Acne is a common skin disorder that happens when oil glands become blocked and inflamed or infected.
Whiteheads (closed comedones), which are a specific type of acne, occur when pores become engorged with oil, dead skin cells and bacterial growth. However whiteheads form completely under the skin unlike their counterpart blackheads, which get dark and hard due to exposure to the air via open pores. They can occur anywhere on the face like forehead, nose, chin & cheeks.
Fortunately, most people can find relief from whiteheads by implementing changes in their skin care routine as well as utilizing specific medicated treatments if necessary.
What Causes Whiteheads?
The root cause of all whiteheads is pore blockage. However, there are many factors that can cause pores to become blocked, which include the following:
- Hormonal Changes
Individuals of all ages and genders suffer with whiteheads, but they usually affect people during times of rapid hormonal changes such as pregnancy, menopause, menstruation and puberty.
Hormone changes often trigger a release of excess oils (sebum), which mix with skin cells and dirt to form plugs that block pores and lead to breakouts. This is particularly true regarding androgens (male sex hormones, such as testosterone) which are produced by both men and women in varying amounts.
Women are prone to hormonal acne because they go through several stages of hormone related change during their lifetime. Women also often use medications that affect hormone balance such as birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy to control menopause symptoms.
Once past puberty, men usually only develop hormonal acne in response to taking substances such as anabolic steroids.
Some medications have an effect on the hormone levels in the body, which can send oil glands into overdrive, blocking pores. For example, some women notice an increase in the amount of acne they experience (usually around menstruation) when they come off of birth control.
Having a relative who suffers with whiteheads and other forms of acne increases the chance of an individual struggling with the condition at some point in their own life.
This is because the amount of oil produced by the body is largely influenced by heredity. Factors such as skin sensitivity and inflammatory response also stem from genetics.
However, no matter what propensity an individual’s skin has for developing whiteheads, they can fix the problem by making specific changes in order to control their skin’s response (diet, hygiene, etc).
- Wearing Makeup
A study revealed that using some cosmetics can lead to the development of whiteheads and other types of acne, specifically on the chin and cheeks. The lesions appear as small white bumps (also known as “grains”) which are more noticeable when the skin is stretched.
Simple ways to reduce the instance of whiteheads caused by cosmetic use, are by sticking to products that are non-comedogenic and oil-free, and applying makeup sparingly.
- Poor Skin Care Habits
A common cause of whiteheads and other acne is poor skin care habits such as not cleaning the face properly or often enough. Proper cleansing helps to remove dead skin cells and keeps pores free of excess oils, dirt and bacteria which lead to inflammation and acne. This is particularly important for individuals who wear makeup and other cosmetics on a regular basis.
- Spicy Food
Although not verified by science, many individuals believe that their whiteheads and other types of acne form and worsens when they consume spicy food. However, the reason why this happens is unknown and because of this, there is no guarantee of whiteheads going away simply by avoiding specific foods.
Home Remedies for Whiteheads
- Lemon Juice
Do a lemon juice treatment once a day to exfoliate skin and control oil production:
- Apply lemon juice to the face using a cotton ball.
- Wait fifteen minutes and rinse skin thoroughly with water.
- Facial Steam
Steaming the face opens up pores, allowing dirt and oil to be removed easily.
- Boil a pot of water and hold the face over the steam for five minutes.
- Pat the face dry with a towel.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Remove excess oils and kill bacteria on the skin with the antiseptic and antibacterial properties of apple cider vinegar:
- Combine a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with a cup of water.
- Use a cotton ball to apply the mixture to the face.
- Rinse after fifteen minutes.
Repeat once daily for best results.
- Baking Soda
Exfoliate dead skin and remove excess dirt and oil with baking soda:
- Combine baking soda and water to make a paste.
- Apply it to whiteheads and let it sit for at least five minutes before rinsing.
Repeat three times weekly for best results.
- Tea Tree Oil
- Use a cotton ball to apply tea tree oil to whiteheads.
Repeat daily for a month for best results.
Warning: Dilute tea tree oil to no more than ten percent strength before use, as it is very harsh in its pure form.
- Cornstarch and Vinegar
Absorb and remove excess oils with cornstarch and apple cider vinegar.
- Mix three tablespoons of cornstarch with one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to make a smooth paste.
- Apply the paste to the affected areas of the face and let it sit for twenty minutes.
- Scrub the paste from the skin before using a washcloth dipped in warm water to remove the remaining residue.
- Rinse with cool water to close pores.
- Oatmeal Mask
Exfoliate skin, open pores and remove excess oil and dirt with this oatmeal mask:
- Combine five tablespoons of powdered oatmeal, three tablespoons of yogurt, one tablespoon of honey and one tablespoon of lemon juice to make a smooth paste.
- Apply to the entire face, concentrating on the affected areas.
- Let the mask dry for 20 minutes before rising with water.
Do this treatment once or twice a week for best results.
- Honey and Cinnamon Mask
The antimicrobial and antibacterial properties of cinnamon and honey eliminate whiteheads at the source.
- Mix one teaspoon of honey, one teaspoon aloe vera gel and a pinch of cinnamon powder into a paste.
- Apply the mask to whiteheads only and let it dry for twenty minutes.
- Rinse completely with warm water.
- Honey, Lemon and Turmeric Mask
Remove dead skin calls and open pores with this turmeric, lemon and honey mask:
- Mix one teaspoon (each) of gram flour, honey, turmeric powder and lemon juice into a paste.
- Apply the paste to the entire face and let sit for up to ten minutes.
- Use a few drops of rosewater to scrub the face gently with open palms.
- Rinse completely with cool water.
Repeat twice a week for best results.
- Green Tea
Block androgen receptors and reduce oil production in the skin by drinking two to four cups of green tea every day:
- Steep one green tea bag in a cup of hot water for five to ten minutes before drinking.
- Twice a week, remove the contents of a used teabag before rubbing the bag on any whiteheads present.
Use raw honey (or Manuka honey) to eliminate bacteria that causes whiteheads.
- Apply a small amount of honey to whiteheads and let it sit for fifteen minutes before rinsing with warm water.
- Sugar Scrub
Exfoliate skin and remove oil and dirt with a sugar scrub:
- Combine a tablespoon of sugar with a tablespoon of honey.
- Massage it into the skin using circular motions.
- Let the scrub sit for several minutes before washing it away with clean water.
Repeat twice weekly for best results.
Remove whitehead causing bacteria from the skin and boost collagen production with cinnamon:
- Combine a tablespoon of cinnamon power and a tablespoon of oat flour with enough water to make a smooth paste.
- Massage the mask into the skin for a few minutes, then let it sit for approximately fifteen minutes before rinsing it away.
- Mix a teaspoon of honey, a teaspoon of aloe gel and a pinch of cinnamon powder into a paste.
- Apply it to the affected skin and let it dry for fifteen minutes before rinsing it off.
Repeat either treatment two to three times weekly for best results.
Warning: Do a patch test to check for cinnamon allergies before using this treatment.
- Gram Flour (Besan)
Get rid of dead skin, excess oil and unwanted facial hair with gram flour:
- Make a thick paste by combining two tablespoons of gram flour with half a teaspoon of turmeric powder and yogurt.
- Apply it to the face and let it dry completely.
- Rinse completely with warm water.
Repeat two to three times weekly for best results.
Use the natural salicylic acid in strawberries to exfoliate skin and unblock pores.
- Make a paste by combining three mashed strawberries with a tablespoon of honey.
- Massage the paste into the face and leave it on for fifteen minutes.
- Rinse completely with clean water.
Repeat once or twice weekly for best results.
- Sandalwood Powder
Remove excess oil from the skin and make whiteheads look smaller with sandalwood.
- Combine sandalwood powder and rosewater to make a thick paste.
- Apply to the affected areas of the face and let it dry for ten minutes
- Rise the mask away with warm water.
- Fenugreek Leaves
Use fenugreek leaves to get rid of whiteheads permanently (especially from the nose).
- Grind fenugreek leaves with enough water to make a paste.
- Apply the paste to the face before going to sleep and wipe it away the next morning.
- Rinse the skin completely with cold water.
- Aloe Vera
- Reduce the number of whiteheads present by applying aloe vera directly to the skin on a regular basis.
- Coriander Leaves
- Apply a paste made of coriander leaves to eliminate whiteheads naturally.
- Get rid of whiteheads by using the skin cleansing properties of yogurt.
- Use a mild cleanser to wash the face.
- Combine salt and toothpaste, and rub the mixture to the nose and chin for one minute.
- Rinse thoroughly with warm water.