Whiteheads

These are a type of spot which develop during an acne outbreak. They are also known as ‘closed comedones’. Acne is a common skin condition which mainly affects teenagers and occurs when glands within the skin produce excess oil which results in greasy, inflamed skin and a rash.

This rash often consists of blackheads, pimples, nodules and cysts which can be painful and cause a great deal of embarrassment for the sufferer.

Causes of whiteheads

At puberty the sebaceous glands within the skin produce too much oil or sebum which clogs the pores and causes a build up of dirt, dead skin cells and bacteria. This causes inflammation in the skin and the formation of spots.

Sebum is produced to lubricate the hair and skin, keeping them healthy and smooth. But too much of this blocks the hair follicles and skin pores, flowing up and outwards onto the skin. Sebum mixes with bacteria and dead skin cells to form whiteheads.

If the spot is open to the air it then develops a black spot in the centre caused by oxidation. This is known as a blackhead or open comedone.

But if the spot remains closed then it is known as a whitehead or closed comedone.

Symptoms of whiteheads

These are small, round white coloured spots which develop on the face, back, chest and arms.

Diagnosing whiteheads

A diagnosis is made based on examination of your acne. Whiteheads are distinctive and do not require further investigation.

Treatment for whiteheads

Whiteheads can be treated at home. Use an over the counter cream which can be purchased from a pharmacist and keep your skin clean and dry. Avoid scented soaps and other skin care products and choose mild versions such as Neutrogena. But avoid excessive washing or scrubbing of the skin.

Do not pick, rub or scratch whiteheads as this will only worsen the symptoms and may lead to scarring. Choose non-oily or water-based make up and clean your skin each time you wear cosmetics.

If none of these work then see your GP. He or she will prescribe antibiotics, retinoids (Vitamin A based creams or gels) or topical steroids. Topical steroids are available as a cream and are applied to the areas of the skin affected by whiteheads.

Other treatments include phototherapy and microdermabrasion.