The Difference Between Whiteheads and Blackheads

One way to battle imperfections — in this case, it’s blackheads and whiteheads — is to grasp a thing or two about them. We all know by now that picking on them might double the trouble. This begs the question: how do we treat, or better yet, prevent them? Read along as Dr. Crystal goes in-depth on the topic. 

FURTHER READING: The Types of Acne and How To Treat Them

What are the differences between whiteheads and blackheads?

Simply put — these non-inflammatory acne are determined by their exposure. “If the pores are open, filled with debris, and look black, they are likely to be blackheads. If the pores are clogged up and look white or flesh-colored, they are likely to be whiteheads,” explains Dr. Lee. Additionally, she states that surface pigment and exposure to air results in blackheads having their black appearance.

What causes whiteheads and blackheads to form?

In a nutshell, whiteheads and blackheads are a result of sebum and dead skin cell build-up. According to Dr. Crystal, “There are many factors that may directly or indirectly affect the severity of acne as they influence the production of sebum, inflammatory response, and keratinization (keratinization: the process whereby skin sheds and are replaced by new skin cells).” Hormones, genetics, and psychological stress are among the key factors which promote these non-inflammatory acne formations. 

What are the ideal skincare ingredients to treat blackheads and whiteheads?

If there’s anything that Dr. Crystal wants to impart, it’s that “There is no one-size-fits-all skincare product.” However, products with ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, AHA/BHA, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and azelaic acid can serve as your go-to remedies. Do remember that consulting your dermatologist is a must in severe cases.

Final Thoughts

While these comedones may appear on your face, do remember that imperfections are normal. Love the skin you’re in and be patient with it — stick to your routine (don’t keep on changing products!), practice healthy lifestyle habits, and consult your dermatologist. 

About the contributor

Crystal Lee is currently an NHS Doctor based in Glasgow who is passionate in Dermatology, Aesthetic Medicine, and everything skin(care) related! Having had a catalog of skin issues herself, she understands the frustration and the extent of impact skin diseases can have on individuals. Follow her page at @dr.crystallee to discover her personal skin journey and to learn more about different skin concerns.

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