The Difference Between Blackheads and Whiteheads and How to Remove Them

Blackheads and whiteheads are two common forms of acne that can be tricky to get rid of. It’s important to know the difference between these types of acne so that you can tailor your treatment for each one.

Blackheads vs. Whiteheads: What’s the Difference?

Blackheads and whiteheads are both forms of acne, but there are a few differences between them. As described by their respective names, whiteheads appear as white or yellow bumps, and blackheads form as small, dark dots that are a dark brown or black color. One key difference is that whiteheads develop in closed pores, but the pores stay open for blackheads. Air can enter these open pores, resulting in a chemical reaction that causes the darkened color of blackheads.

What are Whiteheads?

Whiteheads are a buildup of sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria in the skin’s pores. Sebum is an oil produced by the skin to keep it hydrated and soft but the overproduction of sebum mixed with the buildup of debris is a leading cause of acne. Whiteheads can develop on the face, back, shoulders, and upper arms.

How Whiteheads Develop

Whiteheads are also called closed comedones because the clogged pores are covered by skin. They develop when the follicles in your skin are filled with bacteria that gets trapped because there is only a tiny opening on the skin’s surface.

What are Blackheads?

Blackheads are clogged pores that develop on the face, back, chest, and shoulders.

How Blackheads Develop

Blackheads are also known as open comedones because the pores remain open or enlarged. When the pores are clogged with sebum oil and dead skin cells, a chemical reaction occurs underneath your skin, causing the melanin to oxidize. This oxidation turns the clogged pores a blackened color.

Causes of Blackheads and Whiteheads

Blackheads and whiteheads are often caused by stress, hormonal changes, genetics, and certain medical conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Tight clothing that causes friction and skincare habits like harsh scrubbing can also lead to acne. Smoking and certain medications like corticosteroids are also possible causes of blackheads and whiteheads. Some people are more prone to acne breakouts due to genetics.

How to Prevent Blackheads

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid can unclog pores and prevent the appearance of future breakouts. As a keratolytic agent, salicylic acid can help dissolve the fibers that hold the cells of the skin together, thus gently dissolving the layer of skin over the blackheads. Salicylic acid is often found in facial cleansers and other skincare products.

Non-Comedogenic Moisturizer

A non-comedogenic moisturizer will not clog your pores because they do not contain any added oils. People prone to breakouts are often hesitant to use a moisturizer but leaving your skin un-moisturized and dry can lead to increased production of sebum oil as your skin tries to hydrate itself.


Retinoids can help to decrease sebum production and maintain the formation of microcomedones, one of the main causes of acne lesions. Retinoids have been known to have anti-inflammatory properties that can help visibly soften inflamed skin when applied topically.


Acidophilus is an anti-inflammatory antioxidant that can help smooth the appearance of acne inflammation. It’s also a probiotic that helps break down food and produce good bacteria to maintain digestive health and a non-acidic environment in the body. Brazilian propolis is also a great source of flavonoids with antioxidant benefits. Antioxidants have healing properties that can help fight off bacteria and are perfect for individuals concerned with acne scarring.

How to Prevent Whiteheads

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is beneficial for both types of acne. Products like Blemish Erasers, Clarifying Exfoliating Astringents are all great products that contain salicylic acid and other ingredients concerns.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This natural oil has been known to help fight off the harmful bacteria responsible for the formation of acne and is especially beneficial for people with mild to moderate acne.

Brazilian Propolis

Brazilian propolis can be beneficial for individuals concerned with whiteheads. Propolis helps visibly reduce irritation caused by acne and improve the appearance of enlarged pores.


The ORAC Age-Protect Serum contains a powerful blend of antioxidants that can soften the appearance of the skin. Herbal cleansers, acidophilus creams or masks can also visibly minimize the look of whiteheads.

Recommended Products:

 High Quality Skincare from Epicuren Discovery

You can find these recommended products and more at Epicuren Discovery. We are committed to helping you achieve healthy skin with the best medical-grade products. Take our Skin Quiz to find the perfect skincare products for your skin type and the types of acne you hope to target.

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