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Whiteheads: Getting to the pore of the problem

We get you. It can be frustrating when that puss-filled bump shows up on your face before an important event. More so, if you have had a couple bothering you for a while.

You know the annoying bumps on your face when you see them. Whether they're big, red, and angry, or small and practically undetectable, if your breakouts bother you, that reason is enough to address them.

Have you recently noticed a cluster of white bumps taking refuge on your face? These pesky little bumps are nothing but Whiteheads.

We’ve all been there before: You wake up, head to the bathroom, and look in the mirror before getting ready-only to notice a whitehead has taken up residence on your face. Whiteheads are a common skin care concern that many of us have experienced at some point. They sit in your pores and remain unmoved until you find just the right product that's strong enough to evict them because—let's be honest—they're our complexion's equivalent of nasty next-door neighbors.

What Exactly are Whiteheads and How are they different from Blackheads? 

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Whiteheads and Blackheads are both classified as “non-inflammatory” acne. They’re just clogged pores containing dead skin cells and natural oils called sebum that need to come out of the skin. The difference is that the blackhead is in an open pore and the whitehead is in a closed pore.

Because the blackhead is in an open pore, it’s been exposed to the air. The chemical inside, melanin, has been oxidized by the air and turned the dead skin and natural oil inside black. Check out our guide on Blackheads here. Whiteheads contain the same dead skin and natural oil, but because it’s been inside the closed pore and hasn’t been exposed to air, it stays a white color.

Categorized as the “closed comedones”- whiteheads are generally pale in color, slightly elevated and can be more difficult to detect. The pore becomes clogged beneath the skin, so it is important to avoid squeezing or popping a whitehead as it will break the protective layer of skin, increasing the risk of scarring. 

What Causes Whiteheads?

The causes of whiteheads are similar to the causes of any other type of acne. When the sebaceous glands begin overproducing oils, the extra oil may mix with dead skin cells and cause the pore to clog and can be a potential cause for a whitehead to form. Most often, the glands overproduce sebum due to changes in the body’s hormone production. Hormonal acne may be caused by influxes of hormones from Puberty,  Menstruation, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome ( PCOS ), Menopause, Increased Androgen levels etc.

Where do Whiteheads Appear? 

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Whiteheads are most likely to appear on:

1. Face
2. Neck
3. Back
4. Shoulders
5. Chest

    They are more likely to appear on the forehead, nose and chin, typically your T zone, than the other parts of the face because the sebum levels are generally high in those areas.

    To know more about Body acne click here.

    How to get rid of Whiteheads and what ingredients can be Incorporated?

    As with any skin issue, there are a number of daily habits that’ll help keep your skin happy and healthy. Here are our simple skincare rituals that’ll help prevent whiteheads.

    1. Double Cleanse

    The first step in helping to prevent whiteheads is to make sure you’re regularly washing your face. Washing your face once in the morning and once at night should be enough to keep your face clean from pore-clogging bacteria and oil. Cleanse your skin daily with an exfoliating cleanser that doesn't dry you out. to know more about how Double Cleansing works click here. We recommend  Zyna Deep Cleansing Milk With AHAS

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    This deep cleansing milk helps in clearing the dirt, surface debris and makeup from the skin while maintaining its hydration and pH balance. A deep cleansing milk with potent bio actives & AHAs which leaves your skin clean, clear and radiant. This alcohol and surfactant-free formula maintains the skin’s natural oils and pH balance. We recommend the  Beaumark Maksne Gentle Cleanser.

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    This maskne cleanser is designed to treat acne caused by wearing face masks. With Tea Tree Oil, Salicylic Acid, Citric Acid and Frankincense, this gentle foaming face wash guarantees a visible reduction in all kinds of acne.

    2. Use Potent Ingredients

    If these annoying little whiteheads just won’t go away, then incorporate a targeted acne product into your daily regimen and use it just on the offending area! Make ingredients like Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid , Retinol ,Tea Tree and Witch Hazel  your best friends to bid goodbye to those pesky little bumps. We recommend Conscious Chemist Porology Toner.

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    Step up your cleansing routine with Porology Toner. Formulated with Kombucha, to enhance and add to your skin's natural microbiome. The toner gently exfoliates and preps for an improved skin tone. Ingredients work in tandem to reduce dark spots and enhance your skin texture. The Porology Toner is effective in balancing and keeping oily and breakout-prone skin clear.

    We Recommend the  Neemli Naturals Glycolic & Salicylic Acid Serum

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    With exfoliating glycolic acid and dirt-destroying salicylic acid, this serum works synergistically to alleviate clogged pores, whiteheads and acne giving you clearer, brighter and more radiant skin.

    We recommend the Neemli Naturals Retinol and Peptide Serum

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    The Neemli Naturals Retinol and Peptide Serum works effectively to boost the health of your skin and battle whiteheads and ace too. This serum enriched with retinol, exfoliates at a cellular level, brightening dull skin and revealing smooth, healthy skin. It also stops pores from clogging, controlling acne and normalizing cell turnover. 

    We recommend Dr Sheth's Basic Brightening Extra Gentle Daily Peel

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    Formulated by dermatologists especially for Indian skin, this lotion peel works to manage key issues like whiteheads, pigmentation and uneven skin. It delivers Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) in a controlled and slow manner to evenly exfoliate the skin, remove dead skin and reduce whiteheads.

    3. Keep your Skin Hydrated

    Hydration is the building block of healthy, glowing skin. It’s important to use products rich in hyaluronic acid and ceramides. These are natural to the skin and can help maintain water balance and skin health. Remember to use products that are non-comedogenic in nature, especially your serums and moisturizers. Nobody wants clogged pores, and especially not from  skincare products. Clogged pores are the jumping-off point for a host of skin issues—breakouts, rough texture, uneven tone, you name it. When you use a formula that is specially created to prevent these issues, you’ve got a non-comedogenic formula. We recommend Dr. Sheth's Haldi & Hyaluronic Acid Sleeping Mask 

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    The Haldi and Hyaluronic Acid mask provides an overnight boost of nourishment for your skin. Haldi is known to fight dullness, acne and inflammation. Hyaluronic acid helps to retain the skin’s moisture and creates a plumping effect. 

    4. Don’t forget your SPF

    The skin is sensitive to sunlight and UV rays, which means you should use sunscreen or moisturisers containing SPF at all times anyway. This is especially true after you've applied chemicals such as glycolic acid, which make the skin more sensitive to sun exposure. We recommend Dr Sheth's Oat and Zinc Mineral Sunscreen

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    This sunscreen offers broad spectrum protection against UV rays, pollution and blue light damage. It also comes armed with oat lipids that help boost the skin barrier and ectoin, a bacterial ferment that calms the skin's microbiome from inflammation.

    5. Mask it away

    We recommend the Ilana Organics Clarifying Clay Mask (Seaweed + Charcoal)

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    An intensely clarifying face mask that offers superior hydration at the same time. This charcoal mask helps in drawing out Impurities, removing excess oil, clearing blackheads, unclogging pores & preventing breakouts without making your skin super dry. However, because they work so well at drawing out oil, they should only stay on your skin for 15 minutes max, up to three times per week. 

    6. Don’t Over-exfoliate 

    Over exfoliating can strip the outer layers of the skin, leading to increased water loss and increased skin sensitivity.

    Physical exfoliants leave your skin feeling soft and smooth, but they often aren't the best exfoliant choice for acne-prone skin. The friction involved in using a physical exfoliant can irritate already inflamed skin and cause abrasions. Chemical exfoliants like AHA’s, BHA’s, PHA’s work without abrasive agents. Instead, chemical exfoliants dissolve or loosen the bonds that hold dead cells on the skin's surface by means of an acid or enzyme. Using a combination of both Physical and Chemical Exfoliation 1-2 times a week is more than enough to get rid of whiteheads.


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    1. Refrain from touching your face unnecessarily as it’ll transfer dirt and bacteria.

    2. Avoid excessive sun exposure.

    3. Use lukewarm water for cleansing and bathing.

    4. In case of excessive whiteheads on the back, go for loose clothes made of non-synthetic fabric that let your skin breathe. 

    5. Ensure that no haircare formulas come in direct contact with skin. 

    6. Don’t be too harsh on your skin while exfoliating since scrubbing too hard can eventually lead to the appearance of more whiteheads. 

    7. Follow your regular skin care regime without amiss. 

    8. Avoid picking at infected areas, no matter how tempting it may seem

    9. Clean your smartphone, pillowcase, and sunglasses regularly to get rid of oil, dirt, and bacteria.

      Here are a few things to keep in mind if you wear makeup on a regular basis:

      1. Make sure to wash off your makeup before going to bed, Double Cleansing to the rescue

      2. Wash your makeup sponges and brushes as often as you can

      3. Dispose old expired makeup, creams don’t last more than 6-8 months whereas powders usually last upto a year

      4. Never share makeup applicators

      5. Avoid Products that are Occlusive

      6. Let your skin breathe

        When to see your Dermatologist? 

        If other methods fail to clear up your whiteheads, it may be time to make a dermatologist appointment. They can help by prescribing stronger medications to remove whiteheads. These may come in the form of topical treatments or oral tablets. Some prescription acne products make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so be sure to wear sunscreen daily. 

        Major Takeaway

        Whiteheads can be both treated and prevented by establishing a simple, effective skin care routine including products with active ingredients such as BENZOYL PEROXIDE, SALICYLIC ACID, AHA’s and BHA’s etc.

        Before you go squeezing those white bumps on your face, think again. While they won’t cause you any long-term problems, they can be an annoyance. If those bumps are becoming a pest, schedule an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist.

        -Drishti Khurana

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