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Whiteheads are enlarged hair follicles clogged with skin oils, cells, and bacteria. Home remedies include natural astringents and antibacterial treatments, over-the-counter topical creams, and steaming.

Whiteheads, also known as closed comedones, are common acne lesions that appear as small white bumps covered by a thin layer of skin. They are noninflammatory and can affect people of any age.

A quick look at the 10 best home remedies for whiteheads

The sebaceous glands release natural oils called sebum onto the skin’s surface. This occurs at pore structures called the pilosebaceous units (PSUs). The PSUs are most common on the face, chest, and back, all of which are places where acne can occur.

A whitehead develops when sebum, hair, and skin cells form a plug in the hair follicle and the PSU becomes clogged.

Bacteria that live on the skin’s outer layer or epidermis are attracted to the clogged pore and begin to grow. The presence of bacteria draws immune cells to the pore, which causes inflammation.

If the enlarged follicle remains trapped under the skin’s surface, it will appear as a raised white bump called a whitehead.

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Home remedies are affordable and can successfully reduce the development of whiteheads on the skin’s surface. A person should wear sunscreen of SPF 15 or more when trying home remedies for acne, as they can make the skin more sensitive to the sun.

Some of the best home remedies include:

1. Facial steam

Exposing the skin to steam encourages clogged pores to release trapped dirt and bacteria.

A person affected by whiteheads can try boiling some water, putting it in a bowl, and then holding the affected area of their body over the bowl.

For the head and neck area, they can create a steam tent by putting a towel over their head to concentrate the steam onto their upper body.

Some people may want to purchase a facial steamer rather than using boiling water in a bowl to produce steam. A person should be careful not to scald their skin when using a facial steamer.

One option includes the NanoSteamer Large 3-in-1 Nano Ionic Facial Steamer, available online. The manufacturer claims that the steam can penetrate the pores. The steamer also comes with a blemish extractor kit.

This steamer costs $59.95.

2. Apple cider vinegar

According to a 2019 study, apple cider vinegar has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. It also contains antimicrobial acetic acid, which can reduce bacteria on the skin and as a result, may help to control whiteheads.

However, it has a very strong scent that some people may not like.

Bottles of apple cider vinegar are available to purchase online at affordable prices.

An 8-ounce (oz) bottle of Kevala Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar costs $7.99. The manufacturer claims that it is non-GMO and certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

3. Lemon juice

Lemon juice is an acidic astringent. As a result, it may counteract excess oil on the skin. However, there is very limited research about using lemon juice to treat whiteheads or acne.

A person can use lemon juice either undiluted or diluted with equal parts water. In either case, they can apply lemon juice directly to the affected area of the body using a cotton pad or clean fingers and leave it on for 20 minutes.

A person trying lemon juice for whiteheads should wash it off thoroughly, as citrus fruits can cause phytophotodermatitis, a type of dermatitis that can occur if a person comes into contact with photosensitive substances in plants and then expose their skin to sunlight.

A person can talk with a dermatologist to get advice on whether lemon juice will be suitable to treat whiteheads.

A 32-oz bottle of lemon juice is available to purchase online for $3.99.

4. Tea tree essential oil

Tea tree oil is an antiseptic that can reduce the amount of bacteria that causes acne. Many facial cleansers, washes, and toners contain tea tree essential oil.

Pure tea tree oil can also be bought at most drug stores or online, and can be applied directly to the affected skin using a clean finger or cotton pad.

A 1-oz bottle of Nexton Botanics Tea Tree Essential Oil costs $13.95. The manufacturers claim it is USDA-certified organic.

The company recommends that a person mixes this oil with a carrier oil before applying it to the skin. Tea tree oil should never be taken orally as it can cause serious side effects. However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) writes that most people can tolerate topical tea tree oil well.

A person should stop using tea tree oil if they develop any skin reactions or if it makes their whiteheads worse.

5. Honey

2019 research notes that honey has powerful antibacterial properties that are thought to come from its mild acidity and natural hydrogen peroxide content. The authors also write that because of honey’s high viscosity, it can form a protective barrier on the skin and prevent infection.

Additionally, a 2016 study mentioned that honey can work against certain microbes that play a role in acne.

But overall, there is little research into honey as a treatment for whiteheads or acne.

A person can use honey as a spot treatment or as a mask. To make a spot treatment, a person just needs to apply a small amount of honey to the whitehead. For a mask, a person can mix the honey with lemon juice to apply to the face and rinse off after 15 minutes.

An individual can repeat this routine as often as necessary.

A 15-oz bottle of Happy Belly Clover Honey costs $7.62.

6. Witch hazel

Witch hazel is often used as an anti-inflammatory astringent to improve oily skin. It may also tighten pores. However, more research is needed to fully understand how effective witch hazel is against whiteheads and acne.

Astringents are known to cause irritation and dryness, so it is best if witch hazel products are used just once a day and more often only if necessary.

Witch hazel is often found in facial or body washes and toners. It can also be purchased online as an astringent and applied to the skin using a clean finger or cotton pad.

A 12-oz bottle of Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel Facial Toner is currently available for $10.95. There is also a nonscented version available.

The company writes that it is noncomedogenic, suitable for all skin types, and can help to clarify the skin.

7. Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA). It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and promotes exfoliation.

It works by breaking down the bonds between skin cells trapped inside a pore so they can be released more easily. It can also reduce the amount of sebum the skin produces, helping people whose whiteheads are caused by oily skin.

Salicylic acid is found in combination with other anti-acne compounds in many facial and body washes and creams.

Salicylic acid may cause irritation and can sting when applied.

CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser currently sells for $12.49. The company writes that its active ingredients include salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides, which help to hydrate the skin. This product is designed to remove dead skin cells and is formulated for acne-prone, oily skin.

8. Benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide has antibacterial properties and can reduce sebum production. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved benzoyl peroxide as a treatment for acne.

Benzoyl peroxide is found in many different facial and body washes, toners, creams, and spot treatments. It can come in 2.5%, 5%, and 10% concentrations.

Higher concentrations can cause mild dryness, scaling, and a type of rash called erythema. A person may wish to start with lower concentrations and build up to find an effective concentration for them.

Benzoyl peroxide can also bleach fabric and hair. When using substances containing benzoyl peroxide, people should keep their hair away from their face and wash their hands thoroughly afterward. They may also want to cover their pillow before they go to sleep if using benzoyl peroxide on their face.

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Spot Treatment Gel costs $8.49. The company writes that this product can reduce the size and redness of acne blemishes using maximum strength 10% benzoyl peroxide.

9. Retinoids

Retinoid creams contain synthetic forms of vitamin A. Some mild retinoid creams, such as adapalene, are available over the counter, online, or on prescription. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) lists retinoids as a treatment option for whiteheads and mild acne.

However, according to the AAD, people with dry skin or allergies may not find retinoids suitable, and people with severe acne scarring should seek medical advice before trying a retinoid.

Retinoids may not always be suitable for people with darker skin. Any irritation caused by retinoids may lead to hyperpigmentation. A person can start using retinoids slowly and mix it with a moisturizer to reduce their risk of irritation.

If a person finds a retinoid product is irritating their skin, they should stop using it and speak with a doctor for advice.

Topical retinoids can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Avoid excessive sun exposure and always use sunscreen.

Retinoid treatments a person can consider include Differin Gel Acne Treatment, which costs $14.99. The manufacturer writes that it can stop breakouts from developing by targeting clogged pores and inflammation.

10. Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA)

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) encourage exfoliation by shedding dead skin cells and reducing the chances of them becoming trapped in pores. This also encourages new skin cells to grow.

Many skin care products include AHAs and some formulations will be specific to certain skin types, such as dry or oily skin. A person may be able to get stronger products from a doctor.

One AHA product available online is the SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser, which costs $40.80.

The manufacturer writes that this product is suitable for all skin types and exfoliates the skin with jojoba beads and AHAs and BHAs.

However, it recommends a person wear sunscreen and limits their exposure to the sun while using it and for 1 week after stopping.

The table below compares each of the home remedies covered in this article.

Best forProConPrice
Facial steamclearing clogged poresonly uses waterrisk of scalds$59.95
Apple cider vinegarnatural antimicrobialorganicstrong scent$7.99
Lemon juicelow cost astringentaffordablenot backed up by research$3.99
Tea tree oilantisepticcan reduce bacteria that cause acnemust be used with carrier oil$13.95
Honeyantibacterialnaturallack of research specific to whiteheads$7.62
Witch hazelreducing excess oilcan improve oily skinmay cause dryness$10.95
Salicylic acidexfoliationreduces oil and unclogs blocked porescan cause skin irritation$12.49
Benzoyl peroxideover-the-counter medicationFDA-approved acne medicationcan cause skin irritation$8.49
Retinoidsmild whiteheads and acneprevents clogged poresmay not suit darker skin$14.99
Alpha-hydroxy acidimproving skin cell turnoverclears dead skin cellsusers must limit sun exposure$40.80

When choosing a home remedy for reducing the development and appearance of whiteheads, people should think about the following factors:

  • Skin type: Not all skin treatments will be suitable for every skin type. A person should look at product labeling to see what skin types a product is suitable for. Some natural products may irritate the skin, which can lead to hyperpigmentation on darker skin. A person can speak with a doctor before using new skin treatments to get advice on whether they will be suitable for their particular skin concerns.
  • Acne severity: Some people may have a few whiteheads they want to treat. Others may have acne, which can be mild, moderate, or severe. People with acne should talk with a doctor to work out which treatment is best for them.
  • Price: Skin treatments for whiteheads can be expensive. A person should consider what features they would like in their whitehead treatment, how often they will use the product, and find a product that fits their budget. A person should research the effectiveness of their chosen treatment before making a purchase.

There are many misconceptions when it comes to preventing whiteheads and acne.

While stress and greasy foods may worsen existing acne symptoms, they are not known to be the cause. In addition, aggressive or excessive washing of the skin can intensify symptoms and increase the chances of developing whiteheads.

However, there are some habits and lifestyle factors known to contribute to acne lesions.

Tips for preventing and treating whiteheads include:

  • trying not to touch the area
  • avoiding cosmetic, laundry, and cleaning products with irritants, such as fragrances or dyes
  • using only noncomedogenic (not pore-clogging), oil-free cosmetics and skin products
  • not squeezing, picking, or trying to pop whiteheads
  • avoiding places with high air pollution or increasing skin hygiene if exposed to heavy air pollution
  • washing skin thoroughly when in humid areas
  • avoiding tight-fitting clothes, uniforms, or sports equipment
  • trying not to scrub or aggressively cleanse the skin
  • avoiding sunburn
  • washing the face before bed and removing any makeup
  • not getting hair products on the skin
  • showering or bathing regularly
  • keeping long hair pulled back away from the skin

Anyone dealing with severe whitehead breakouts should speak with a doctor about the best way to treat or manage their skin.

If a person experiences skin irritation or allergic reactions after using a home remedy for whiteheads, they should stop using the product and get advice from a doctor.

Below are some frequently asked questions about home remedies for getting rid of whiteheads.

Why is my nose full of whiteheads?

The pores on the nose can be bigger than on other areas of the face and can become clogged with dirt, oil, and dead skin cells. The nose is also the most common site for acne.

Do whiteheads go away without popping?

Whiteheads will go away on their own. A person should not pop whiteheads as doing so can cause scarring, infection, and increased pain and inflammation. If a person is using skin treatments for acne that do not produce results in 4–6 weeks, the American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends they see a dermatologist for advice.

How can I get rid of whiteheads in 10 minutes?

Using facial steam that may encourage clogged pores to open may be the quickest way to get rid of whiteheads. However, there is no guarantee that a person could get rid of whiteheads in 10 minutes by using this method.

Whiteheads are a common form of acne that develops when excess oil clogs the pores. They appear as small white bumps beneath a thin layer of skin. Many affordable home remedies successfully treat whitehead breakouts and leave the skin clear.

These treatments may make a person’s skin more sensitive to the sun. So, those using home remedies to reduce the development and appearance of whiteheads should always use sunscreen with 15 SPF or higher.