What’s the second worst thing than pimples? White heads! White heads, those tiny white polka dots on our faces that are the bane of any teen’s existence. White heads are another classification of acne, and are also known as comedones or milia. They usually take on a white or yellowish color, as they are not exposed to oxygen like black heads are. You’ll learn more about that shortly.
While it’s very very tempting to pop your white heads when there’s nothing better to do and, well, you just want to get rid of them, don’t! Popping your white heads with your hands will most likely do you more harm than good. Picking at your white heads may aggravate them and make things worse, causing pimples, infection or even scarring.
What causes white heads, anyway?
White heads are caused by a combination of factors. See, your face is covered with tiny little hairs. These hairs are connected to a gland under our skin called the sebacaeous gland, which produces sebum. Sebum acts as our hair and skin’s natural moisturizer and even inhibits microorganisms from growing on our skin. If you notice your hair and skin become oily after a few days after not washing them, what you’re seeing (and feeling) is a buildup of sebum.
Now when sebum builds up on your skin, it also hardens. A combination of accumulated sebum, your body’s natural oils, tiny cellular fragments that find their way on your skin and dead skin cells can clog up your skin’s pores. Pores are the tiny openings on your skin.
The resulting effect is white heads: small, raised white-yellow bumps on your skin. You can usually find them on the fine skin around your eyes and cheeks, and they cause your skin to look rough and uneven. When combined with bacteria, white heads can cause other kinds of acne like pimples or even pustules. (For pimple treatments, read how to get rid of pimples)
White heads usually happen to people with oily skin, as they naturally produce more sebum at a faster rate. They’re also common for those undergoing hormonal changes, such as teenagers and pregnant women.
How do you get rid of them?
Now you know what causes white heads, you can go on to how to get rid of them. While trips to your friendly neighborhood dermatologist are always great, you can also opt to get rid of your white heads yourself.
Wash. Wash your face with warm water at least twice day using a mild soap or face wash. For guys, you can splash water first on your face and proceed with shaving before going on to wash your face. Use gentle movements and use your fingers only. Gently pat your face to dry; do not rub it. A regular ritual of washing your face helps get rid of white heads and prevents them from coming back.
Medicate. You can also opt to use medication directly on your white heads after washing your face. Benzoyl peroxide is generally recommended for treating acne. If you’re using it for the first time, use a small amount. With your fingers, spread it out on the affected areas, carefully avoiding the areas around your eyes, as benzoyl peroxide can irritate them. For first-time users, it might cause redness and itching on the first few tries, but they are expected to go away. If they do not, it means that you are allergic to it. Visit your dermatologist to inquire about possible alternative solutions for medication. You can also use prevention techniques. (Learn how to prevent acne)
You can also use creams and gels that contain alpha Hydroxyl fruit acids after washing, which can help unclog pores and get rid of white heads.
After putting on your medication of choice, leave it to dry for 5-15 minutes before moisturizing.
Moisturize. Washing and exfoliating are both very good for your skin, but both may leave your skin dry. Dry skin is more susceptible to white heads, so always keep your skin moisturized. Make sure that you get oil-free moisturizers for this purpose.
Cleanse and exfoliate. Exfoliating basically means a gentle scrubbing on your skin. This usually involves cleansing your skin with textured products such as facial scrubs. It’s recommended to exfoliate your skin once a week. To exfoliate your skin even more effectively, you can do the following:
- Boil water in small pot or pan. After boiling, take it off the stove and put it somewhere where it can let steam up your face. Be careful – it’s very hot!
- The best position to allow steam up to your face is to sit down on a chair, placing your pot of water at your feet. Once seated, cover your face with a towel and lean over to let the steam come up your face. Let it steam for 5-10 minutes. Steaming your face will cause your pores to open wider, making it easier for your scrubs to clean.
- You may then exfoliate your skin using your scrub or exfoliant of choice. After rinsing off your skin, use a skin toner to close your pores. You can also use an ice cube wrapped in a cotton cloth, running it over your face to close your pores.
- If you do not want to steam your face, you can always dip a towel in warm water, squeeze dry, and apply to your face. Repeat this for a few minutes to ensure that all your face has been warmed up and your pores have been opened.
There are a number of exfoliating products on the market, but you can also make them for yourself! A combination of oatmeal and curd is said to be a very effective form of “natural” exfoliant.
Mask. Using a clay mask once a week is also a good way to get rid of white heads. It helps remove most dead skin cells and encourages fresh ones to grow.
Don’t touch! Don’t touch your face unnecessarily. Unwashed hands can introduce bacteria and other kinds of dirt, which leads to white heads. If you do need to, make sure your hands have been properly washed and sanitized first.
Drink up. Keeping yourself well-hydrated is a good way to keep your skin from developing white heads. Drinking lots of water and fruit juice helps detoxify your skin and keep it clear. Some say that drinking a glass of water with honey first thing in the morning is also helpful for detoxifying your skin.
Eat healthy. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables to keep your body, and in turn your skin, healthy! This will also help detoxify your body.
Not oil-based! When choosing products to use on your skin, from moisturizer to makeup, always check the label to make sure that these products are not oil-based so you can avoid other sources of oil buildup on your face.
Natural beauty. Try not to wear too much makeup if you can. Makeup tends to clog your pores, which can lead to white heads. If you do have to, make sure to fully remove your heavy makeup with cold cream.
Removing white heads manually. Dermatologists generally do not recommend manual removal of white heads, as this may lead to infection and scarring. However, if you do really want to remove your white heads yourself, follow these instructions:
- Use water to steam and warm up your face. Follow the same directions for steaming your face mentioned earlier.
- Use an extractor. An extractor is a tool used specifically to extract acne from your face. It is usually made from metal and is available in drug stores. Sanitize your extractor using alcohol, especially the tip that you’ll use to extract your white heads. Positioning the targeted white head, squeeze gently until you have extracted it completely.
- Keep bacteria and infection away by applying a small amount of alcohol or benzoyl peroxide on the treated area.
Getting rid of white heads is relatively easy to do and keeping them away is even easier when you include some of these tips in your daily ritual! Remember, keeping your face clean and moisturized, keeping yourself hydrated, eating right and having the occasional scrub and facial mask goes a long way in taking care of your face and your skin! Learn how to make a facial mask.