So you want to know how to get rid of whiteheads? First, it may be useful to know how we get the pasty devils. Our skin is made up of many pores that secrete natural oil (sebum) and sweat. Sometimes the oil and dead skin end up clogging the pores. When this happens, you’re either going to get a blackhead or a whitehead. A blackhead is formed when a clogged pore is exposed to air, and the gunk inside gets oxidized. When there is still a thin layer of skin over the clogged pore, it fills up with bacteria and pus — thus your whitehead was born.
How to Remove Whiteheads
You must be patient to get rid of whiteheads. Just like in the garden, you should wait until they are ripe and juicy before you harvest. If you attempt to pop them too soon, you will most likely smash the mix of bacteria, oil, pus, and dead skin down further into the pore, which can lead to infection and even scarring. Some say not to pop the whitehead — but you don’t see them walking around with a social stigma on their face. Popping is a safe way to get rid of whiteheads if you know what you are doing. Are you supposed to wait until it squirts onto your supper? I don’t think so.
If you’re going to get rid of a whitehead, you’ll need the tools of the trade. Find a clean rag, a sewing needle, some sterile gauze or cotton swabs, some hot water, and a bottle of alcohol. An adhesive bandage may come in handy as well, especially if your whitehead looks big enough to win first prize at the state fair.
Now it’s time to wash your hands and face with hot water and mild, noncomedogenic soap. It is important that your hands and the area around the whitehead are clean, so it won’t become infected. After you are clean, wet the rag in hot water (if it isn’t already) and gently press it against your whitehead for a few minutes. This will open up your pores, and sometimes this is enough to get rid of the whitehead. If it breaks, gently wipe up the ooze and skip to the last step.
Sterilize your sewing needle with the alcohol and gently prick the whitehead with the tip. If you want, whisper some trash talk as you do it. Once the whitehead is punctured, place a strip of gauze or a cotton swab on opposite sides of the whitehead. Slowly apply pressure until either clear liquid or blood comes out. Once that is done, you have rid yourself of the whitehead.
Lastly, soak a sterile gauze pad in rubbing alcohol and gently wipe the area clean. In this way, you will protect yourself against infection and acne scars. If you want, now’s the time to apply an adhesive strip, but if your skin is easily agitated, I would just leave it and be mindful to watch for any more drainage, as the bacteria in the departed whitehead could spread to nearby pores.
If You Don’t Like That . . .
Benzoyl peroxide is the main ingredient in many products for acne, such as Clearasil and Proactiv. Benzoyl peroxide prevents pores from clogging by ridding them of dead skin cells and debris. It can also help to eliminate the treacherous bacterium that causes outbreaks. Benzoyl peroxide isn’t just used once you get an outbreak; it’s your preemptive strike against whiteheads, but that means you have to use it daily, which can be expensive. To add to the expense, benzoyl peroxide can lead to dry, flaky skin for some, so you may have to buy some oil-free lotion as well. I would go with a generic brand — it’s all made from pretty much the same stuff. Well, I guess some bottles are prettier than others.
If you have more than just a few whiteheads to get rid of, you’ll need to see a doctor or dermatologist. I understand that not everyone has good insurance these days, but the steroids and antibiotics needed to treat cystic acne can only be prescribed by a physician.
Oppressed by acne, you may be tempted to scrub your face fifteen times a day with a rasp, but obsessive washing can actually irritate the skin further. Try to wash with a gentle, noncomedogenic (won’t clog pores) soap no more than twice a day, but also shower or wipe off sweat after exercising. Do not use heavy makeup or foundation, as this will seal your pores like a tomb. In fact, look to use water-based, noncomedogenic goods — including makeup, sunscreen, and hair products. Avoid wearing tight-fitting hats or clothing, as these tend to clog pores. If you must don the hat, make sure to wash it regularly to rid it of your body’s oils. People always say to avoid greasy food and chocolate, but there really isn’t any evidence to support this. If you find that certain foods seem to cause outbreaks, well . . . don’t eat them.