical or oral. The medications that are most frequently prescribed for acne fall into two categories, and they are often used in a combination.
- Antimicrobials. These acne whiteheads treatments kill the p. acnes bacteria that causes the majority of acne lesions. Oral antibiotics used in acne whiteheads treatment include tetracycline and doxycycline. Other times dermatologists prescribe a topical antibiotic for whiteheads, such as erythromycin or clindamycin.
- Retinoids. Retinoic acid, a derivative of vitamin A, is used in many skincare products as a wrinkle reducer, but it is also very beneficial in the treatment of acne. Although you can buy retinoids over the counter, the concentrations of the active ingredients are lower than in prescription-strength formulations. Isotretinoin (Accutane) is an oral medication, while tretinoin (Retin-A) is topical. Both reduce oil production in the skin, increase the skin’s regenerative rate, and diminish inflammation.
Whiteheads are an unfortunate part of acne, but they can be treated with a variety of products. If you find that your acne whiteheads do not respond to over the counter treatments you may need to see a dermatologist, who can recommend acne whitehead treatments that are more effective for you.