Whiteheads and Blackheads: What’s the Difference and Does it even Matter?
A pimple is a pimple, right? Wrong. As much as all breakouts seem to be viewed as equal, they are not. Here, we discuss what whiteheads and blackheads are, why you may have them, and what to do about acne.
Both whiteheads and blackheads indicate that pores have been clogged. They are referred to as comedones and become visible when dirt, dead skin cells, oil, and other debris accumulate in pores on the skin. These lesions are non-inflammatory, which means they are not and should not become infected. They will not provoke an inflammatory response from the immune system and, as long as they are not picked and popped, should not cause scarring.
Whiteheads are clogged pores referred to as closed comedones. This is because there is a seal at the surface of a whitehead. All debris, dirt, and oil are trapped on the inside of that seal. Because of this, there is no oxidization resultant from debris coming into contact with oxygen. This is why a whitehead is white.
It is often presumed that a blackhead is black because of the dirt trapped in the pore. Not exactly. A blackhead is an open comedone. It is referred to as such because it doesn’t have the seal that a whitehead does; the surface of the pore is open and therefore material within the pore comes into contact with oxygen. This leads to the oxidation of trapped debris and the “black” appearance of the lesion.
Treatment for Whiteheads and Blackheads
We cannot mention it enough that neither a whitehead or a blackhead should be popped or picked. Doing so can create the environment for inflammation and infection that results in scarring. As frustrating as it can be to experience these clogged pores, the best treatments are those that are gentle and controlled.
Often, over-the-counter acne products will unclog pores sufficiently to gradually decrease comedones. However, there is a possibility that even mild ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide could create irritation. If this occurs, treatment should be stopped and a dermatologic exam should be scheduled. Your dermatologist can examine acne and determine the best course of treatment for the fastest possible resolution.
Learn more about acne treatments prescribed by a dermatologist. Call 610.594.6660 to schedule a visit to our Coatesville, Exton, or Kennett Square office.