A dermatologist's pro tips to get rid of whiteheads

Once and for all

It’s time to get rid of whiteheads once and for all. The pesky pimples’ white heads—that’s where the very original name comes from—are agonizingly noticeable and tend to pop up at the most inconvenient times. To figure out how to fight these blemishes, we enlisted the help of dermatologist Dr Nava Greenfield of Schweiger Dermatology Group. Read on to find out how to get rid of whiteheads and prevent new ones from popping back up.

What exactly is a whitehead?

“A whitehead is a buildup of keratin (substance produced by skin cells) and oil from sweat glands inside a hair follicle,” says Dr. Greenfield. Whiteheads and blackheads are both comedones, which are small bumps or blemishes on the skin usually causes by a clogged pore, but they do differ. “Whiteheads are also called closed comedones because the pore does not extend to the skin surface,” explains Greenfield. “Blackheads are open comedones because they are open, and allow the keratin and sebum to oxidize which turns it black.”

Should you extract whiteheads at home?

You can, but unless you know exactly what you’re doing, it’s not recommended. “If the technique is not sterile, you can cause an infection in the skin,” says Greenfield. “Also, pimple popping can easily lead to scarring which is hard, time-consuming, and costly to treat.” Your best bet is contacting a dermatologist. They have three important things: the tools, the knowledge, and the degree. The only two things you have are your fingers and an insatiable need for instant gratification. “Our goal as a dermatologist is to treat the acne without leaving any scars,” says Greenfield.

What are some non-popping at home remedies for whiteheads?

It starts with prevention. “You can try a salicylic acid spot treatment when you see one developing,” says Greenfield. “Sometimes, they can help prevent an acne papule from enlarging and can help them resolve.” If you see a whitehead forming, try grabbing one of the products listed below to catch the pimple in the earliest stage.

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The Ordinary: Salicylic Acid 2% Solution,  Rs 318, SHOP

Orgins: Super Spot Remover Acne Treatment Gel, Rs 1083 SHOP

Peace Out: Acne Healing Dots, Rs 1210 SHOP

What products can you recommend for whiteheads?

“I recommend retinoid and glycolic acid washes and moisturizers. Retinoids balance sweat gland productions and stabilize cell turnover on the face which helps control white production,” says Greenfield. If you’re using retinoids to fight whiteheads in the winter, Dr. Greenfield urges users to pack on the moisturizer since retinoids are very drying. It’s best to ask your dermatologist for a prescription retinoid, but here are a few over-the-counter options.

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Obagi: Retinol 1.0, Rs 3,886 SHOP

NeoStrata: Retinol & NAG Complex, Rs 3,058 SHOP

Jack Black: Deep Dive™ Glycolic Facial Cleanser, Rs 1,401 SHOP

Mario Badescu: Glycolic Foaming Cleanser, Rs 1,019 SHOP


So you’re going to pop your whitehead at home anyway. (We get it, no judgement.) How should you prepare?

Be clean! “Clean it [the whitehead] with an antibacterial like rubbing alcohol,” says Greenfield. “Clean your hands and sterilize any other instruments that you will use.”

What’s the process of popping a whitehead? What’s the best after care?

The process is fairly straightforward. “Opening up the skin with a needle and using a comedone extractor to remove the contents of the pore,” explains Dr. Greenfield. In regards to after care, “wipe away any debris left over and hold gentle pressure with a gauze pad for up to approximately one minute.”