Alison is a freelance writer on health, nutrition, skincare, and pets, especially cats and dogs.
What are whiteheads?
Whiteheads, also called Milia, are a mild form of acne. Today, we are looking at the best ways to get rid of them and the clogged pores that cause them.
Whiteheads are formed when pores and hair follicles in the skin get plugged or blocked with a mixture of sebum and dead skin cells that can become infected with bacteria that can come from the air around us or be transferred (when touching your face with your hands, for example).
Whiteheads are closed at the top with a thin layer of skin cells, unlike blackheads where the contents of the follicle or pore turn black due to oxidization that happens in contact with oxygen in the air, they stay white because the air cannot get in.
Here are the steps you need to take to get rid of them. Scroll down the page for information on how to deal with the blocked, clogged pores that cause them.
Improve the condition of your skin.
The best way to get rid of milia is to focus on prevention of future problems and removal of existing blemishes at the same time! Don't worry, it is easier than it sounds! Read on to learn four simple steps to improve your skin.
Methods to get rid of Whiteheads and Pores
- Using an exfoliating product
- Using a face mask
- Using an acne treatment product
- Improving your nutrition and exercise levels
PLUS—My top tips for unclogging those blocked pores
Step 1: Exfoliate
You will need to begin with deep cleansing to remove the plugs of sebum and bacteria. Because whiteheads are closed to the air, the best way to achieve deep cleansing is to exfoliate regularly.
Exfoliating removes the dead skin cells on the surface of your skin. Often, this process alone can remove small blemishes but you do need to be very gentle and use a product that does not contain harsh, abrasive grains that can scratch the surface of your skin and allow bacteria to get in, making your acne and spot problem worse rather than better.
For Men ...
Step 2: Try a Face Mask
Face masks can be used two or three times a week if your skin is very oily but you will probably only want to use a clay mask like the one shown at the top of the page, once weekly as it can be quite drying.
- Clay masks suck out the debris, sebum and other impurities from your pores.
- Peel-off masks act like an exfoliator as well, lifting off the dead skin cells revealing the younger cells below and making your complexion look brighter and fresher as well.
Use a mask regularly to help remove all of the dead skin cells that commonly buildup on the top layer of the skin.
Step 3: Use a Gentle Acne Treatment
These basically work to blot up or dry out excess oil in your skin. They also tackle the bacterial infection that causes inflammation and redness. Some products also help to take off those dead skin cells that are the worst culprits for blocking up pores in a mixture with excess sebum and causing blackheads.
Choose a salicylic acid or a benzoyl peroxide product, don't mix the two or you could end up with dry, flaky, irritated skin instead of the smooth complexion you hoped for!
Top Tip: Make sure that if you are using cleanser, toner, moisturizer and treatment creams and lotions on your skin that you check the label to make sure they are all suitable to use with each other!
Recommended Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide Products
|Product Type||Salicylic Acid||Benzoyl Peroxide|
Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment Cleanser
Clean & Clear ADVANTAGE 3-In-1 Exfoliating Cleanser
Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Fast-Acting Salicylic Acid Acne Spot Treatment
Dermalogica Clean Start Hit the Spot Facial Treatment
Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment and Moisturizer
Augustus All in One Skin Care Cream for Acne and Rosacea
All of the products above have been used by either my son or daughter and are recommended by them. All are available from the Facial Skin Care department of Amazon.com
Step 4: Improve Your Skin With Diet and Exercise
What you eat is just as important as the products you put on your skin. When you buy a skin care product, you spend a long time checking out the ingredients label and making sure it will not harm your skin. When you tuck into a giant hamburger or a plate of fries, do you do the same checks?
Most of us are guilty of cutting corners with our diets, going for convenience to the detriment of nutritional value - but with a little thought, you could be eating a healthy diet that has long term benefits, not just for your skin, but for your heart, circulation, digestive system and even with immunity boosting and cancer protection benefits too.
Eat a rainbow of colors every day in your food choices (and no, I don't mean a pack of M&Ms!), berries are rich in antioxidants as are yellow, orange, red and purple fruits and vegetables. Make sure you drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated. Get a little sunshine too as this is proven beneficial for acne problems (although you should still wear a sunscreen and take care if you are using acne treatment products that can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight).
How Can Exercise Help Your Skin?
Any exercise that causes you to perspire is good for your skin because perspiration comes out through the pores and is a great way of cleansing them from the inside out!
Addition benefits of exercise are that improved circulation gets more blood to the layers of skin below the surface, bringing in vital nutrients and taking away waste and impurities.
Plus—exercising makes you feel great, releasing endorphins into the bloodstream.
How to Get Rid of Clogged Pores
Congested pores can occur almost anywhere on the face and while they are most common on the T Zone area with many people having problems with them on the sides of their noses, they often occur on the cheeks too. Unblocking clogged pores keeps skin clear of whiteheads, blackheads and pimples.
So how do you get rid of them?
All the tips above on how to get rid of whiteheads, steaming, exfoliating, using a facial mask (clay or peeling) and being especially careful with hygiene to avoid bacterial contamination will help. Watch your diet too - try to eat plenty of anti-oxidant rich foods and drink plenty of water to ensure your skin is properly hydrated.
Top Tips to Unclog Blocked Pores
Here are my very best tips for unclogging those pores. Remember, by taking action now, you will be doing your skin a favor for the future, not just the present!
Many men and women in their forties and fifties are trying all sorts of potions and lotions to reduce the size of visible, enlarged pores that have become stretched over time. One of the leading causes of this is the build up of pore-blocking debris in their teens, twenties and beyond.
Tip 1: Try dry brushing your face!
This is great for improving circulation - a good blood supply to the skin's upper layers will help blemishes to heal faster and decrease the risk of blocked pores. It has an exfoliating effect and is very easy to do.\
Make sure your face is completely dry before you start. Use a soft-bristled facial brush in small, circular movements, concentrating on the dryer areas of your skin and being particularly careful to avoid the eye area. Be gentle and don't do this for more than a few moments at a time.
A similar effect can be obtained by using a skin cleansing system like the Clarisonic Mia.
Tip 2: Try Pore Strips
These are especially good for the clogged pores at the sides of your nose which are otherwise quite tricky to deal with. However, if you are allergic to the sort of adhesive used in pore strips, you should avoid them.
If in any doubt, try one on an inconspicuous area like the crook of your elbow where the skin is quite sensitive as your face would be but, if you get a red, angry-looking reaction to the adhesive, only you will know about it!
Tip 3: Try a Home Remedy
Natural home remedies to get rid of clogged pores
- If your skin is not too sensitive, you may be able to utilize the benefits of citrus fruit acid. You can apply lemon or orange juice direct to your skin, either brushing it on or just on your fingertips. If this seems a little strong, you can dilute it with plain water. Only use it on the oilier parts of your face that are actually affected by the blocked pore problem - particularly the creases at the side of your nose.
Utilise the benefits of natural fruit enzymes!
- Papaya contains natural enzymes that lift off dead skin cells so applying the pulped papaya flesh to the affected areas of your skin will have an exfoliating effect, helping to clear the pores without any rubbing or friction. Just leave on for a few moments before rinsing off.
- Make your own exfoliating scrub with diluted orange or lemon juice to which you have added either sea salt or sugar. This can be quite abrasive though so it is perhaps best for men's skin or for less sensitive parts of the body such as the back.
For more information about home remedy treatments using fruit, a natural source of AHAs or Alpha Hydroxy Acids, to improve your skin, check out my article Use Fruit, A Natural Source of AHAs For Fresh, Glowing Skin
How to Prevent Blocked Pores From Recurring
In order to prevent or at least lessen the number of new skin blemishes like whiteheads, blackheads and pimples you get, you need to prevent your pores from getting clogged again.
Follow all the cleansing and exfoliating tips we have already mentioned. In addition, look for non-comedogenic products.
The term non-comedogenic means that the product will not give rise to comedones (whitheads and blackheads) by clogging pores.
You can find skincare and makeup products (particularly foundation creams, BB and CC creams) that have this promise on the packaging.
Prevent Your Pores From Getting Stretched
By preventing the problem in the first place and by dealing quickly with any blemishes you have will help to prevent your pores getting stretched and permanently enlarged. Once this has happened, the problem is hard to disguise.
If you have a friend who would benefit from information on how to get rid of skin blemishes and clogged pores, please share this article with them or on social media and Pinterest.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Alison Graham
Alison Graham (author) from UK on April 20, 2017:
Thank you so much Anina, getting comments like yours really encourages me to keep writing!
Anina on April 19, 2017:
This has been really helpful !Thank you so much.
Lisa on December 23, 2016:
hi can anyone reccomend good bacne products thanks
confidence on August 27, 2015:
pimples and whiteheads coupled with pores
has been a burden on me for a very long time