A whitehead is a type of acne similar to the blackhead. Both are also called comedones, though whiteheads may be called closed comedones. They form when hair follicles are blocked by a secretion called sebum and by dead skin cells. Blackheads are considered open comedones because the pore remains open, allowing this material to oxidize and change color. With whiteheads, a small amount of skin covers the pore, so that the material remains white.
This type of blemish tends to be smaller than a blackhead, but it is still fairly noticeable because of its color. Most dermatologists recommend that individuals not try to remove them unless they have experience using a comedone extractor. Instead, though it may take time, the best way to reduce whiteheads is by using a good exfoliating cleaner on the face. Exfoliants help to remove dead skin, which may reduce incidence of follicles being blocked by it.
Another way to work on eliminating whiteheads is to use an astringent to clean the face of excess sebum. Astringents with benzyl peroxide or salicylic acid may be most effective. Many people are able to eliminate both types of comedones, or at least reduce them, if they a follow daily skin cleaning regimen with an exfoliant and an astringent.
Some people really want to pop whiteheads, and since they are small they may not run much risk of scarring. It may help to use a warm compress on them for several minutes to soften the pimple. Individuals should not use their fingers on the area once its softened.
Instead, they should learn how to use a comedone extractor, or use two cotton swabs to place gentle pressure on the sides of the whitehead. When it is popped, an astringent should be used on it so that more sebum or bacteria is not spread to other parts of the skin. Even though these comedones can be popped, there is still some risk of scarring and most dermatologists do not recommend it.
If regular care of the skin is not helping to eliminate whiteheads, blackheads, or other forms of acne, individuals may want to visit a dermatologist. Dermatologists can prescribe topical and oral medications that can help get acne under control. Teens with acne should remember that they are not alone, since sebum production increases greatly in teenagers. Well over half of all adolescents face various forms of acne.