Whilst blackheads and whiteheads take their name from how they look different from each other, they are actually caused by the same thing. Both blackheads and whiteheads can appear anywhere where you have a high concentration of sebaceous glands, including your back, shoulders and neck but most commonly form on your face. One thing that often gets overlooked is that both blackheads and whiteheads are forms of acne, a disease that over 50 million Americans suffer from. But here’s the good news: they can be treated in the same way as all other acne.
We’ve written below on how to treat blackheads and whiteheads and have tackled some of the most frequent questions asked of our skincare team:
- Why do I get Blackheads?
- Why do I get whiteheads?
- Does my diet make it worse?
- How do I get rid of blackheads and whiteheads?
(If you have a question about blackheads, whiteheads or any other form of acne you can reach out to our skincare team at email@example.com.)
Before we dive into these questions, first a few facts:
- Blackheads are not caused by trapped dirt.
- Squeezing, scrubbing, & popping blackheads can make it worse
- Blackheads and whiteheads are types of acne – they can be treated in the same way
Why do I get blackheads?
Blackheads are technically referred to as “open comedones” (comedones are the bumps that form on the skin when you have a pimple)
All spots are caused when pores become clogged with excess sebum which is made within the hair follicle. This is often filled with skin cells that are naturally shed from the top layer of your skin. When sebum is open to the air, a chemical reaction occurs and melanin, a dark pigment, is oxidized and turns the clogged pores a dark color and making a blackhead.
So the next time someone says blackheads are black because of trapped dirt you know just what to tell them.
So what does cause blackheads? The primary cause of blackheads is therefore the same as other forms of acne—excess sebum. Excess sebum is driven by hormones. And therefore however much you scrub, pop and squeeze you can’t stop blackheads from coming back. In fact, by using your hands and the improper tools you can introduce dirt and bacteria to your skin making the problem worse. All’s not lost however as we will tackle how to prevent blackheads from coming back in just a moment. But first…
Why do I get whiteheads?
Whiteheads are technically referred to as “closed comedones”. They form when excess oil (sebum), dead skin cells, and bacteria become trapped deeper beneath your skin, just like what happens in blackheads. However unlike blackheads, with whiteheads, air can’t access the follicle and so the same chemical reaction doesn’t happen. Instead, a whitehead is formed with the trapped sebum remaining in its liquid unoxidised form.
I want to pick it. Why not?
We’ve been there. And trust us we gave in and squeezed those blackheads and whiteheads from time to time. But when you do this you spread the bacteria that was in the pimples over your skin which can lead to more outbreaks across the rest of your face. If you still aren’t convinced, just know that picking at acne can also lead to scars (sometimes lifelong), potential discoloration or red, irritated and painful skin.
Does my diet make it worse?
If you haven’t heard the unwarranted advice of “stop eating dairy” and “change your diet” you’ve either been living under a rock or haven’t suffered from acne (of any kind). But is there any logic between the two? We did write an article on this but here is a snapshot.
The cause of all spots including black and whiteheads is hormonal. Specifically, the impact of androgen hormone levels in the body causes excess sebum production. When there’s too much of it, sebum goes into hyperdrive.
The foods we eat can impact our hormones and some of the other factors influencing acne. For example (the full article can be found here):
Diindolylmethane has been shown to exhibit anti-androgenic properties which makes it an exciting component in the regulation of sebum production. But you would need to eat 7 full stem broccoli per day to get sufficient diindolylmethane to impact your acne.
Zinc, found commonly in beans and pulses, is shown to have anti-inflammatory properties which can relieve some of the redness and irritation associated with moderate-to-severe acne. But do you know how many tins of beans you’d need to get enough zinc to treat your acne? 8 tins every day.
Finally, low levels of selenium have been found in the blood and plasma of patients with acne vulgaris and on the flip side, trials have shown that selenium supplementation of 0.2 mg twice a day for 6-12 weeks and a good impact on those with pustular acne But do you really want to eat 5 cups of brown rice every day to get sufficient levels to tackle your acne?
So, whilst it is technically possible to treat your acne through your diet, it’s not exactly easy, and we can’t imagine the dishes that would come from this (we welcome your suggestions in the comments).
How do I get rid of blackheads and whiteheads?
Whilst most of the products on the market target the symptoms of blackheads and acne, by applying topicals to the surface of the skin. This does sound logical, but once you understand the science behind acne, and understand it to be internal, you quickly realise you might be on to a losing battle here.
So how do I treat acne from the inside? Our acne supplements are highly effective at stopping blackheads – by tackling the root cause. We have isolated the actives found naturally in your diet to give you the concentrations you need to treat your acne.
Don't expect an overnight miracle, you've probably had blackheads for many years and so it will often take between 2-3 months of using the skin supplement before you notice a significant difference. The best thing is that once you see them clearing you'll know that they're gone for good.
Can topicals help? Facewashes can help Increase cell turnover which helps you manage the symptoms of blackheads and whiteheads. Use ingredients that cause cell turnover (or exfoliate) so you're less likely to get dead skin cells clogging your pores, such as salicylic acid and other vitamin A derivatives.