- Whiteheads are a symptom of mild acne and present as small, white bumps
- Home remedies include natural ingredients and lifestyle changes
- These remedies can be a simple, effective alternative to over-the-counter options
Home remedies for whiteheads use ingredients to clear blemishes and prevent new ones from forming. These remedies use simple, natural ingredients as an alternative treatment to over-the-counter (OTC) products. Making positive changes in daily habits can also play a role in whitehead treatment and prevention.
Natural Home Remedies for Whiteheads
Whiteheads, or closed comedones, are one of the many symptoms of acne, and occur when dead skin cells, oil and other debris clog pores, trap bacteria and cause small, white bumps to form. These are referred to as closed comedones as they are sealed in by a thin layer of skin which preserves the white color.
Home remedies to treat whiteheads use natural ingredients that have many of the same qualities as OTC treatments. They can effectively open pores, remove debris and excess oil, and reduce inflammation.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an astringent with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can treat whiteheads by drying out blemishes and tightening pores.
This vinegar also contains multiple acids, including citric and lactic acid, which have been shown to kill bacteria on the skin’s surface. These acids also act as a chemical exfoliant, helping to remove dead skin cells to prevent skin cell buildup.
To safely use apple cider vinegar as a topical solution, dilute first using one part apple cider vinegar to eight parts warm water. Dampen a cotton ball with vinegar and sweep over the treatment area; allow to rest for 20 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water.
Oily skin can tolerate twice-daily applications, while those with normal or combination skin should opt for once daily. Apple cider vinegar is not well suited to dry and sensitive skin as it can cause irritation and dryness; proceed with caution and discontinue use at the first sign of irritation.
Copaiba oil is an essential oil derived from the tropical copaiba tree, and is often found in soaps, lotions and creams. It has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and wound-healing properties, making it an ideal choice as a whitehead treatment.
This oil can treat current whiteheads and prevent future ones from forming. It can moisturize very dry skin and keep flakes from blocking pores. For oily skin, it serves to whisk away excess oils, tighten pores and prevent future breakouts.
As with all essential oils, copaiba oil must be diluted first with a carrier oil such as coconut, olive or jojoba before application. Use 3-4 drops of copaiba oil to 1 oz of carrier oil. Dampen a cotton ball and sweep over the treatment area; allow to rest for 20 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water.
Copaiba oil can be applied daily as part of your skin care routine, after cleansing. As this ingredient requires a carrier oil, it is not well suited for naturally oily skin, however those with dry skin will benefit from this treatment’s hydrating potential.
Honey contains an abundance of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and amino acids to benefit the skin. This ingredient has strong antibacterial properties to eliminate acne-causing bacteria on the skin’s surface. It also acts as a humectant, drawing water to the skin and sealing in moisture.
While all types of honey have beneficial dermatological effects, sterilized medical-grade honey is best for topical application as it has greater antibacterial properties. Medical-grade honey can be found at some natural health stores.
Manuka honey stands out for its strong antibacterial properties. As a topical application, it eliminates bacteria on the skin’s surface which helps reduce the frequency and severity of breakouts.
Honey is fairly well tolerated by all skin types and can be applied twice a week. As a whitehead treatment, heat 1 tbsp honey in a microwave-safe bowl for 10 seconds, or until it reaches liquidity. Apply the warm honey to clean skin, allow to rest for 15 minutes and wash off with warm water.
Lemon juice has antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties due in part to its high levels of vitamin C.
While there is little scientific evidence to support this, many people feel it can dry out active lesions, kill acne-causing bacteria, and address redness and inflammation. The healing properties of lemon juice could therefore help prevent postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, the dark spots that remain after lesions heal.
For sensitive or dry skin, the high acidity of lemon juice can lead to redness and irritation. To avoid this, use 1 part fresh lemon juice to 1 part water. If you have normal or oily skin, you can use undiluted lemon juice; if any irritation occurs, switch to a diluted mixture.
Dampen a cotton ball with lemon juice and sweep over the treatment area; allow to rest for 20 minutes and rinse with warm water. Lemon juice can be a part of both your morning and evening skin care routine.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is as effective as OTC benzoyl peroxide to effectively combat whiteheads and other forms of acne. It is an essential oil with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that target inflammation and prevent acne lesions from forming. It can also soothe dry skin.
As with copaiba oil, tea tree oil must be diluted before use. Combine 4 or 5 drops of tea tree oil with 1 oz carrier oil. After cleansing, lightly dampen a cotton ball with the diluted oil and allow it to be absorbed into the skin; this should take about 10 minutes.
Alternatively, undiluted tea tree oil can be added to your nightly moisturizer by adding 2–3 drops to each application.
Witch hazel is a flower extract with astringent properties that can tighten the appearance of pores and remove acne-causing excess sebum – a major contributor to whitehead formation, especially for those with oily skin.
The tannins in witch hazel can soothe redness and decrease bacteria due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Witch hazel’s drying effects require follow-up with a good moisturizer, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin. You can find alcohol- and scent-free versions to further minimize dryness and irritation.
Witch hazel should be applied right after washing your face. This clears skin of all debris and prepares it for better penetration of other products. It can be used both morning and night.
DIY Recipes for Whiteheads
While single ingredient treatments are effective and simple to use, combining several natural ingredients can provide greater benefits.
Honey and lemon recipe
This recipe combines the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits of honey and lemon juice with the soothing and exfoliating properties of colloidal oatmeal.
Use 2–3 times a week to exfoliate and calm skin; overuse can cause irritation.
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 cup colloidal oatmeal
- 1/4 cup warm water
- Combine the honey, lemon juice and oatmeal in a bowl; add warm water and stir
- Lightly massage the mixture over your entire face in a light, circular motion for one minute; avoid the eye area
- Wash off with warm water
Neem leaves and turmeric
Neem leaves have a number of potent health characteristics including antibacterial and antifungal properties. The leaves of this tropical tree have been valued as a natural remedy in India for generations to treat issues from acne to heart disease.
Turmeric is a thin orange root and another common Indian home remedy prized for its anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric can be found in most spice aisles and in powder or oil form in most natural health stores.
This treatment is used as a mask and can be used daily, as needed.
- 2 tsp neem powder
- Generous pinch of turmeric powder
- Combine neem powder with water to form a smooth paste
- Add turmeric and combine
- Apply to face, avoiding the eye area and allow to rest for 20 minutes
- Gently wash off with lukewarm water
Ingredients to Avoid
There is a long list of purported home remedies for whiteheads, however, some can be harmful to skin such as baking soda and toothpaste.
Baking soda has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, but can disrupt your skin’s natural pH. This can cause skin dress, irritability and sensitivity. It is also too harsh for skin and is therefore not recommended.
Toothpaste contains triclosan, an effective antibacterial and antimicrobial ingredient also found in certain acne treatments. However, it also contains harmful ingredients such as lauryl sulfate and sodium fluoride which can both irritate skin and make it susceptible to environmental damage. Toothpaste is not formulated to be used as a skin care treatment.
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent and Treat Whiteheads
Beyond topical treatments, modifying or adding beneficial habits can also contribute toward healing acne lesions.
- Maintain a skin care regime that is appropriate for your skin and condition
- Use noncomedogenic skin and hair products to avoid blocking pores
- Keep greasy hair away from your face as well as your fingers, which can contribute to spreading bacteria on your face
- After exercise, shower and change into fresh clothing to prevent breakouts from oily skin
- Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water
- Apply sunscreen before going outdoors to protect your fragile skin and to avoid sun damage
If you find your skin is not responding to home remedies, there are many effective OTC products available in the form of creams, ointments, cleansers and spot treatments to offer relief.
These treatments are formulated with active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and retinoids.
Professional treatments are also available for moderate to severe acne and stubborn cases. A dermatologist can discuss these options including comedone extraction, as well as prescription-strength topicals with tretinoin.
Whiteheads are closed comedones that form when oil, debris and bacteria become trapped in pores. They are a mild symptom of acne.
Home remedies such as apple cider vinegar, honey and lemon juice can be used to treat whiteheads. They can effectively open pores, remove debris and excess oil, and reduce inflammation.
These ingredients clear whiteheads due to their antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and are safe to use. However, those with dry or sensitive skin should use caution.
Some purported home remedies should be avoided, such as baking soda and toothpaste as these can damage skin; they are not formulated for skin care use.
Combining topical treatment with a healthy lifestyle will also provide additional skin benefits in multiple ways. If home remedies are not improving your acne, it is advised to meet with a professional to find a treatment or combination of treatments that will work for you
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