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What are blackheads, whiteheads, and how do you treat them?

Struggle with blackheads or whiteheads? Let's talk about what causes clogged pores and how to treat them!

What are blackheads, whiteheads, and how do you treat them?

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Blackheads vs. Sebaceous Filaments

To understand what causes blackheads, you must first learn about sebaceous filaments.


What are sebaceous filaments?

Most people think those little black dots you can see around your nose and T-zone area are blackheads or clogged pores, but many times they're actually sebaceous filaments.

Example images of sebaceous filaments

Sebaceous filaments are tube-like structures that line the hair follicle and help guide the flow of oil along the skin to help moisturize the skin–so they're good! These are permanent, and look like beige or grey dots. Sebaceous filaments help keep the skin naturally moisturized, but too much oil in the pores can cause them to look more noticeable.

Sebaceous filament infographic 

What are blackheads?

When excess oil in the pores gets mixed with dead skin skin cells, dirt and bacteria, blackheads form. The surface usually looks dark or black. Here's some examples:

Example images of blackheads

Basically, sebaceous filaments plus oil, dirt and bacteria equals blackheads.

Sebaceous filament versus blackhead infographic


How do you treat blackheads?

Now that you know the difference, let's talk about how to treat them! 

The good news is that the same treatment that helps to treat blackheads also helps to minimize the appearance of sebaceous filaments.  

The best daily treatment for blackheads are Toning Pads II. The unique combination of acids exfoliate and cleanse the pores of impurities. Daily nighttime use of RetinAL Skin Therapy will increase cellular turnover, preventing build-up in the pores. 

A few times a week, use Glow Peel Pads in place of Toning Pads II for added exfoliation to loosen dead skin cells and help remove debris from the pores. 


What are whiteheads? 

Whiteheads are caused when a sebaceous gland get inflamed. Just like blackheads, this is typically due to an overproduction of oil, keratin, or bacteria. However, unlike blackheads, which are open comedones and turn dark in color with exposer to air, whiteheads are a closed comedone or bump and appear white or yellowish in color. Whiteheads are very common, and while they typically affect adolescents, they can happen at any age. These closed bumps are frequently found on the back, shoulders, and T-Zone—the forehead, nose, and chin—because there’s a greater concentration of oil glands in these areas, meaning there’s simply a higher potential for oil getting trapped.

How do you treat whiteheads?

For prevention, the goal is to keep dead skin from trapping oil and bacteria so follow the same recommendations as blackheads. Your regular routine should include: Double cleansing (pro-tip: use new, clean towels daily for drying if prone to whiteheads) Toning Pads (II) RetinAL Skin Therapy Glow Peel Pads (especially if prone to whiteheads on the back and shoulders! They can be used to exfoliate daily on the body.). If you have a formed whitehead, first off, do not touch or pick at it with your hands. Follow these steps instead:

1.Double cleanse — to remove as much dirt as possible from the surface

2. Prep with salicylic acid — use Toning Pads (II) all over the face to prevent the spread of bacteria

3. Apply a warm compress — to reduce inflammation

4. Use cotton swabs — not your fingers to pop the closed comedone

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