Most people have, at some point in their lives, been confronted with a white/yellowish, pus-filled spot (or several) on their skin. Whiteheads are a symptom of acne, and can affect all ages, genders and skin types, from one-off appearances to full facial breakouts.
What are whiteheads?
Whiteheads, called as such for their obvious white tops, are scientifically known as closed comedones. ‘Closed’ because the surface of the skin has not allowed air to come into contact with the contents of the spot (oil and skin particles). This explains their white colour. Where the spot is black (a blackhead) the contents have oxidised with the air and darkened.
Should I pop my whiteheads?
As hard as it may be, it is generally not recommended to pop your whiteheads. Why not? Squeezing your spot not only can damage the skin, potentially leaving a scar, but you risk infecting the spot and making it worse. For more detailed information, see The Skin Edit’s interview with Dr Tabi Leslie who explains the ins and outs of why we shouldn’t squeeze spots.
Other ways to treat whiteheads
A gentle micro-exfoliating wash every morning can help remove any whiteheads that have popped up overnight, followed by a toner to close the pores and prevent them from re-clogging. For more severe cases of whiteheads, there exists anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial skin products that can reduce the swelling and help the spots subside without the need for your fingernails.
To prevent whiteheads and other symptoms of acne, it is important to keep your skin cleansed (although not stripped of its natural oils) and balanced. Many natural remedies such as lemon and cider vinegar have pHs that risk irritating and even damaging the skin, so it's best to stick with formulae developed by dermatologists, formulated to fulfil the needs of breakout-prone skin. Twice-daily cleanses and weekly masks adapted to your skin type will decrease the risk of comedones such as whiteheads from developing.
If spot breakouts are a regular occurrence, we recommend visiting a dermatologist for a tailored skincare diagnosis and advice about which skin care products to use.