Understanding Your Skin: Blackheads vs. Whiteheads


Here at MESOA, we encourage men of all ages to follow a skincare routine. But, to understand skincare, it's necessary to first understand your skin.

You may have read our previous blog post on identifying your skin type - and in this blog post, we’re looking at blackheads and whiteheads – what they are, where they’ve come from and why they’re there.

Blackheads and whiteheads are part of the comedo family - clogged pores that fill with an excessive amount of sebum, (the technical term for oil, fatty acids, and other natural chemicals that protect your skin). Both are considered mild forms of acne and are basically the starting point for a spot or pimple.

The main difference between the two is whether the pore is open or closed – a close pore means its whitehead, whereas, if the open is open and exposed to the air, its regarded as a blackhead.

But let’s break it down further.

What are blackheads, and why do they appear?

Blackheads are small bumps that appear on your skin. They develop when hair follicles or pores get clogged with excessive amounts of sebum and/or dead skin cells.

They are called blackheads because their surface looks dark or black. This colouration typically occurs as a result of naturally occurring daily polluters such as dust and dirt that your skin is exposed to.

Blackheads usually form on the face, particularly the nose, but they can also appear on the back, chest, neck, arms and shoulders.

How do you spot a blackhead?

Because of their dark colour, blackheads are easy to spot on the skin.

Although they aren’t typically painful or inflamed like other spots, they may be slightly raised on the skin.

Can blackheads be prevented?

Short answer, yes. There are lots of ways to try to prevent blackheads:

- Cleanse the skin regularly. Our Cleansing Face Wash helps cleanse, soothe and refresh the skin and effectively removes excess oil, dead skin and grime from deep within your pores.

- Try an exfoliating product such as our Deep Cleansing Exfoliant. It fights against blackheads, spots and acne and also helps banish dryness and dead skin cells to reveal a fresh, healthy and radiant complexion. 

- If you’ve worked out, make sure you cleanse your face as soon as you can. Excess sweat can increase the chances of your pores becoming clogged. 

So, what about whiteheads?

Whiteheads are also pores filled with sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria but only have a microscopic opening on the skin’s surface, or sometimes no opening at all. Scientifically they are referred to as ‘closed comedones.’

Whiteheads do not turn dark like blackheads because the top of the pore is closed, meaning the sebum found within the pore does not oxidize from air exposure.

Blackheads can be pushed out, whereas whiteheads are closed within the pore. This can often make treating them a bit more challenging.

What do whiteheads look like?

They appear as small, round, white bumps on the skin’s surface. The image for this blog will help you differentiate between the look of a whitehead vs a blackhead.

They appear white because the clogged pore gets covered with a thin layer of skin. Whiteheads commonly appear on the face, shoulders, neck, chest, and back.

They often can range in size, from being so small they’re practically invisible to a more significant, more noticeable acne blemish.

Why do we get whiteheads?

There are a variety of factors behind why we get whiteheads, the most common being cleansing routines, lifestyle habits, and genetics. Other factors that can contribute are stress, puberty and hormonal changes. 

Although it may seem that whiteheads pop up overnight, the formation of these blemishes can take up to two months. And, like blackheads they can appear anywhere on the body.

To keep your body clear of these pesky blemishes, make sure you’re looking after it properly. Our Energising Shower Gel will give you perfectly cleansed, soft, and clear skin.