Raise your hand if you've ever felt personally victimized by your own skin. You've probably picked up countless products at the drugstore to combat breakouts, or even tried your hand at wacky at-home remedies. And, while it's completely normal to be dealing with acne and other skin issues, it doesn't mean that finding a cure is simple.
If these mark your boxes and you happen to be looking for ways to treat whiteheads, look no further. From causes to cures, we've got you covered. Seventeen spoke to board-certified dermatologist and Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. Adeline Kikam DO, to get all the answers when it comes to treating pesky whiteheads.
What is the difference between whiteheads and blackheads?
The confusing thing about whiteheads is that they're similar to blackheads, and while they may take the form of bumps, they aren't really pimples. So, how do you even know where to begin when it comes to treating them?
When your skin builds up a lot of dead skin cells and produces too many natural oils, it can clog up and expand pores. When the pores are closed, a white bump forms underneath the skin's surface, and when they're open, blackheads appear.
"The reason blackheads appear blackish on the skin is because, when the [natural skin oil] sebum and dead skin cells...cause dilated and open pores, the debris gets exposed to air and oxidizes its contents turning it from white to black," Dr. Kikam says. "Hence, the main difference is, whiteheads are closed off under the skin while blackheads have an open pore."
Should you squeeze whiteheads?
I know what you're thinking: it's incredibly tempting to just squeeze those suckers away. However, Dr. Kikam advises against squeezing whiteheads because it can actually harm your skin more in the long run.
"I don’t recommend squeezing or picking whiteheads because it damages skin by causing inflammation and hyperpigmentation. It could potentially lead to scarring as well," she says. "Also, it could introduce bacteria from fingers to the skin, compounding the problem. Another good reason not to is, it can make your pores visibly larger."
So, in conclusion: no, you shouldn't be squeezing them.
Use *these* skincare ingredients to treat whiteheads
Whiteheads are caused by excess oils and clogged pores, so it's best to use products that target those concerns. Dr. Kikam recommends seeking products with benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoids for different reasons. Here's a rundown of how each of these ingredients combats whiteheads:
Benzoyl Peroxide: It kills acne-causing bacteria and reduces excess oil, which clogs pores.
Salicylic Acid: It’s oil-soluble, so it penetrates deep into pores to break down oil and dirt in the skin, reducing blackheads and whiteheads.
Retinoids: They regulate oil production, break down dead skin cells and increase skin turnover to prevent the formation of whiteheads.
Here's how you can prevent whiteheads from forming in the future
Dr. Kikam recommends using gentle exfoliants with salicylic acid in your skincare routine as they help unclog pores and exfoliate the skin. It can also prevent oil and dead skin from building up and causing whiteheads.
You're going to want to throw in ingredients like niacinamide, which can help reduce excess oils that can clog pores. Whether it's in a cleanser or serum doesn't matter — as long as it's in your routine, you should be good.
All in all, you can combat whiteheads (and blackheads, too!) by cleansing your skin, using a gentle exfoliator, and keeping tabs on which ingredients your products contain. And, while it may be tempting to squeeze them, it's best to refrain from doing so.
For daily skincare tips and best practices, check out Dr. Adeline Kikam on Instagram.
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