Whiteheads vs. Blackheads: Differences and Best Treatments

Whiteheads vs Blackheads
  • Blackheads/Open Comedones and Whiteheads/Closed Comedones are mild forms of acne.
  • They occur when oil and debris accumulate in pores.
  • Products that gently exfoliate skin can help prevent whiteheads and blackheads.

Whiteheads and blackheads are types of acne. Although they differ in appearance, the way they form is almost identical.

There are many skin care products on the market to help get rid of whiteheads and blackheads, and reduce the risk of them appearing again in future.

What Are Whiteheads?

Whiteheads appear as small white bumps that pop up just below the surface of your skin. A whitehead occurs when dead skin cells, oil and other contaminants get trapped in a pore. The skin around the pore closes, resulting in a raised white or yellowish spot.

A number of risk factors can increase the likelihood of getting a whitehead, such as:

  • Puberty
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Hereditary factors
  • Use of comedogenic beauty products. (A comedogenic product blocks the pores of the skin and may contribute to breakouts; a non-comedogenic product is formulated to not block pores.)

Whiteheads can appear anywhere on your body, but they are most commonly found on the face, neck, chest, back and shoulders.

Whiteheads vs. pimples

A pimple is simply a whitehead that has become inflamed. When a clogged pore is under pressure, it ruptures and typically gets infected with bacteria.

In response, your body increases blood flow to the affected area in an effort to push the clog to the surface of the skin, creating a pimple. Pimples tend to look more red and irritated than a whitehead.

What Are Blackheads?

Blackheads are small dark bumps that develop on your skin. Much like whiteheads, they are caused by oil, dead skin cells and debris clogging up your pores. The main difference here is that air is able to enter the follicle because the pore remains open, which triggers a chemical reaction and turns the clogged pore black.

Similar to whiteheads, blackheads are typically found on the face, chest, back, neck and shoulders, although they can occur anywhere on the body.

Treating Whiteheads and Blackheads

Treating whiteheads is very similar to treating blackheads, as they both respond to the same active ingredients.

Salicylic acid is the most important ingredient to look out for when it comes to treating whiteheads and blackheads. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA). It acts as an exfoliant to remove the outer layer of skin cells that can get trapped in your pores and lead to a breakout. Research shows that salicylic acid is safe and the side effects are mild.

Treatment differences

It is important to note that extraction methods only work on blackheads. Because blackheads are open and directly exposed to the air, it is possible to use products such as pore strips and extractor tools to remove debris from the pore.

Whiteheads cannot be treated with this method because the layer of skin covering the pore prevents extracting the clog.

Effective Whitehead Treatments

There are many over-the-counter products to treat whiteheads. They work by gently cleansing and exfoliating the skin to remove dirt and oil and help keep pores clear to prevent more whiteheads from forming.

Paula’s Choice Exfoliate
Paula’s Choice Exfoliate
A favorite among discerning skin care enthusiasts, Paula’s Choice Exfoliate has been carefully designed to remove dead skin cells, reduce the appearance of enlarged pores and smooth out fine facial lines.
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  • Penetrates deep into pores to remove debris.
  • Improves skin texture.
  • Brightens blemishes.
  • Relatively expensive.
CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser
CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser
CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser offers excellent value for the money. This product is formulated using salicylic acid as well as ceramides, which play an important role in keeping your skin hydrated.
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  • Competitively priced.
  • Non-comedogenic, non-irritating and fragrance-free.
  • Leaves skin feeling clean and revitalized.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Moisturizer
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Moisturizer
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Moisturizer is an excellent option for oily, acne-prone skin. It features a lightweight texture that absorbs quickly into the skin without leaving your skin feeling greasy or tacky. Check price
  • Oil-free, non-greasy, and non-comedogenic.
  • Lightweight consistency.
  • Helps prevent breakouts.
  • Some users do not like the scent.

Effective Blackhead Treatments

Many products used to treat whiteheads are also effective for getting rid of blackheads. Peel-off charcoal masks may also be a good option, as blackheads are more accessible than whiteheads and can be extracted more easily.

Aliceva Black Mask
Aliceva Black Mask
Suitable for all skin types, the Aliceva Black Mask helps remove impurities and oil that may contribute to blackheads. This product contains no dyes, animal oils or parabens.
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  • Effectively removes blackheads and absorbs excess oil.
  • Leaves skin feeling smooth and refreshed.
  • Easy to apply.
  • Can be difficult to peel off.
LAVO Clarifying Facial Cleanser
LAVO Clarifying Facial Cleanser
The LAVO Clarifying Facial Cleanser is ideal for daily use. It contains a range of vitamins and antioxidants to help nourish your skin, remove excess oil and reduce the risk of a blackhead breakout.
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  • Minty smell can be too strong for some people.

Prevention Tips for Whiteheads and Blackheads

Taking a proactive approach to skincare can do wonders for reducing the risk of developing whiteheads and blackheads. Regularly washing your face with a gentle cleanser, investing in a good exfoliant and avoiding non-comedogenic cosmetic products can go a long way toward keeping your pores free of contaminants.

Here are some products to try:


Whiteheads and blackheads are forms of acne that are caused by a clogged pore. There are many products on the market that are designed to get rid of blackheads and whiteheads. One of the most important ingredients to look for is salicylic acid, an exfoliating substance that helps prevent skin cells and debris from getting trapped in your pores.

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