Blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, pustules, blemishes- what is up with all the different names we have for zits? Are there really that many different kinds? And how do you know which one(s) you have? Also, do different kinds require different care? All of these questions are totally normal and we’re here to answer them for good! Some words are used for everything, while others actually do refer to one specific kind of “zit”. But first: why is it called a blackhead?
It’s called a blackhead because the very top of what’s known as the comedone is open and the contents of it have oxidized, turning it a dark color we have come to call a blackhead. This is why you’ve probably noticed that if you squeeze a blackhead, the contents within are not typically black or brown. This is because they haven’t had any contact with oxygen and so have not oxidized. Inversely, a whitehead is a closed comedone, meaning its contents are not exposed to oxygen and so maintain their original color.
A blemish is what you might consider to be a pimple. Additionally, some people call the dark mark left over from a pimple a blemish as well. A pimple could be a whitehead, a whitehead could be a pustule- you get the point! These are different names for basically the same thing: a clogged pore filled with dead skin cells, sebum, sometimes dirt, and sometimes bacteria. Thankfully, all of them respond well to the same types of daily skincare.
Some principles to follow no matter your skin complaint include, first and foremost, no picking! Keep those wandering fingers off your face and let your skin heal itself; picking only makes things worse. Also, make sure you use a gentle exfoliant, preferably enzyme based, on a regular basis (once a week is a great place to start). This will keep those dead skin cells and dirt particles from clogging your pores. You can also try oil cleansing with an oil like Jojoba. This can be especially beneficial for people who struggle with black heads because Jojoba helps to dissolve built up sebum and dead skin cells in clogged pores.
Whatever you want to call them—zits, blackheads, pimples—they’re not a whole lot of fun for anyone. But with a few tricks and consistency, you can help your skin remain blackhead, whitehead and blemish free.