Many people often wonder what whiteheads are and how to deal with them. The whiteheads can be effectively dealt with only when the real causes are understood and the symptoms of whiteheads are identified early enough. Quite similar to the blackheads, the whiteheads are also comedones but occur less frequently. However, the whiteheads are much more persistent in nature and require considerable effort to be got rid of. These abnormalities on the skin can be quite painful and are almost invariably associated with pimples.
The primary reason for whiteheads being much more painful and persistent as compared to blackheads is the fact that they arise out of a more advanced form of bacterial infection. Most people often misunderstand what are whiteheads and fail to realize that these are initial symptoms of acne that require medical attention to prevent worsening of the condition. Occurrence of whiteheads along with blackheads is a direct indication of acne affecting that part of the skin. Whiteheads can be easily identified as small white colored bumps on the skin that become progressively painful as the infection intensifies.
Causes of Whiteheads
In medical terminology what are whiteheads can be answered with a simple explanation of these irregularities on the skin being closed comedones that become sensitive due to bacterial infection. The pores that are present for purpose of ventilation on the surface of the skin often get blocked by oil and sebum which secreted by the body. There also deposits of dead skin cells which further aggravate the blockage. The rate of exfoliation of the skin which produces the dead cells is different for each individual as is the amount of oil and sebum that is secreted. Thus the rate of formation and growth of the blockages of the pores on the surface of the skin is different. Linoleic acid produced by the body combines with the sebum to keep the skin supple. This kind of blockage prevents the Linoleic acid to react with the sebum which now mixes with another kind of acid called the oleic acid. Oleic acid has the effect of causing irritation to the skin and promotes formation of bacteria from the deposited dead cells and oil. At the site of this blocked pore due to the less viscous and firmer fluid which is a combination of oleic acid and sebum there is stagnation of the fluids of the skin which starts a process of bacterial formation that leads to a state of infection.
This phenomenon ultimately plugs the follicles on the skin surface and gives rise to lesions. Due to presence of the bacteria at the site of the lesions soon an infection takes place and the bump begins to rise on the surface of the skin as black or whitehead. The similarity in process of formation remains same till this stage only. In parts which exposed to air and sunlight regularly this lesion undergoes a process of oxidation and turns black in color. This is how a blackhead is created. His is a condition of open comedones and is easy to deal with. On the other hand if this blockage occurs in parts of the skin where there is not adequate exposure to light and air, the process of oxidation doesn’t take place. Thus there is no blackening of the bump and instead a white color appears at the head of the lesion. This white colored lesion is now called a whitehead which may be either soft or hard in its state depending on the degree of infection that has occurred so far. As the deposits of dead cells, oil and sebum continues at the site of the whiteheads their whitish color becomes more prominent and the size also increases on proportion. Due to the lack of oxidation in the process of creation of the whiteheads, they do not go away easily as the pimple doesn’t burst easily due to a stiffer upper layer. As is evident from the above description of the process of creation of whiteheads, they are also the precursor to all forms of acne which is related to blocked pores on the surface of the skin.
There are a few other miscellaneous causes of whiteheads occurring which include excess production of sebum linked to hormonal imbalance or even due to hereditary factors. In either case the process of blockage and deposit of the oil and sebum is faster that the ability of the pores to cleanse them leading to the precarious condition. Lack of proper hygiene which involves irregularity in washing the skin can be another major cause of whiteheads as the dead cells and the oil deposits are not washed away. Even reasons like impurities in blood can cause the whiteheads. Individual undergoing the initial stages of puberty often have higher hormonal activity which leads to production of skin oil faster than the usual leading to the clogging of the pores. Another major contributing factor in the formation of the whiteheads is the exposure to sunlight and dirt. People who are more outdoor in their daily routines have higher chances of accumulation of waste substances on their skin which will lead to blockage of the pores unless they are careful enough to wash their exposed parts regularly.
Symptoms of Whiteheads
In order to understand what whiteheads is one must be clear about the actual symptoms of the problem. There are basically two distinct types of whiteheads that affect most people. These are the inflammatory and non inflammatory types.
The non inflammatory types of whiteheads are indicated by lesser numbers and lower levels of pain in the affected areas. The color of the bumps may be pale white and the size is considerable smaller. The whiteness may or may not be distinct in appearance. This is by far the most common form of whiteheads which affects almost all people at some or the other point of time. This is associated with a mild form of acne that can be easily treated.
The inflammatory varieties of whiteheads are more troublesome and can be painful. The bumps become inflamed as the lesions are at an advanced stage of infection. There are chances that the tips of the bumps become reddish in appearance and the possibility of pustules developing around the whiteheads. They will ultimately lead to cysts that will leave behind disfiguring and deep scars at the spots. The inflammatory types also tend to have higher density in case the acne is in advanced stage.
Another variety of whiteheads occur in the more sensitive parts of the skin such as behind earlobes, on genitals, groins and even inside the armpits. Since the primary reason behind these whiteheads is the lack of exposure to sunlight and air, their severity is much higher in terms of pain and cysts that accompany them. Such varieties of whiteheads often develop into painful bumps that contain large amounts of pus and infected waste combinations of sebum and oleic acid. The bumps are large in size and marked by prominent pustules along their edges. However such whiteheads in less exposed areas are more often due to improper hygiene and impurities in the blood rather than acne related reasons.
What are whiteheads is often a daunting question that most of fail to categorically answer and even its distinction from the blackheads eludes many of us. In order to be able to deal with this common problem of the skin we need to understand the causes and adopt preventive measures well in time. Whiteheads by themselves are not a serious problem and can be treated easily unless they are being caused by factors that have roots in the basic quality and quantity of hormone secretion taking place in the body which is governed by a plethora of factors.