Blackheads and whiteheads, formally called comedones, are the mildest forms of acne. Comedones develop when a hair follicle on your skin becomes clogged with excess oil and dead skin cells. If the skin covering the comedone remains closed, you will notice a small white bump, or whitehead, on your skin. Comedones exposed to the air are called blackheads because they appear black in the center. Treating both whiteheads and blackheads involves following acne skin care guidelines.
Things You'll Need
- Over-the-counter acne medication
- Prescription medication
- Large bowl
- Comedone extractor
Apply over-the-counter medications that contain salicylic acid, resorcinol or sulfur to your blackheads or whiteheads every day. Follow label instructions when using the medication. These medications break down the cells of comedones and help your skin to heal.
Use over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide creams, lotions and gels in addition to other over-the-counter medications. Follow label instructions when using the product. Benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria and decreases the amount of oil your pores produce. Benzoyl peroxide may cause redness and skin irritation during the first three or four weeks of use.
Take prescription-strength medication if over-the-counter products don’t help. Your doctor may recommend medications derived from vitamin A, such as adapalene, tretinoin or tazarotene to stop clogging of follicles and encourage more rapid turnover of cells on your skin. Your doctor may also prescribe a topical antibiotic to kill bacteria.
Use a comedone extractor to remove a blackhead or whitehead. Comedone extractors work by puncturing the comedone and drawing out the material clogging the pore. Place a towel over your head and hold your head over a large bowl of hot water for five minutes to loosen your pores. Put the loop of the extractor around the comedone and pull down to extract the contents.