Is it a Blackhead? is it a Whitehead? is it a Pimple? Whats The Difference?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

They’re all types of acne. They’re all terribly annoying. And they all make an appearance at the worst of times (usually together – they’re friends like that).

They all have a jolly good time on your face (or back, or chest, wherever), but you just want them to disappear ASAP. The key here is knowing your enemy. They may all be types of acne, but they’re all a bit different and need to be dealt with separately.

Here’s your plan of attack for each of these nasty buggers:

  • What Causes Breakouts?
  • How To Treat Blackheads
  • How To Treat Whiteheads
  • How To Treat Pimples

What Causes Breakouts?

You know another thing all forms of acne have in common? They all begin with clogged pores.

Here’s how it works. Your sebaceous glands pump out more sebum (the skin’s natural moisturizer) than it can naturally flow out of the pores.

The excess sebum remains trapped inside the pores, where it gets entangled with dead skin cells. Together, they form clogs. That’s when a breakout occurs.

How To Treat Blackheads

Blackheads are a type of acne that’s NOT inflamed.

They happen when excess sebum, dead cells and other gunk get trapped into the pores near their openings. Here that icky mixture gets lots of fresh air, which has a weird effect on it. Air oxidizes it and turns it a black. So, nope, the colour has nothing to do with dirt. That’s just a myth.

Here’s how to get rid of blackheads:

  • Exfoliate with salicylic acid. It gets inside the pores, removing all that crap from within.
  • If that doesn’t work, ask your derm to do a BHA peel. That’s a stronger dose of salicylic acid, so it should do the trick.
  • Stay away from scrubs and pore strips. They only get rid of the top part of the blackhead. You know, the part on the surface on the skin. But the gunk inside is still there and will give you another blackhead soon enough.

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How To Treat Whiteheads

A whitehead is a pimple that’s NOT inflamed.

The story begins in the same way. Excess sebum and dead cells clog the pores. But, this time, the opening of the pore is so small, air can’t oxidize it. That’s what it remains white.

Here’s how to get rid of whiteheads:

  • Again, your best bet is a salicylic acid-based exfoliant (see above).
  • If that doesn’t work, have your derm remove them.

How To Treat Pimples

Pimples are red bumps with a raised white, pus-filled tip.

They happen when a clogged pore is under so much pressure that it ruptures. That’s not even the worst of it. It becomes infected with bacteria. Then, it gets inflamed. That’s when the pus is pushed to the surface of the skin.

Here’s how to get rid of pimples:

  • In mild cases, a salicylic acid-based exfoliant will do the trick too.
  • In severe cases, opt for a spot treatment with benzoyl peroxide. Its exfoliates and kills the bacteria that causes acne.
  • If you’re looking for a more natural solution, go with a spot treatment with sulfur. It reduces oiliness, exfoliates skin and kills the bacteria that gives you acne.

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