What's Up With All Those Little Whiteheads On Our Chin?!


whiteheadsSource: Shutterstock

If you’ve always had those annoying little whiteheads on your chin, you’ve probably always wondered why they’re there! You’re not alone. Not only have we received tons of questions regarding these annoying little whiteheads, but when we mentioned it to our squad, we realized we were all in the same boat. So, we decided it was time to call in an expert and pose the question (Why is this happening?) to our go-to board-certified dermatologist and author of Beyond Beautiful; Dr. Doris Day. She explained everything from what’s causing these pesky whiteheads to how to keep them to a minimum.

What Causes Whiteheads?

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Before we get into the best treatments for whiteheads, it’s important to understand what’s causing them. Dr. Day explains that all types of acne are caused by a combination of excess oil production and improper shedding of the skin cells lining the hair follicle.

Dr. Day says, “If the opening of the follicle gets blocked, or if the skin cells regenerate too quickly, or too slowly, they pile up and block the opening of the follicle. This forms the basic acne lesion, called the microcomedo. It’s simply an enlarged and plugged hair follicle.”

If the plugged follicle, or microcomedo, stays beneath the skin and continues to grow, Dr. Day says it’s called a closed comedo. She continues, “The closed comedo looks like a white bump,” AKA a whitehead. Dr. Day confirms, “There are no active bacteria in a whitehead. The contents are merely the accumulated skin cells and oils that can’t reach the surface due to the blockage from above.” Dr. Day adds if the skin over the whitehead opens to the surface, the content oxidizes and turns black, which forms a blackhead.

How Do You Prevent Whiteheads?

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As with any skin issue, there are a number of daily habits that’ll help keep your skin happy and healthy. Here are Dr. Day’s simple skincare rituals that’ll help prevent whiteheads.

Cleanse daily: “Use a gentle cleanser and be sure to completely remove all makeup each day,” says Dr. Day. We like to take this one step further by double cleansing every evening to ensure we thoroughly remove any makeup, dirt or SPF that’s built up during the day. We swear you’ll be shocked at how much excess product or dirt you’ll remove during the second cleanse! The best way to double cleanse is to start with a cleansing oil or balm, and then use a water-based cleanser. Check out our double cleansing guide here.

Use targeted products: If these annoying little whiteheads just won’t go away, then incorporate a targeted acne product into your daily regimen and use it just on the offending area! We love the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, $29.50, a salicylic acid formula that helps to remove dead skin cells both on the skin’s surface and within the pore. Apply the formula after cleansing and using toner, and under moisturizer.

Don’t over-exfoliate: According to Dr. Day, “Over exfoliating can strip the outer layers of the skin, leading to increased water loss and increased skin sensitivity.” To avoid over-exfoliation Dr. Day suggests, “Using lower concentrations of retinol, glycolic and salicylic acid as these are chemical exfoliators and can make the skin extra-sensitive around wearing a mask.”

Keep your skin hydrated: Hydration is the building block of healthy, glowing skin, which is why Dr. Day says it’s important to use products rich in hyaluronic acid and ceramides. She explains “These are natural to the skin and can help maintain water balance and skin health.” She also recommends incorporating soothing ingredients like aloe, allantoin, and zinc in your daily routine.

Find a skin-friendly mask: “Wearing a mask is important but some masks are better than others. My favorite is the Nufabrx Soliscia Face Mask Infused With Copper and Moisturizer, $30. Each fiber is infused with copper and shea butter. It fits the face very well, is breathable, and does not cause the friction and irritation, and heat build-up of other masks,” says Dr. Day.

How To Treat Whiteheads

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Dr. Day insists the easiest way to combat an existing whitehead breakout is via gentle exfoliation. She begins, “These lesions are best treated with gentle exfoliation and retinoids.” The WISHFUL Yo Glow Enzyme Scrub, $39, is ideal as it includes AHAs, BHAs, plus pineapple and papaya enzymes and soft cellulose that’ll buff away dead skin cells and encourage healthy skin cell turnover. The best part is as it’s gentle enough for daily use, it’s ideal for combatting maskne or whiteheads.

Dr. Day reminds us that you should NEVER pop a pimple. While she does admit, “Surgical extraction can be very effective, it’s important to remember that fingernails are not surgical instruments and that picking at these lesions, no matter how tempting it is, can make them worse and increase the risk of scarring.”

We also find pimple patches a very effective way of extracting whiteheads without damaging the skin, as they literally suck out the whitehead! You can’t go wrong with the COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patches for $6!

How Masks are Making Whiteheads Worse!

As you’ve probably guessed, an increase in whiteheads and breakouts is exacerbated by the constant rubbing, friction, and increased humidity from wearing a protective face mask. However, Dr. Day does add that they could also be caused by hormonal changes or skincare formulas. Check Dr. Day’s break down here:

Masks: “The microenvironment under the mask is very different than normal skin exposure as there’s increased humidity from your breath and increased exposure to microbes. On top of that, taking the mask on and off all day exposes your skin to extremes in the environment of wet/dry, which causes a condition I call dyshidrosis. That wet/dry repeat can cause the breakdown of this delicate skin as well as the bumps we see as whiteheads.” Dr. Day also says the constant rubbing and friction could also trigger irritation and whiteheads.

Dr. Day has, in fact, created a serum specifically designed to soothe and rescue skin from maskne, the All DAY Masque by Doris Day MD Skincare, $38. She says that the key ingredients include, “a powerful cocktail of natural lipids along with soothing Lauroyl lysine and Zinc PCA. It also contains aloe vera and peptides as well as allantoin to gently exfoliate and remove dead skin cells.” For more amazing acne-targeting products, check out our go-to drugstore solutions for mask-ne.

Hormones: “Many women as they reach their 20s begin to experience hormonal acne, which is breakouts including whiteheads along the jawline.” Check out our expert’s guide to hormonal acne here.

Products: “Using products that are either too rich or too irritating to this delicate area of the face can cause whiteheads to form. Improper cleansing or over-exfoliating can lead to a rash that includes redness and whiteheads” says Dr. Day.

TLDR; Keep whiteheads under control with pore-penetrating exfoliators like AHAs and BHAs but don’t be too harsh on your skin, so continue to use hydrating, lightweight products too. Be aware that your mask or other factors like products and hormones could be making matters worse, so don’t stress.

For more about maskne, check out the derms guide to maskne.

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