Blackheads and whiteheads both fall in the category of non-inflammatory acne, or comedones. However, this does not mean that they are the same thing. Blackheads and whiteheads are actually distinct types of acne on the skin. So, what is the difference between a blackhead and a whitehead?
To start with, blackheads and whiteheads are comedones, which are essentially clogged pores. When the opening of the hair follicles on the skin become full of excess oil and dead skin cells, a comedone can form. Blackheads are referred to as 'open comedones,' because they remain open on the top part of the skin. Since the contents of the follicle are exposed to the air, the debris inside the follicle oxidizes and becomes darker in appearance, thus the name 'blackhead.' Whiteheads are referred to as 'closed comedones,' because the follicle is completely plugged, so that its contents are not exposed to the air. The oil and debris trapped inside the pore remains a whitish color, which is why they are referred to as whiteheads.
Dr. Schweiger explains that, "Although blackheads and whiteheads can initially appear mild, they may eventually lead to the development of inflammatory acne lesions. It is important to treat blackheads and whiteheads, so that they do not attract acne-causing bacteria and progress to more severe acne. The best treatments for blackheads and whiteheads are topical retinoids, the Isolaz acne treatment, microdermabrasion, medical facials, and chemical peels. All of these treatments help to clean out the follicle and prevent the formation of comedonal acne."
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