Whiteheads and blackheads are the most commonly experienced type of acne. If you experienced acne as a teenager, you likely had one of these breakouts. Whiteheads and blackheads are types of comedones, which are clogged hair follicles in the skin. These small bumps are most frequently found on the face, but they can appear anywhere on the body. Blackheads are open comedones, while whiteheads are closed comedones.


Blackheads and whiteheads are a mild form of acne, which means they don’t often require a doctor’s help to treat. However, these blemishes can be difficult to hide, which means you’ll want to find a treatment that works efficiently. A dermatologist can help you find a treatment strategy that both clears current breakouts and prevents future comedones from forming.


Whitehead and Blackhead Symptoms

Whiteheads and blackheads are among the easiest types of acne to recognize. Whiteheads appear as small white bumps directly under the skin’s surface. There is no obvious opening, which means most people will be able to see the fluid contained within the lesion. This mild form of acne typically appears on the face, but it can also form on the back, arms, neck, chest, and shoulders. Whiteheads protrude outward from the skin, giving them a cone-like structure.

By contrast, blackhead symptoms are a bit more subdued. These acne lesions are small bumps that have dark or black surfaces. They are generally very small, and they may be difficult to see. This mild form of acne typically appears on the face, especially on the chin and nose, where there are additional sebaceous glands, but they can also appear on the chest, arms, back, neck, and shoulders.


What Causes Whiteheads and Blackheads?

While whitehead and blackheads look different from each other, they have the same underlying cause. they have the same cause. All comedones are the result of a clogged hair follicle, or pore, in the skin. Skin debris, like dead cells and keratin, combine with sebum to clog the follicle. This causes slight inflammation, resulting in a comedone.

Blackheads are open comedones. This means that, as the pore becomes inflamed, it opens and becomes exposed to the air. This interaction oxidizes the pore’s contents, turning the lesion a black or dark color. In contrast, whiteheads, or closed comedones, become filled with bacteria, but in this case, air is not able to enter the follicle. This means the bacteria does not oxidize. As a result, the contents of the clogged pore remain white.


Common Blackhead and Whitehead Treatments

Both blackheads and whiteheads respond well to over-the-counter treatments. These products help to open the pores, washing out bacteria and dirt before acne forms. Products containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are often the most effective whitehead and blackhead treatments, as they work to both unclog the pore and kill surface bacteria. These ingredients are available as creams, ointments, spot treatments, and lotions.

Sometimes, however, a trip to the local pharmacy isn’t enough to clear the skin of comedones. If your blackheads and whiteheads do not respond to over-the-counter treatment, you may need something stronger. Visiting a doctor can help you determine the best treatment for your acne, whether that means a higher concentration of benzoyl peroxide, antibiotic treatments, or acne extraction.


When to See a Doctor for Whiteheads and Blackheads

Even without treatment, whiteheads and blackheads tend to clear up on their own – given the person experiencing them does not poke or pick at the comedones. Still, blackheads and whiteheads often return. With a professional’s help, you can contribute to preventing future breakouts.

Additionally, if your acne lesions are chronic, painful, or not responding to over-the-counter treatments, schedule an appointment at the Skin Care Center of Southern Illinois. Our doctors can assess your skin and work with you to develop an efficient treatment plan. Contact us to schedule your consultation today.