Whiteheads Vs. Blackheads: Difference, Treatment, and Prevention

Written by Anjali Sayee

Whiteheads and blackheads are mild forms of acne that affect almost everyone, especially those with acne-prone and oily skin. These comedones form when the skin pores are clogged due to excess oil, dirt, dead cells, and bacteria. However, there is a slight difference between the two. This article deep dives into the differences between whiteheads and blackheads, treating them, and prevention tips. Keep reading to know more.

Blackheads Vs. Whiteheads

Whiteheads Vs. Blackheads Difference, Treatment, and Prevention

Mild acne occurs when excess sebum, keratinous material, dead cells, and dirt clog the pores. This clogging allows bacteria to colonize the pores, leading to closed comedones or whiteheads. Further bacterial growth expands the whitehead, causing its tip to open up. The open tip oxidizes, turns black, and forms open comedones or blackheads. Let’s take a look at the differentiating factors between whiteheads and blackheads and treatment options.

Whiteheads Vs. Blackheads Difference, Treatment, and Prevention

1. Color

The term blackhead is self-explanatory as its tip appears black due to the oxidization of lipids and melanin. Whiteheads may appear white or flesh-colored.

2. Affected Area

Whiteheads can appear anywhere on the body, but they mostly occur on the T-zone as it has more oil glands. You may also notice whiteheads on your chest, back, shoulders, and arms. 85% of people experience acne vulgaris (open and closed comedones) during any point of their lifespan. However, it occurs mostly during adolescence.

Blackheads can form anywhere on the body (like the back, chest, shoulders, and arms) but commonly on the nose and chin. Here are the treatment options for minimizing blackheads and whiteheads.

Treatment Options

Whiteheads and blackheads are mild forms of acne and are generally treated with topical retinol, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide. Here are the treatment options for whiteheads and blackheads:

  • Benzoyl peroxide is used between the concentrations of 2.5% and 10% in anti-acne products. It is a comedolytic, keratolytic, anti-inflammatory agent with antimicrobial properties. It kills acne-causing bacteria and reduces inflammation.
  • Salicylic acid is a desmolytic agent available in 0.5% to 2% strengths in OTC products. It dissolves the bond between dead skin cells to promote exfoliation and reduce acne.
  • Retinol (like tretinoin and adapalene) is often used as a first-line treatment for mild-to-moderate acne.
  • Azelaic acid acts as a comedolytic, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory agent and helps reduce acne. However, it may also cause redness and burning sensations and irritate sensitive skin.
  • You may also try pore strips to reduce blackheads.
  • You may try facial extraction to minimize whiteheads and blackheads. Consult a trained esthetician to undergo facial extraction. Trying this at home may injure the skin and cause scarring.

Apart from bacterial infection, several other factors can contribute to acne formation. Let’s take a look.

Other Causes For Comedonal Acne

  • Stress and changes in sleep patterns can exacerbate acne.
  • Diet can influence sebum composition and contribute to acne. It was noticed that the sebum in people with acne had low amounts of linoleic acid (which can only be acquired through diet). Too much of this acid may cause overproduction of sebum. Changes in dietary fat or carbohydrate intake may also alter sebum production and composition.
  • Genetics has a role in the development of acne. If it runs in your family, you may develop acne.
  • Changes in hormone levels can cause these glands to produce more sebum than your skin needs.

You can easily prevent blackheads and whiteheads with simple lifestyle and skin care habits. Here are a few tips.

Preventive Measures And Tips

  • Consume a healthy and balanced diet. Avoid processed and sugary products. This can keep your skin healthy and prevent breakouts.
  • Do not touch your face often. Your fingers touch multiple surfaces and may transfer the dirt to the skin.
  • Wash your face twice daily. Overwashing can aggravate breakouts.
  • Wear sunscreen whenever you are stepping outside.
  • Use oil-free and non-comedogenic products to reduce the risk of breakouts.
  • Maintain personal hygiene. Wash your hair and skin regularly.
  • Reduce your stress levels. Indulge in meditation, yoga, new hobbies, or visit a therapist.

To Conclude

Whiteheads and blackheads can be easily treated with topical acne products and proper skin care. However, if left untreated, they develop into pimples and other severe acne forms, which require systemic treatment (oral and topical medicines). Follow the tips mentioned in the article, and if the breakouts persist, visit a dermatologist for proper treatment.


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  1. Acne Vulgaris
  2. A Brief Review on Acne Vulgaris: Pathogenesis Diagnosis and Treatment
  3. A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients

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Anjali Sayee is a writer and an introvert. From studying Aeronautical Engineering and wanting to design her own airplane to writing articles on hairstyles, she has been on quite a journey. She believes that hair is one of the key factors that define a woman’s personality. To quote her, “What’s the first thing they do in the movies to show a personality change? Change the hair – because it has a life of its own.” She’s here to help you find the hairstyle you need. This bookworm is a self-professed Wholocker, a talented drummer, and an amateur photographer.