Black / White Heads


What is a White head / Black head?

Blackheads and whiteheads occur when pores on the skin become clogged with dead skin cells, oil, or bacteria. The medical community calls these types of bumps sebaceous plugs or comedones. A blocked pore that stays open forms a blackhead. If a blocked pore closes, a whitehead, or closed comedo, will develop. Whiteheads are firm, typically small, and white or yellowish. A person cannot extract them by squeezing. In contrast, a blackhead is extractable. It gets its color when the contents of the blocked pore come into contact with the air and from follicular pigmentation. Usually, whiteheads do not cause inflammation. However, if bacteria enter a comedo, an infection can occur, and the whitehead can turn into an inflamed papule or pustule.

White heads / Black heads are a form of acne. Acne breakouts commonly occur on the face, back, chest, and sometimes the neck and shoulders. They can lead to permanent scarring.

Blackheads are one of the most misunderstood types of acne, as people tend to confuse them with dirt under the skin. As a result, they are often clearing blackheads in the wrong way. This not only fails to remove the blackheads, but it can also make them worse, and they can escalate into different skin infections.

While blackheads do not cause serious problems on their own, they cause psychological differences such as depression, anxiety, and poor self-image.

Often misunderstood as trapped dirt, blackheads are actually small deposits of melanin, the pigment that darkens skin. They are also known as comedones. The pigment has turned brown due to being exposed to oxygen. This happens as a result of open pores in the skin. Making the distinction between trapped dirt and blackheads is the first step to removing them.

Fast facts

  • Hormonal changes can result in acne.
  • Other causes include perspiration and reactions to certain skin care products and fabrics.
  • People should avoid popping, squeezing, or picking at blackheads.
  • Gentle cleansing with dedicated chemical soaps or lotions and lukewarm water is the most effective way to clear them.

Treatment and self-care

OTC treatments include gels, lotions, creams, ointments, soaps, and medicated pads, benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, retinoids, salicylic acid or sulfur. If whiteheads develop into boils or other more severe types of acne, a person may need to try more intensive treatments. When hormones are responsible for acne, doctor may recommend an oral contraceptive, an antiandrogen medication, or a corticosteroid. Also, antibiotics can help to combat infection and inflammation that accompany some severe breakouts. The “last resort” treatment for acne is isotretinoin. This oral treatment works for all types of acne, including those that cause whiteheads, but it can cause severe adverse effects. At the start of treatment, isotretinoin can make the skin worse. Isotretinoin is not a rapid solution. A course of treatment lasts between 4 and 5 months, and there is no guarantee that it will permanently resolve acne. However, many people report that when acne returns after taking isotretinoin, it is less severe.

Steps for washing the face

Washing the face correctly can spare a person with blackheads the need to visit a doctor. It is often the case that cleaning the skin at home is the best first-line treatment for acne and blackheads. Good skin hygiene can help to keep the pores unclogged. However, over-scrubbing can do more harm than good. Here are the steps for washing your face in a way that will not encourage the development of more blackheads and further skin infections.

To prepare for cleanse, make sure you have:

  • hand soap
  • makeup removal solution for those who wear makeup
  • a cream with moisturizing capabilities for people with dry skin
  • mild cleanser that is marked soap-free
  • foaming cleanser containing alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) for individuals with oily skin
  • a cleansing solution that contains salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide for acne-prone skin
  • a face towel

 Once you have the products tailored to your skin type, take the following steps each night:

  1. Wash your hands to keep them free of bacteria.
  2. Remove any makeup you may be wearing using makeup remover or wipes.
  3. Make sure water temperature is warm but moderate.
  4. Apply the type of cleanser best suited to your skin. Gently massage the cleanser in a circular motion and be sure to rotate your hands outwards from the center of your face for at least one minute.
  5. Focus on the nose and forehead, as these areas of the face are particularly prone to sebum, or oil, production.
  6. Be sure to cleanse the jawline and hairline.
  7. Rinse the cleanser from your face by splashing your face with warm water.
  8. Dab the face with a clean hand towel, patting the skin dry and being sure not to rub or push down too hard.
  9. Apply any prescribed or OTC lotions, creams or gels after this cleaning process.
  10. Repeat this process twice daily for the best results.

 What to avoid

There are many ways to clean blackheads incorrectly. People often do not consider these steps when cleansing the face.

Be sure to avoid:

  • vigorous cleaning and scrubbing of the skin
  • very hot or very cold water when washing
  • the use of toners, exfolliants, astringents, strong soaps, or scrubbing pads, unless told otherwise
  • popping, squeezing, rubbing, touching, or picking at affected areas
  • sunburn or tanning
  • the use of pore-clogging skin care products

 Other preventive measures

A gentle and well-considered facial cleansing process is not the only way to keep blackheads at bay or reduce them if they appear.

The following measures can also help to preserve clear and healthful skin:

  • Shampoo the hair frequently.
  • Remove all make-up in the evening before going to bed.
  • Consider using oil-free skin care products, including sunscreen.
  • For people with dry skin, fragrance-free, water-based emollients are recommended.
  • Take care when shaving.

 Ten effective self-care tips

The following strategies can help to treat and prevent acne breakouts:

  • washing the skin gently with mild soap and lukewarm water twice a day
  • refraining from squeezing pimples or touching the skin unnecessarily
  • using caution when shaving
  • avoiding excessive sun exposure that could cause tanning or burns
  • using only oil-free, noncomedogenic skin care products, which do not clog the pores
  • using cosmetics sparingly
  • removing makeup before going to bed
  • using fragrance-free, water-based, emollient products to treat dry skin
  • regularly washing the hair and keeping hairspray away from the face
  • wearing loose clothing made of non-synthetic fabrics, such as cotton


The changing levels of hormones have an impact. These fluctuations can occur due to puberty, menstruation, or pregnancy, or because a person has finished a course of oral contraceptives. Another cause of acne is the overproduction of sebum, an oily substance that protects the skin. Additional risk factors for acne include the use of certain cosmetics and facial products, tight clothing, high humidity, and sweating. Acne can result when clogged pores become infected with Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria, which occurs naturally in the skin.

However, other factors can make acne worse, including:

  • certain medications
  • contact with sports equipment
  • backpacks or sports uniforms
  • pollution
  • pimple popping
  • scrubbing of areas with acne too hard

Also, acne can get worse 2–7 days before the start of menstruation.

Risk factors for developing acne

Blackheads can develop into more severe acne as a result of the following factors:

  • overactive oil glands
  • genes
  • hormonal status
  • menstruation
  • psychological issues such as stress
  • certain medications
  • pore-clogging skin care products
  • pressure from sports helmets, sports equipment, tight-fitted collars, and other sources of rubbing
  • exposure to pollution or humid temperature conditions
  • sweating
  • squeezing or picking at skin lesions
  • excessive or hard skin scrubbing

Bear these factors in mind when trying to remove blackheads. If the cause is a factor such as stress, dealing with that cause can often be the best way to clear blackheads.

Blackheads do not cause serious health problems, but they can affect confidence and self-image. Cleaning them in the right way can also prevent the development of more severe skin infections.