Stop! As tempting as it is, don’t even think about popping that fresh, juicy whitehead on your chin because you already know the consequences: scarring, new breakouts, inflammation, and more, all of which delays the progress you’ve made in your skincare journey.
It’s no secret that whiteheads are public enemy number one and according to New York-based board certified dermatologist Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, they can be even more annoying for those who wear heavy makeup or workout consistently. So, how do you get rid of these little day-ruiners? Ahead, Dr. Loretta shares her best tips and treatments for treating whiteheads.
What are whiteheads, anyway?
“Whiteheads are the buildup of dead cells within our pores,” says Dr. Loretta. Not to be confused with blackheads, which oxidize and turn black when exposed to air, whiteheads form at the surface of skin and turn white because of “the covering of skin over the pore, so you don't see the oxidized dead cells the way you do in the blackhead.”
What causes whiteheads?
Whiteheads are caused by a number of issues, but heavy makeup, certain products, sweat, and dirt are all factors that contribute to the formation of whiteheads on the skin. “Whiteheads can be due to hormonal or hereditary factors or to products you’re using, women who wear heavy makeup often come in with this issues,” Dr. Loretta added. “Same with those who sweat and/or work out a lot and don’t wash their face following. More and more, I see patients breaking out from the haircare products they are using.” Dr. Loretta says that products that contain argan oil can clog pores because “it is not truly comedogenic,” which is why some women see whiteheads forming “around the rim of the face and especially on the chin.”
It is best to wash with a chemical exfoliator.
So, what do I do if I popped a whitehead?
Resist the urge, but if you succumb to temptation, wash your face immediately. Dr. Loretta also advises those who use shampoo and conditioner frequently to always wash their face right after their shower to avoid any future bumps. Also, invest in a chemical exfoliant. “It is best to wash with a chemical exfoliator that will help unglue dead cells from each other and shed to empty the pores,” she continued. “Chemical exfoliators really address the comedone directly whereas physical exfoliators (like scrubs or brushes) simply remove dead cells from the skin’s surface.”
What are the types of chemical exfoliators?
Dr. Loretta suggests stocking up on products made with salicylic acid or glycolic acid. "Both of these do something we call "keratinocyte disadhesion," which is the dermatologic term for ungluing the dead cells from each other," she says. But if she had to choose, salicylic acid is the best of the two. "It's a bit more effective at penetrating deeply into the pores," she says. "I often advise to use both if you have a lot of whiteheads and/or blackheads."
Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
Paula's Choice dermstore.com
Active Clearing Skin Wash (16.9 fl oz.)
ExfoliKate® Cleanser Daily Foaming Wash
Kate Somerville sephora.com
Supergoop! SuperScreen Daily Moisturizer SPF 40 in
What are your favorite products for treating whiteheads?At home:
Dr. Loretta MicroExfoliating Cleanser: It's a sulfate free wash that combines 2% salicylic acid with 1% virgin cold pressed organic coconut oil to unglue dead cells in pores but also hydrate as it works.
Dr. Loretta MicroPeel Peptide Pads: This is infused with 10% glycolic acid at optimal pH of 3.5 for enhanced cell ungluing. Plus, it's combined with hydrating peptides and herbal anti-inflammatory extracts, so you don't get red or irritated from this more aggressive chemical exfoliation.
Bioré Strips: These are physical exfoliation of cells so that you can actually see the dead cells come out on the tape after just one use.
Lovely Skin Pumpkin Mask: This mask features pumpkin enzyme that is very helpful in breaking down the dead cells and purging them out of skin.
HydroFacial: I love this procedure. It "vacuums" out dead cells from the pores, as it infuses in glycolic and salicylic acids deep into pores to help prevent future whiteheads and blackheads from forming.
Deep Cleansing Pore Strips
LovelySkin Pumpkin Clarifying Mask
Nerisha Penrose Assistant Editor Nerisha is the assistant editor at ELLE.com, covering all things beauty and fashion.