Whiteheads, blackheads & acne - What's the difference?

When we experience breakouts, it can be easy to assume that all pimples are the same. Pimples are pores that have become clogged. This can happen as a result of your skin producing excess sebum, a buildup of dead skin cells/oils, or the area has come into contact with something else – such as touching your face too much (we have all been there!). Sometimes it can be a combination of factors, and our lifestyles, hormones and diets can play a part too. 

Let's look at the differences between whiteheads, blackheads and acne.


With whiteheads, the pore is closed and they are a variation of comedonal acne. A small raised white bump appears, hence its name. They are the non-oxidized version of blackheads. 


Another variation of comedonal acne, blackheads turn black due to oxygen being allowed into an open follicle, and with a blackhead the pore then closes. While both Whiteheads and Blackheads both result from clogged pores, white means the pore is open and black is closed.


Acne is a skin condition that can affect you at any time of your life. As with pimples, acne is caused by clogged pores and the pimples are recurring and persistent. There are two main types of acne: 

  • Inflammatory – Infected and inflamed pimples like pustules and cysts. 
  • Non-inflammatory – Comprised mainly of whiteheads and blackheads. 

Acne is classified as a condition, while pimples are types of acne lesions. Acne can occur in certain areas of the body or be called by a specific name (cystic acne, hormonal acne). The direct cause of acne is clogged pores but the root cause may go much deeper and be related to what's going on inside your body – such as diet, hormones and other health factors.

What can cause a breakout?

Sleeping in your make up or not cleansing your skin regularly will cause pores to clog. Lifestyle factors such as diet can also have an influence, as can your surrounding environment (pollution) and your mental wellbeing. Stress can trigger an increase in stress-related hormones, this then means that your skin begins producing excess sebum (natural oil), slowing down the rate of skin cell turnover.  

Taking care of your skin

For more serious acne, you may need to seek prescribed medication to support healing. However, there are things that you can be doing at home to alleviate mild pimples that you may be experiencing. 

  • Keep pores clean, but don’t be tempted to over wash your skin – that will only strip away the natural oils your skin needs to a certain extent. Cleansing twice a day is enough (yes, you can double cleanse too!).
  • Try not to overload your skin with too much product. This can lead to clogging the pores even further. A simple and natural, yet effective routine suitable for your own skin type is best.
  • It's important to exfoliate your skin to get rid of the dead skin cells and encourage skin renewal, but not too much. If you are using our Exfoliating Face Mask, once to twice a week is plenty. For a gentler daily approach, you can use our Exfoliating Face Mask and Active Cleansing Lotion mixed together.
  • Moisturising is very important. You don’t want your skin to dry out as this can also lead to an excessive production of sebum, which we need to keep in order! Opt for a natural moisturiser such as our Anti-oxidant Marine Cream. It contains shea butter and extract of macademia which contain essential fatty acids Omega 6 and 7, which absorb excess sebum while nourishing thirsty skin. Don’t be tempted to ‘dry out’ oily or acne-prone skin, this will only worsen problems.