Two of the many terrors that can plague your skin on the daily are blackheads and whiteheads, but aside from their nominal difference, what keeps these two spawns of Satan in different categories? How do we keep treat them and prevent them from wreaking havoc on our skin?
A little vocabulary lesson:
- Keratin Squamae – Skin Debris
- Sebum – A light yellow, oily substance that’s made up of triglycerides, free fatty acids, wax esters, squalene, and cholesterol. Sebum is necessary for keeping the skin healthy, but too much of it can lead to oily skin and clogged pores.
- Comedo or comedones: Follicle that widens and is filled with keratin squamae, bacteria, and sebum OR basically a clogged pore.
What are Blackheads?
Both blackheads and whiteheads are technically Comedones. Blackheads are technically open comedones because they live on top of your pores and are exposed to air from the outside world which is why they turn black – the air oxides it and changes color. It’s pretty much like when you cut open an avocado, get distracted for a bit, return, and your once lush avocado is plagued with dark spots.
What are Whiteheads?
Whiteheads are considered closed comedones that have built up under the skin. This is what we know to be traditional acne or zits. Basically, all of the dead skin, bacteria, and sebum is trapped in the pore below the surface so it appears like a firm white bump.
Related: The Shocking Truth About SPF
How bad is it?
While blackheads and whiteheads are considered “noninflammatory acne” they are building blocks for more severe breakouts. If you have blackheads or whiteheads and additional bacteria invades these, it can turn into inflammatory acne – meaning the swollen, pus-filled, cystic level acne. Why? Because this bacteria feeds on sebum making blackheads and whiteheads a breeding ground. I know, so much yuck – and also fascinating.
Okay, I’m scared. How can I remove blackheads and whiteheads?
The process of removing blackheads or whiteheads should technically be left to the professionals in a medical spa or dermatologist’s office. For blackheads, the process of extracting them is carefully nudging the gunk out and shouldn’t involve breaking the surface of your skin. I should leave whiteheads alone for the most part unless there is no pus (sorry, yuck I know) or infection they can be safely extracted through a follicle opening.
Can’t I Just Use a Blackhead Pore Strip?
Girl, try everything. I know facials are expensive and if your skin is responsive to the pull-off pore strips then it’s worth the $10 investment to give it a go. Unfortunately, like many others, my pores don’t work well with the strips.
I hate this. Can I Prevent Blackheads and Whitehead?
Unless you’ve been blessed with J.Lo level good-genes, you will likely breakout from time to time. Adult-onset acne is a FUN topic – we’ll cover that later. Here are some preventative tips for blackheads and whiteheads:
- Never sleep or exercise in makeup
- Exfoliate your skin 1-2x a week
- Change sheets + pillowcases weekly
- Keep a good skincare regime – You can get my morning and night skincare regime with what type of products to use and when for FREE below.