- The nose has a large number of sebaceous glands making it a prime target for whiteheads to develop
- Effective over-the-counter treatments include benzoyl peroxide, alpha hydroxy acids and salicylic acid
- Natural solutions include facial steaming, tea tree oil and witch hazel
Whiteheads on the nose are a mild form of acne and develop when pores become clogged with dead skin cells, excess sebum (oil) and debris. They present as small white or yellow bumps with a thin layer of skin over top.
Whiteheads are indicative of comedonal acne which is characterized as noninflammatory and does not cause swelling, redness or discomfort. However, if left untreated, they can become inflamed due to overgrowth of Cutibacterium acnes.
Excess sebum plays a key role in whitehead formation. Sebum is produced by sebaceous glands inside pores to lubricate and protect the skin, and are found throughout most areas of the body.
However the nose has a greater density of sebaceous glands, are larger and have correspondingly larger pores. This is especially true for the tip of the nose.
This means that the nose is more prone to whitehead development as more sebum is produced. Excessive amounts of sebum can accumulate and combine with debris and dead skin cells to form plugs.
Any skin type is at risk of comedones forming, even dry skin. In some cases, excessive dryness can trigger an overproduction of sebum which causes a layer of oil to rest on skin and prompt comedone formation.
What if whiteheads on the nose keep coming back?
Sebum production can increase during specific life events such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause, due to fluctuations in hormones. As well, a genetic disposition can be a factor as can diet and stress.
This means that whiteheads on the nose can reoccur. Fortunately, they can be treated and prevented by consistently using skin care products that have effective agents to target pore buildup.
Can You Get Rid of Whiteheads Overnight?
Not really. Whiteheads are hard plugs of material that are set firmly in place beneath the skin. But you can take advantage of nighttime to begin acne treatments to start the process of softening and loosening these plugs.
After cleansing your face, apply a cream, gel or ointment that contains benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or sulfur. Benzoyl peroxide is a powerful anti-acne agent that can kill bacteria and remove excess oils; salicylic acid also dries up whiteheads and exfoliates; sulfur targets bacteria, sebum and dead skin cells.
All three ingredients will work to shrink whiteheads and reduce their appearance.
Take note that hydrocolloid bandages, also known as acne stickers, are designed to treat open, inflamed lesions by drawing out pus and reducing inflammation. As such, they would be ineffective against whiteheads as these are closed and pus-free.
Over-the-Counter Treatments for Whiteheads on Nose
There are several effective over-the-counter (OTC) products available to treat and prevent whiteheads including cleansers, toners, serums, lotions, creams and gels. These products typically contain one of the following key active ingredients, as they have been shown to produce results.
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are chemical exfoliants that work to loosen and slough off dead skin cells on the outermost layer of skin and promote skin cell turnover. This leads to smoother skin texture and decreased flaking which has been shown to help heal and prevent acne lesions, especially comedones.
Glycolic acid and lactic acid are two well-known AHAs; glycolic acid has a low molecular size to deeply penetrate pores and dissolve whiteheads; lactic acid also performs the same function but has a larger molecular size. This makes it gentler on skin and ideal for sensitive or dry skin types.
Topical retinoids have long been a mainstay in comedonal acne treatment. They inhibit the formation of comedones by increasing skin cell turnover which eliminates buildup, unblocks pores and maintains clearance.
This action also serves to prevent C. acnes from flourishing and causing comedones to worsen and become inflamed. As well, retinoids can block several inflammatory pathways that are activated in acne to prevent swelling and redness.
Lastly, clear pores enable better absorption of any topical treatments for greater results.
Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) which means it is oil-soluble. This characteristic makes it a highly effective agent to penetrate into follicles to dissolve oil, dead skin cells and debris, and dry up and heal whiteheads. As a desmolytic, it can break down the bonds that hold skin cells together which facilitates exfoliation and prevents accumulation on the skin’s surface.
Salicylic acid can be found in varying strengths from 0.5%–7% within a number of skin care products. Oily and normal skin can tolerate higher strengths; sensitive and dry skin would be best served with a lower concentration as salicylic acid has a drying effect on skin.
No matter your type, monitor your skin after use and adjust the frequency of use or strength if your skin feels tight or irritated, or if it appears red.
How to Get Rid of Whiteheads on the Nose Naturally
For those seeking chemical-free treatments for whiteheads on the nose, several plant-derived and all-natural options are available.
Facial steaming can help open pores, release trapped oils and soften whiteheads. This makes them easier to exfoliate away with topical treatments or to express them manually by gentle manipulation.
How to perform a facial steaming:
- Pour boiling water into a bowl.
- Add several drops of tea tree oil or eucalyptus essential oil; the former has antibacterial benefits and regulates sebum production; the latter is high in antioxidants (optional).
- Tie your hair back, drape a towel over your head to retain the steam and lean over the bowl, keeping your face about 12 inches above the water.
- Steam your face for 5–10 minutes.
- Pat dry, use a toner to remove the loosened debris and impurities, and continue with your usual skin care routine.
You can also purchase an at-home facial steamer, obtain a similar effect with the hot water from a shower or simply place a warm steamed washcloth over your nose.
Oily skin can safely tolerate steaming 2–3 times a week; for sensitive and dry skin, once a week is recommended.
Warm steaming has been shown to enhance the effects of topical medications as it hydrates the skin which increases the absorption rate of the medication. This would be an added benefit when applying any acne treatment as it would increase its effectiveness.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is a pure essential oil that boasts a number of benefits when it comes to acne treatments. It has antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties to kill bacteria, prevent inflammation and calm breakouts.
Research also shows that tea tree oil triggers activation of white blood cells, which are key players in the healing process. This can be attributed to its antiseptic properties.
Before applying to your skin, this oil must first be diluted with a carrier oil in order to be used safely.
Witch hazel has long been used in traditional healing for a number of skin complaints including treating poison ivy, and healing cuts and bruises.
As a treatment for whiteheads on the nose, witch hazel contains tannins and oils to calm inflammation, redness and irritation. Due to its astringent qualities, it can dry up existing whiteheads and eliminate excess oils to help guard against future whiteheads.
How to Pop Whiteheads on Nose
To pop whiteheads on the nose, first exfoliate with salicylic acid or apply benzoyl peroxide to cleanse the skin. Follow with steaming your face to soften the blockage. Then, with clean hands, gently press down on either side of the whitehead. Cleanse the area again, once you are finished. You can also purchase an extractor tool specifically designed for this purpose
If the whitehead does not pop, don’t use force as this can cause symptoms to worsen. Instead, continue your regular skin routine and wait a day or two, then try again.
A Word About Removal Strips
Removal strips are advertised as a method to quickly get rid of blackheads and whiteheads. While applying an adhesive strip to the nose can help peel away dead skin cells for a cleaner, smoother appearance they can also damage skin.
As well, these results are surface-level only. Pore strips can’t actually draw out whiteheads as they are closed over by skin.
Tips to Prevent Whiteheads on Nose
To prevent whiteheads on the nose, consider incorporating the following steps into your skin care routine.
- Choose a gentle facial cleanser: Regular cleansing eliminates excess oils and clears grime and debris to reduce your risk of developing whiteheads
- Exfoliate regularly: Exfoliation prevents the buildup of dead skin cells that causes whiteheads. Opt for a gentle exfoliant and adjust frequency of use according to your skin type
- Be consistent: Apply medicated topical acne medications as directed and be patient; it takes time for the active ingredients to clear whiteheads
- Wear oil-free moisturizer: Noncomedogenic skin care products won’t clog pores
- Appy noncomedogenic makeup: Read the product label and choose makeup marked as noncomedogenic; these are formulated without substances that can block pores
- Avoid touching your nose: Your hands can transfer dirt and bacteria to your nose and cause breakouts
Whiteheads are a very common occurrence on the nose as it is home to a large number of sebaceous glands. Whiteheads can form due to the accumulation of excess sebum, dead skin cells and debris.
A skin care routine that incorporates products containing acne-fighting agents such as benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, salicylic, glycolic and lactic acids can treat and help prevent whitehead formation when used regularly.
These topical treatments work to exfoliate dead skin cells, accelerate skin cell turnover and clear excess oils.
Facial steaming can help loosen plugs and facilitate their removal through manual extraction. Tea tree oil and witch hazel are natural remedies which can help reduce inflammation, dry up whiteheads and reduce oil levels.
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