What Causes Whiteheads

What causes whiteheads? Many people ask this question because they want to know what they can do to stop these little pimples from showing up.

Whiteheads, commonly known as such because they develop a clear, white colored top to them, are one type of acne.

This very common type is one that can occur for many reasons.

what causes whiteheadsGenerally, the same thing causes all acne. This is the buildup of bacteria in the pores of the skin, which leads to inflammation.

By understanding how a whitehead forms, you can take steps to reduce the inflammation and stop the development of these blemishes.

Whiteheads, like blackheads, have a clog of sebum and dead skin cells within the pore.

This substance can turn black if the substance goes through oxidation. This happens in blackheads (which are also referred to as open comedones), because the contents of the pore are exposed to the air at the surface of the skin. In whiteheads (which are also referred to as closed comedones), the contents of the pore is not open to the air and so it does not oxidise and turn black. Instead, it forms a white head at the top of the pimple. Sometimes hard and sometimes more fluid, this material looks like a small, white dot. What causes whiteheads to appear is the buildup of the material to make up the white fluid.

Pilosebaceous Units – where your whiteheads start!
I was recently reading a very helpful article on About.com which explains that all these types of blemishes are basically caused by a problem of something called the pilosebaceous unit which sounds a very strange name but is basically the technical or medical term for three things combined, a hair follicle containing a sebaceous gland and a hair.

I hadn’t really stopped to consider this very closely until I read that these are found all over the body except on the palms of our hands, the soles and tops of our feet and our lower lip – of course, this is why no-one gets acne problems on these areas – and yes- you have guessed it, the biggest quantity of these pilosebaceous units is on the face, neck and chest – which is pretty much where we all get the most problems.

I found this article really interesting and it goes on to explain about the different stages of acne, if you would like to read it all, here is the link. http://dermatology.about.com/od/acne/ss/how_acne_forms.htm

The Causes of Whiteheads Pimples and Blackheads

Once you understand the proces by which whiteheads are formed, you can then tailor the treatment of your skin to help reduce the chances of them developing in the future.

Now you know what causes whiteheads follow these two steps!

  • Get rid of bacteria
    Start with a treatment that works to reduce the amount of bacteria on the skin. By reducing the amount of bacteria present, you reduce the presence of one of the key components in the development of the acne. Bacteria often cause the inflammation to occur by eating those dead skin cells. They like to dig into your skin’s pores to call it home.
  • Exfoliate your skin
    The second step in overcoming the cause is to exfoliate. Even if acne bacteria are present, which will be the case from time to time, you can reduce the harmful effects by exfoliating. This removes the dead skin cells from the skin’s surface and prevents them from clogging the pores. Because it is the bacteria that causes the formation of all acne blemishes, you can improve your complexion by depriving the bacteria of the ability to grow and flourish. Exfoliating does just that, by removing the dead cells that are the food source for the bacteria. By cleansing your skin properly with an exfoliating scrub or similar product, you can remove one of the underlying causes.

There are many ways that you can treat the whiteheads once they occur, including the use of products containing benzyl peroxide and even antibiotics for severe cases. However, it is far easier to prevent these closed comedones from developing instead of trying to battle an inflammation that is already present. That is why it is important to take steps to keep the skin clean and clear.

Prevention of whiteheads will involve more than just washing your face. You need to use a mild cleanser that is able to fight the bacteria development while also using an exfoliating product to help remove those dead skin cells you cannot see but which provide the ideal conditions for those bacteria to multiply. Understanding what causes whiteheads and using these two treatment methods in combination will improve your condition significantly.


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