The Best Treatments for Whiteheads on the Face

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A skin mask sits on a table in a white ramikin. (Image: kazmulka/iStock/Getty Images)

Whiteheads are acne lesions that are filled with puss. Though these blemishes are ugly, they are fairly common, and can affect individuals in their teens and into adulthood. Whiteheads may not be as difficult to treat as severe forms of acne, known as cystic acne, and there are many over-the-counter and prescription products that can be used to treat whiteheads. Finding the "best" remedy may include much trial and error, and is fairly dependent on your individual skin condition.

Over-The-Counter Options

Mild whitehead flare-ups can be treated with over-the-counter medications. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are among the most popular and effective remedies you can find over-the-counter. Benzoyl peroxide works by killing bacteria that leads to whiteheads, while salicylic acid helps the skin to shed dead cells that can clog the pores. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), these treatments may require four to eight weeks before improvement is noticed. In addition, to continue to see results, the product should be used routinely.

Prescription Medications

Some prescription medications are more effective for severe (cystic) acne, and are not appropriate for whiteheads. Retinoids, however, can used to treat various forms of acne, including blackheads and whiteheads. This derivative of vitamin A works by unclogging pores and preventing blackheads and whiteheads from forming. According to the AAD, retinoids are considered a cornerstone in acne treatment. Bonus benefits include decreased wrinkles, making skin appear more healthy and youthful.

Good Skin Care

Treating whiteheads requires both medications and proper care of the skin. According to the AAD, popping and squeezing whiteheads can worsen the condition. Poking and picking at your whiteheads can make the acne last longer and can lead to permanent scarring. Take good care of your skin by washing gently, avoiding harsh scrubs and vigorous scrubbing, which can irritate the skin and lead to more breakouts.

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