Ask Grace: How Can I Treat Whiteheads?

Hi Grace, 

I’ve gotten into the (bad!) habit of popping my spots, which I know is bad for my skin, so I’d love to know if you have any advice for treating whiteheads? They’re so obvious on my face and concealer doesn’t really hide them so it’s all too tempting to squeeze. 


Blackheads tend to get a lot of airtime when it comes to discussions about breakouts and spots, but whiteheads are just as much a nightmare to deal with – if not more so, because as you say, they can really stand out. Whether you experience recurrent acne or just the occasional whitehead, they are one of the most irritating and painful types of spot, and (if not handled correctly) can leave you with post-inflammatory pigmentation or scarring. 

Like blackheads, whiteheads are also caused by a build up of dead skin cells, sebum, sweat, bacteria, and dirt trapped in the pores. A whitehead has a very fine covering of skin over the pore, so it is not exposed to oxygen and remains a whitish colour, whereas a blackhead, on the other hand, is an open pore on the surface of the skin. This means that any trapped sebum and dirt inside the pore is therefore exposed to oxygen and it’s this oxidization process that results in it looking a darker colour. 

So how do you treat whiteheads? Essentially, in the same way you would blackheads. But the number one rule for both is no picking or squeezing! While a professional will be able to perform extractions safely and effectively, trying to squeeze your spots yourself can result in scarring, more breakouts, and irritation to the area which will make the spot last even longer and look even more obvious. Instead, when you wake up, notice a new whitehead, and feel tempted to squeeze, apply a spot patch or sticker . These are incredibly effective because they not only absorb all the buildup and gunk from the pore, but they protect the skin so that bacteria can’t get in (and make the spot worse) and the spot is able to heal. What’s more, they also help to conceal the breakout! Likewise, you can also get pore detoxifying strips – a skin-friendly alternative to pore strips which help to target multiple breakouts in one go (although you probably won’t want to wear these out and about). 

While spot patches and stickers are a great daytime solution, you should use a more active breakout treatment overnight. Look out for masks or spot creams and pastes which use ingredients like salicylic acid and azelaic acid – the former helps to exfoliate the pore and break down buildup while the latter kills acne-causing bacteria, helping to prevent future whiteheads. It’s also worth looking out for these ingredients in things like cleansers, toners, and serums as well, if you want a routine that really works to address the cause of your breakouts. Oh, and if you do end up popping a spot (by accident or not!), Starface makes pre-soaked swabs which are great for clearing gunk and prepping skin for spot patches.