How to get rid of Whiteheads on Cheeks

Whiteheads occur when skin debris, sebum from the sebaceous glands and dirt accumulates underneath the skin and causes clogged pores. They are different from blackheads which can be moved out, whiteheads are closed inside the pore and so to get rid of whiteheads can be more difficult. Whiteheads appear on the surface of the skin and turn white due to the layering of the skin over the pores and hence the oxidized damaged cell is not seen like in blackheads.

Causes of whiteheads 

Genetic make-up of a person is one of the factors that determines the susceptibility to developing whiteheads and acne. Other factors include :

  • Whiteheads are commonly seen in adolescents as sebum production from the sebaceous gland is at its peak during puberty due to a drastic shift in hormone levels and metabolism. During puberty, there is a surge in some hormone levels like androgen, which causes the sebaceous gland to enlarge and produce more sebum
  • Increased humidity and polluted air can cause clogged pores and whiteheads
  • Changes in the hormone levels, during menstruation and pregnancy, and in women taking oral contraceptives
  • Diet also influences the occurrence of these acnes. Consumption of large amounts of dairy products like milk, cheese, butter, cottage cheese can lead to development of acne as these products increase mucous production in the body which acts as a trigger for clogging the pores. Also, a diet that is high in fat and refined sugars is a cause for acnes. Research has shown that diet containing milk and milk products stimulate the release of insulin and insulin like growth factor -1 (IGF-1), which further increase the production of androgen hormones, sebum and thus whiteheads
  • Cosmetic products like a greasy moisturizer, other make-up and skin care products can cause the pores to clog and increase the occurrence of acnes

There are many options available to treat the whiteheads right from natural remedies to medical interventions. These include :

  • Salicylic acid : This also works to reduce sebum production from the sebaceous glands in the skin pores. Salicylic acid causes drying the skin surface and eliminates skin debris that can potentially clog pores. It is one of the most promising option to treat stubborn whiteheads. It is available in cleansing toners, gels, creams and facewash
  • Retinoid and Vitamin A topical application : Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant and has many skin health boosting functions. It also reduces the redness caused due to inflammation and increases cell turnover, thus helping in regeneration of new skin tissue. Creams containing Vitamin A can be applied directly to the face. Retinoids are concentrated form of Vitamin A creams. Retinoids have anti-aging benefits and also clear blocked pores. It has to be applied all over the face and cannot be used as a spot treatment like Vitamin A creams
  • Exfoliators : Gentle exfoliators that contain salicylic acid or other components help in stripping over the skin tissue layer, thereby unclogging pores and eliminating pores. It is important to choose one that is not too hard on the skin and does not causes more irritation or dryness of the skin
  • Benzoyl peroxide : This can help in getting rid of the bacteria and excess sebum on the face. It also helps in reducing inflammation in the adjacent areas. Benzoyl peroxide comes as a component in ointments and gels to be applied either on the spot or entire face, depending on the severity

Home remedies for treating Whiteheads

Natural home remedies are the safest and perhaps more effective than other medical methods as it not only helps in treating whiteheads, but also prevents them recurring in the future

  • Tea tree oil : Essential oils like tea tree oil is been increasingly popular as an alternative for treatment of acne and whiteheads. Research shows that 5% tea tree oil solution helps in reducing the amount and overall severity of whiteheads. The antiseptic and antibacterial properties of tea tree oil can reduce oiliness on the skin which can lead to reduction in whitehead formation. The antimicrobial function of the oil is due to its capacity to damage the cell wall structure of bacteria. Few drops of tea tree oil can combined with a carrier oil like almond oil or olive oil
  • Aloe vera : Aloe vera is a plant that is most commonly used in the treatment of many skin diseases, especially acne because of its inherent anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It gently moisturizes and nourishes the skin, making it more supple and soft
  • Witch Hazel : Witch Hazel, obtained from a plant by the same name, has excellent astringent properties and it is an ingredient of many skincare products like skin cleansers and toners. It causes the pore size to reduce, thereby reducing whitehead formation
  • Honey : Honey has been one of the ancient go-to for many conditions like burns and wounds. It has multiple medicinal properties – especially improving the healing process. Honey also has some antibacterial properties which help in fighting infections and thus reduce whitehead formation. Honey can be combined with cinnamon to make a honey and cinnamon mask and used on acne-prone skin as an effective home remedy
  • Baking soda : This helps in reducing scars by balancing the skin pH and acts as a natural exfoliator. By doing this, it clears the skin debris and clogged pores, thus reducing whiteheads. A paste or a mask can be made using baking soda and water for using it on the affected areas
  • Turmeric : The humble spice, found in every household and kitchen is excellent for treating clogged pores and whiteheads. Turmeric has natural antiseptic function, which is why it is an excellent remedy for acne breakouts. The anti-inflammatory quality can act on pores and soothe the skin. It is good for oily skin because it helps to regulate the production of sebum thus preventing blocked pores and whiteheads
  • Apple Cider Vinegar : This, like other vinegars has antibacterial and antiviral properties. It has shown to contain many organic acids that have been effective in treating infection caused by P. acnes, common skin bacteria known to cause acnes. It helps in reducing inflammation and reduce the pore size, thus reducing whiteheads. Because of its acidic nature and astringent properties, it can cause burning sensation on the skin. Hence it has to be diluted with some proportion of water before using
  • Steam : This is a traditional method which can work to reduce the clogged pores. Facial steam helps in opening up the blocked pores and reducing sebum production which causes whiteheads and acnes
  • Diet and lifestyle : One of the ways to naturally prevent whiteheads, is by restricting dairy products, refined carbohydrates, sugar laden foods and processed foods as these foods are pro-inflammatory in nature. Switching to a plant-based, vegan diet that includes consumption of raw foods like fruits and vegetables, consuming foods with Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin A and antioxidants; maintaining good hydration and regular exercise play a key role to combat acnes. Exercise causes reduction in stress levels and improves blood circulation in the body. It also causes some sweating, that helps to eliminate toxins and clogged pores on the skin

General recommendations 

Following a good skincare routine can be beneficial in preventing all kinds of skin-related troubles. Here are some simple daily care tips :

  • Washing and cleaning the face with a mild cleanser not more than twice in a day. Excess washing can cause skin irritation
  • Following a good haircare routine for oily and sweaty hair as the excess oil from hair can cause clogging of pores and acne
  • Cleaning and wiping the phone before use can be a simple, way to avoid whiteheads. Research has shown that our mobile phones contain more bacteria than other surfaces. Constant touching of phone on the cheeks can cause whiteheads
  • Although it may seem extremely tempting, picking and popping whiteheads causes irritation and scarring. Touching the face repeatedly increases bacteria on the face and worsens the whiteheads
  • Avoiding harsh body scrubs for the face and the body as they can irritate the skin and do more harm than good
  • Always wearing a good SPF sunscreen (30 or more) that is best suited for the specific skin type. Using a water or gel based one is good for people with oily skin and is non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) and thus prevent whiteheads
  • Using lukewarm water while showering can help in removing dead skin cells and dirt, thus unclogging pores
  • Washing off the makeup every night before sleeping as it helps the skin to ‘breathe’ and does not clog pores
  • Cleaning makeup brushes routinely to maintain good skin hygiene
  • Choosing makeup and cosmetic products that are non-comedogenic and not greasy. Opting for products that are water based or gel based help the skin to fell light and weightless


Generally whiteheads can be managed by some basic skincare and home remedies. If it does not respond to any of these, it is wise to seek advice of a board certified dermatologist. Preventing whitehead formation goes a long way to maintain good skin health.



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