We've all had our share of red bumps and zits. They seem to appear out of nowhere, and we are incapable of making them disappear as quickly as they arrive. Whiteheads, blackheads, and other types of acne—no one wants them. It isn't easy to know exactly how to treat them until we understand what causes them. More importantly, how do we get rid of these pesky bumps and finally get clear skin that doesn't break out?

What Are Whiteheads?

Whiteheads, technically called closed comedones, are small cysts that appear on the skin's surface. A comedo is an oil-producing gland, and a sebaceous gland is the skin structure responsible for oil production. When these glands become clogged, it causes the pores to fill with excess sebum. Then, because of the excess pressure, the sebum is forced into other areas of the skin.

Sometimes this allows the pore to push up a little bit of the dead skin cells on the skin's surface, which helps the oil be exposed and thus creates a whitehead-like giant pimple.

What Are Blackheads?

A blackhead, technically called an open comedone, is a type of acne that happens when a pore becomes plugged with oil and dead skin cells. Unlike whiteheads, where the skin is pure white and smooth, blackheads are black and have a rough, dimpled surface. The oil has built up, oxidized, and turned black.

A popular myth about blackheads is that they are caused by dirt or grease. But the truth is, blackheads are caused by the same things that cause whiteheads – excess sebum and the accumulation of dead skin cells.

Differences Between Whiteheads and Blackheads

Here are the main differences between whiteheads and blackheads:

  • Whiteheads vs. Blackheads Both result from a buildup of cells and oils in the pores
  • Whiteheads are slightly raised from the surface of the skin
  • Blackheads are flush with the skin and appear black
  • Whiteheads are the most common type of acne
  • Blackheads are unsightly, but they don't cause as much irritation or inflammation
  • Blackheads are easier to treat and resolve quickly without scarring
  • Whiteheads can cause scarring and can last for months, even after treatment

How to Get Rid of Whiteheads and Blackheads

So, how do you get rid of whiteheads and blackheads? There are different methods of treating each. Whiteheads are more challenging to treat because they have a layer of skin covering them. However, the whitehead can be removed quickly once the layer is broken.

To remove a whitehead, it's recommended to use a salicylic acid cleanser and a pore strip to peel off dead skin cells. Afterward, use an acne treatment cream or gel to clarify and treat the pimple. This is the most effective method of removing whiteheads.

Blackheads, on the other hand, are easier to treat. Because they are exposed to air and oxidizing, they tend to resolve independently. Blackheads also respond well to salicylic acid cleansers. If you are looking for a quick fix, a BHA treatment can help diminish blackheads while unclogging pores.


Whiteheads and blackheads are two types of benign blemishes on the skin. Both whiteheads and blackheads are caused when the skin pores become clogged with excess sebum and dead skin cells, but they can be treated differently.

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