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What Causes Whiteheads to Appear on Your Nose and What Can You Do?

Why the nose?

Whiteheads are a type of acne that can be challenging to treat and get rid of. Like blackheads, whiteheads form because of clogged pores.

Once the pore is plugged with oil and dead skin cells, the substance hardens. But unlike blackheads, whiteheads have closed ends, which can make the plug difficult to extract. They can also lead to small bumps from a bulging of hair follicle walls.

No one wants pimples on their nose — especially stubborn acne like whiteheads. Yet the nose, like other oily areas of the skin in your T-zone, is particularly vulnerable. That’s because this type of acne feeds on excess oil.

Keep reading to learn more about why this happens and how you can treat them at home.

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Causes

What causes whiteheads?

It’s normal to have both dead skin cells and oil in your pores. Dead skin cells occur naturally as your skin constantly generates new ones to replace them. Oil (sebum) is made in your pores and is designed to keep your skin hydrated.

But too many dead skin cells and the over-production of oil can combine to make your pores a breeding ground for whiteheads.  

Whiteheads can also stem from:

  • anxiety
  • extreme stress
  • family history of acne
  • menopause
  • menstruation
  • puberty
  • overly dry skin (usually from using too many acne products)
  • wearing oil-based skin products and makeup
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Home remedies

What home remedies are available?

Before heading to the drugstore, you might consider giving home remedies a try. These can be effective for mild cases of nose whiteheads, or they can be a good preventive measure to complement over-the-counter (OTC) methods.

Steam

Steam is used by cosmetologists for facials, and for good reason — it helps to open your pores to let out dirt and other materials. The process can also loosen clogged pores, which is especially beneficial for stubborn whiteheads.

To do this:

  1. Boil hot water in a pot on the stove or in a bowl in the microwave.
  2. Once the water has boiled, carefully place the pot or bowl in the kitchen sink.
  3. Lean your face over the sink for 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. You can repeat this process up to a few times per week.

Oatmeal scrub

Many beauty products contain oatmeal. Instead of buying such products though, you may reap the benefits of a homemade oatmeal scrub for your nose.

To do this:

  1. Combine equal parts whole oats and plain yogurt.
  2. Then, apply a thin layer to your nose.
  3. Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes and rinse with warm water.
  4. You can repeat this process up to a few times per week.

Manuka honey

Manuka honey is a type of honey indigenous to New Zealand. Unlike regular honey you can find at the grocery store, this type of honey is known for its antibacterial properties that may reduce acne problems. These benefits can potentially translate to a spot treatment for whiteheads on the nose. You can find pure Manuka honey online or in health food stores.

To do this:

  1. Apply a small amount of manuka honey to your nose and stay still so the honey doesn’t drip down the rest of your face.
  2. After 15 to 30 minutes, rinse the area with warm water.
  3. You can repeat this process up to a few times per week.
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OTC remedies

What OTC treatments are there?

When it comes to over-the-counter (OTC) acne medications, you’re likely most familiar with benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Benzoyl peroxide is primarily used as a spot treatment for inflammatory acne, while salicylic acid helps shed dead skin cells from open pores that have blackheads. While both ingredients can help certain forms of acne, you may need to try other remedies for whiteheads.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it takes about one to two months for acne products to take full effect. This means you might need to try one new method at a time to see if it works before moving onto another.

Mandelic acid

Mandelic acid is a substance contained in peel or mask form. It’s also a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that’s used to regulate sebum production in the skin. Mandelic acid is also used as an antiaging treatment for wrinkles and dull skin.

Your skin care professional may recommend these if you have overly dry skin that’s contributing to whitehead formation on your nose. To avoid skin irritation, you should only use these types of products on your nose once a week. Exuviance’s Rejuvenation Treatment Masque and Vivant Skin Care’s 8% Mandelic Acid are just a couple of OTC options available.

Glycolic acid

Glycolic acid is another type of AHA that removes the outer layer of your skin. Excess dead skin cells are removed, too. Glycolic acid may help remove clogged substances in nose pores, such as those that make up whiteheads. It can also help reduce the appearance of scars from old acne lesions on your nose.

Take care in using glycolic acid by reading product labels carefully. Some products are intended for weekly use, while others, such as Mario Badescu’s Glycolic Acid Toner, are intended for daily use. Side effects of AHAs can include redness, burning, and irritation. These can also increase your skin’s sensitivity to UV rays, so be sure to apply extra sunscreen to your nose before heading outdoors.

Clay mask

In a world full of numerous types of skin masks, nothing compares to a clay mask if your skin is prone to acne. Clay masks work by softening clogged pores while also deeply cleansing them of dirt, oil, and dead skin cells. When used once or twice a week on your nose, you may notice your whiteheads reduce in size and content over time.

Consider trying out Loreal’s Detox and Brighten Clay Mask or Philosophy’s Purity Made Simple Clay Mask. Since clay masks can sometimes make the skin a bit dry, try only using it at night so your skin doesn’t flake during the day.

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See your derm

When to see your dermatologist

Whiteheads are one of the most challenging forms of acne to get rid of, but you don’t have to go at it alone. At-home extraction tools can help you safely remove the pimple on your nose without causing infection or scars. You should never pick at the whitehead with your fingers.

If you aren’t comfortable with home extraction, or if you can’t fully get rid of the whitehead, contact your skin care professional. They can help you remove the whitehead with professional-grade extraction tools.

It’s also a good idea to make an appointment if the whiteheads spread or keep coming back.

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Prevention

How to prevent future whiteheads from forming

Nose acne is treatable, but you can also help prevent whiteheads from forming there in the first place. Good skincare practices are essential to managing whiteheads and other forms of acne.

Consider the following tips and adopt them as a part of your healthy skin routine:

  • Wash your face twice daily. Use a gel-based product that removes dirt and oil from the pores without over-drying your nose. You should also remove all makeup left over on your nose before heading to bed.
  • Touch up with cleansing wipes after sweating. You’ll want to cleanse your nose any time you sweat from being outside or working out to prevent oil from getting stuck in your pores. You don’t necessarily need to wash your entire face though — you can try cleansing wipes for your nose and other areas of your face as needed.
  • Exfoliate regularly. Exfoliation helps get rid of any leftover dead skin cells that your pores can’t remove on their own. Use an exfoliating mask or facewash at least once a week on your entire face, and up to three time per week on your nose.
  • Avoid over-scrubbing the skin around your nose. While exfoliation is important, you don’t want to go through the process every single day. This can dry out your nose and aggravate the oil glands, which can then produce even more pore-clogging oil.
  • Opt for an oil-free moisturizer and sunscreen. A daytime/nighttime moisturizer and daily sunscreen are must-haves for your skin. Just be sure both types of products are oil-free so the pores on your nose stay clear.
  • Wash your hair every day. Daily shampoo sessions can help prevent oil from getting on your nose, especially if you have long locks.
  • Use noncomedogenic makeup. If you wear makeup regularly, chances are you may wear a little extra foundation or concealer during nose breakouts. However, some types of makeup can lead to more acne. Make sure all your products are labeled “noncomedogenic” to ensure you’re not putting pore-clogging ingredients on your nose.
  • Avoid touching your nose. Even if you’re not directly picking at whiteheads on your nose, avoiding touching your face entirely is a good rule of thumb for overall skin health. If you must touch your nose, be sure you wash your hands first to reduce the transfer of dirt and oil.

We pick these items based on the quality of the products, and list the pros and cons of each to help you determine which will work best for you. We partner with some of the companies that sell these products, which means Healthline may receive a portion of the revenues when you buy something using the links above.

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