How to Get Rid of Whiteheads: 8 Tried and Tested Remedies That Work

In the grand scheme of things, whiteheads aren't so bad. They're not dark and unsightly like blackheads. And they're not red and inflamed like pimples.

But you still don't want them anywhere on your face and body. Why would you? These clogged pores are bumpy and inconveniently stand in the way of a flawless visage.

Plus, it's actually fairly easy to get rid of whiteheads. All you have to do is target the main factors involved in causing these little buggers. ​

To provide some background, let's take a quick look at what whiteheads are: a combination of sebum (oil) and debris that gets trapped in our pores and serves as a food source for bacteria. Gross, yes. But we're not trying to disgust you, but rather pointing out that the two main factors involved in creating a whitehead are excess sebum and debris like dead skin cells. 

Both are fairly controllable factors and we're going to show you the best ways to keep them under wraps so you can get rid of whiteheads and prevent them from ever coming back!

Ready to get started? Here's how to get rid of whiteheads!

Clean Gently and Thoroughly

Washing your face seems like such a simple thing. You turn on the tap, foam up some cleanser, wash and finis. But when it comes to whiteheads, how you clean your face really matters. 

The key is to make sure you cleanse your skin in a way that removes dirt, debris, dead skin cells and any trace of makeup without stripping your skin of its natural oils. Because when you dehydrate your skin, your pores will actually produce more oil in order to compensate for the dryness. And excess sebum is the last thing you want. ​

So look for non-drying, gentle facial cleansers that won't disturb your skin's delicate acid mantle barrier. Extra perks if its got pore-cleaning, blemish-targeting ingredients like Tea tree oil and Activated charcoal in it as well!

What's the best face wash for whiteheads? Here are your best bets...

PERFECT BODY HARMONY ACNE FACE WASH

This sulfate-free face wash for whiteheads contains Tea Tree Oil, which penetrates the blockage between your skin and sebaceous glands to disinfect pores and dry out whiteheads. 

CHRISTINA MOSS ORGANIC FACE WASH

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This super gentle, organic face wash uses natural ingredients like citric acids and rosemary extract to exfoliate and clear out your pores and helps balance out excess sebum production.

Steam to Open Up Your Pores

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Good old fashioned water is super helpful when it comes to whiteheads - and we're not just talking about drinking the stuff. 

Steaming your skin makes all your other white-head banishing efforts easier by ​opening up your pores and softening the hardened sebum that forms the whitehead. 

And it's the easiest thing to do - you can either opt for a personal facial steamer or you can simply heat up some water and hold your face above it with a towel draped over your head to prevent the steam from escaping.

However you do it, just do it - especially before you apply masks or perform extraction. ​

Purge Your Pores

Whiteheads are essentially clogged pores so in order to get them off your face, you want to purge your pores of the excess sebum, dead skin cells and other gunk that's clogging them up. 

The best way to do this is with a deep cleansing mask that will draw out and soak up these impurities. When it comes to deep pore cleansers, activated charcoal and absorbent clays top the list. Activated charcoal is extremely porous, which gives it the almost magical ability to suck up the dirt, oil, and grime clogging your pores.

Clays are also amazing pore deep divers - our favorite clay for whiteheads is Calcium Bentonite, which, when mixed with water,  ​swells open like an immensely-absorbent sponge and its electrical components change to a strongly negative charge – giving it the power to literally soak up and bind positively-charged toxins as well as excess sebum, bacteria and other impurities from your pores.

Here are our top picks for pore purging masks for whiteheads...

DETOXIFYING CHARCOAL MUD MASK

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This heavy hitting face mask for whiteheads contains activated charcoal, bentonite and kaolin clay to draw out and dry out whiteheads. Extra perk? It's also got salicylic acid.

AZTEC SECRETS HEALING CLAY

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You can get a huge jar of this super absorbent clay for around $10 and mix it with an endless cornucopia of ingredients - yogurt, matcha, rose water - for DIY whitehead masks.

Acids are Your Friends

Not all acids, mind you. But there are a few, very skin-friendly acids that are particularly great for whiteheads. 

One of them is Salicylic acid, which is a beta-hydroxy-acid (BHA) that's best known for being oil soluble, which gives it the ability to penetrate deep inside the pores​ to help break down whiteheads. This is particularly useful since whiteheads form beneath the skin's surface, making them harder to target with traditional exfoliators like scrubs. 

But it's not just a great de-gunker - it's one of the most useful ingredients for targeting whiteheads because Salicylic acid also helps slow down the shedding of the cells inside the follicles, preventing clogging so you get less whiteheads over time. 

Another lesser-known but equally useful acid is Azelaic acid. It's mostly known for its skin lightening benefits but it's very helpful for people with whiteheads. Why? People with acne-prone skin often have "stickier" skin cells that line the pores, which make it easier for pores to get clogged.  Azelaic acid works to change the way cells mature and proliferate, eventually decreasing the likelihood of clogged pores. The result? Less whiteheads and blackheads. 

Here are the best products containing these whitehead-fighting acids...

ACNEDOTE OIL CONTROL LOTION

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This lightweight yet moisturizing oil-free lotion contains 2% salicylic acid to break down whiteheads and prevent new ones from forming. Perfect to wear during the daytime.

AZELAC RU LIPOSOMAL SERUM

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This serum is the ideal nighttime serum to combat whiteheads - it contains 10% Azelaic acid as well as Mandelic, Phytic and Ferulic acid. It's even got Retinols and Vitamin C. 

Exfoliate Wisely

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Exfoliating serves two purposes when it comes to whiteheads: it helps clear the dead skin cells and debris that can get trapped in your pores and it makes it easier for active ingredients in serums and creams to penetrate deeper to further clear out your pores. 

But when we say "exfoliate"​ - we're not talking about rubbing your face with abrasive manual exfoliators (think: St. Ives apricot scrub). Rough exfoliators only work to slough off dead skin cells lingering on your outer epidermis, which can be helpful when you're dealing with blackheads but they can't do much for what's lodged beneath your skin, aka whiteheads. 

You know what can help? A vibrating facial cleanser like the Foreo Luna. Our favorite is the Foreo Luna2 for Sensitive Skin - it vibrates using 8,000 T-Sonic pulsations per minute and these vibrations are channeled through smooth silicone touch-points to go deep into the skin and drive out impurities from your pores. 

​In other words, it does what no other exfoliator can - it gently stimulates your skin to effectively dislodge oil, dirt or makeup residue from your pores. It is, hands down, the smartest way to exfoliate your face and get a smoother, whitehead-free complexion. 

Oh, and did we mention it does the best job of removing all traces of dirt, oil and debris off your skin? Yea, well, it does. ​

Whitehead Removal (aka Extractions)

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Extracting whiteheads is a controversial topic. Some experts say it should never be done while others say it's a necessary evil. We agree with the latter. 'Cause the truth is, some whiteheads are stubborn little buggers and refuse to get out even with our best efforts. 

And in those cases, extraction is often the only option. Whitehead removals are best done professionally so if you can visit an esthetician or a dermatology for extractions - that's your best bet. The professional will use a tiny needle to open the whitehead and then an extractor to gently push it out of the skin. Voila - whitehead surgery completed.

The downside is that it can be pricey so shop around on Groupon for a deal. Many local spas and clinics offer crazy discounts (like 60% off) on facials that include extractions so you may be able to find a great deal for whitehead removal.

If you must do it yourself, keep from picking at your skin with your fingers. Instead, get yourself a whitehead extractor kit - Petunia's Professional Extractor Kit contains everything you need to DIY whitehead removal, including a needly pick to coax out even the most stubborn whiteheads. 

Always, always make sure to disinfect your tools before performing extractions and provide some TLC for your whiteheads post-extraction to prevent them becoming infected and/or scarring!

Decrease Excess Oil Production

Excess oil production is the root of all evil whiteheads. Oil itself doesn't cause whiteheads but it makes it easier for the excess sebum to combine with debris like dead skin cells to clog up your pores. 

By reducing your body's oil production, you can help eliminate one of the most common causes for whiteheads. There are a variety of ways to control oil production but here are two easy solutions you can start implementing right away...

DRINK SPEARMINT TEA

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​Spearming tea has been shown to reduce testosterone levels and high levels of testosterone are linked to increased sebum production. This is a yummy way to cut down on oily skin and whiteheads.

BLUE LIGHT TREATMENTS

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Blue light is best for zapping acne bacteria but it also has the effect of causing oil glands to shrink in size, which cuts down on oil production over time, eliminating whiteheads without pain or irritation. 

Use Clean Makeup

And by clean, we don't just mean hygienic - although that's important, too. If you're used to going weeks and months without cleaning out your makeup brushes, for example, this could be a culprit behind your whiteheads. 

But what we mean by "clean" is products that aren't going to work against you by creating more whiteheads. Avoid anything with comedogenic, pore-clogging ingredients like mineral oil and petroleum. 

And if you can, try to go as natural as possible - the less irritating chemicals and suspect ingredients you put on your skin, the less chance of whiteheads and breakouts.

A smart option is to also opt for makeup that comes with benefits, as in makeup that contains whitehead-fighting ingredients. Here are our favorites...

CONS ORGANIC CONCEALER PASTE

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​This creamy concealer is the best makeup you can use for whiteheads - it contains salicylic acid as well as retinol and thyme essential oil to combat whiteheads and blemishes. It's also natural so it won't irritate your skin.

MURAD ACNE TREATMENT CONCEALER

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Murad's medicated concealer isn't natural but it is potent - it contains 2% salicylic acid, making it one of the most effective whitehead products while also providing really great coverage to conceal blemishes. 

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