Blackheads and whiteheads are both signs of acne known as comedones. While both types of blemishes have some overlapping causes, they look very different on the skin. Blackheads appear as tiny black bumps on the skin, while whiteheads appear as slightly raised white or off-yellow bumps on the skin.
Blackheads, also known as open comedones, are formed from clogged hair follicles in open pores in your skin. When bacteria and sebum get trapped in the opening of a follicle, the air oxidizes the material clogging the opening, which is what causes this type of pimple to appear black. Blackheads may commonly form on the face, back, neck, chest and arms. Their appearance is normally attributed to body oil, hormones, dead skin cells not shedding properly or the consumption of hormonal drugs.
Unlike a blackhead, a whitehead forms inside a closed pore -- hence, it's also referred to as a closed comedone. Since the pore is closed, it prevents oxygen from getting inside, keeping any bacteria and sebum trapped in the pore from getting oxidized; this type of pimple appears white or yellow. Their appearance is normally attributed to hormones and oily skin.
Preventing and Treating Both
Since both blackheads and whiteheads are the result of clogged pores, you can treat and prevent both by gently washing your face on a daily basis. An over-the-counter salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide wash may help; prescription-strength products are also available from a dermatologist for moderate to severe acne. Avoid touching your face and use oil-free skin products to further prevent these types of pimples. For immediate removal of blackheads, you can go to your dermatologist to get them manually removed or get microdermabrasion, chemical peels or laser therapy.