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.
Tips & Warnings
- Remove skin oils that can cause comedones by washing your face in the morning and evening with a gentle cleanser. Wash your hair daily, particularly if you have oily hair, to prevent hair oil from reaching your face.
- Choose oil-free products labeled "noncomedogenic" when buying makeup, lotions and sunscreens. Oil in skin care products can also clog pores and cause the formation of whiteheads and blackheads.
- Wait one hour after using medication containing benzoyl peroxide before applying another type of topical acne medication.
- See a dermatologist if you aren't confident in your ability to use a comedone extractor properly. Improper use can lead to injuries, irritation and infection.
- Consider your skin type when choosing medication. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reports that creams and lotions are good choices for people with sensitive skin because they provide moisture, while gels may be best for people who have oily skin or live in a hot, humid climate.
- Don't pick at comedones with your fingers or any type of instrument not intended for use on them. Picking at comedones won't help you get rid of them and may make them worse.
- Don't use a comedone extractor on red pimples, cysts or lesions. Using the extractor on an inflamed pimple can lead to infection and scarring.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images
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