Daily Vanity Logo

Acne sucks – that’s a universal truth. It’s painful, uncomfortable, and often notoriously hard to treat. To make it even worse, there isn’t just one standard type of acne or pimple. You read that right.

What’s fact is this: There are a few different types of pimples, such as pustules, cysts, nodules, papules, and you guessed it, blackheads and whiteheads.

Pustules, cysts, nodules and papules tend to be inflamed and are usually exacerbated by bacterial infections or hormonal imbalances, so the root causes for those must be tackled for such acne to be treated properly. This usually means a trip to a derm for a prescription.

Whiteheads and blackheads, however, can usually be treated with over-the-counter products. That’s because whiteheads and blackheads aren’t infected – yet.

What are whiteheads?

whiteheads what they are

Whiteheads, also known as closed comedones, look like little bumps under the skin. As for what they are, just imagine your pores plugged up with gunk like dead skin cells and oil and dirt, but with skin covering it all up. Yep, that’s exactly what whiteheads are.

This makes it all the harder to treat, and you’ll see why this is so in comparison with their also-common cousin, blackheads.

Why are whiteheads harder to treat than blackheads?

Whiteheads and blackheads are basically the same thing, only one’s covered up with skin while the other is exposed to air. They’re both gunk-filled pores. And the remedy for that? Remove all that yucky stuff from the pores and keep them clean.

Whiteheads are harder to treat than blackheads because they’re embedded within the skin. So while you can use a pore strip to rip those nasty blackheads off with satisfaction, you can’t do the same to whiteheads.

Related read: How to remove blackheads from nose: 2021 guide for Asians

What causes whiteheads?

whiteheads causes

Credit: xFrame.io

You already know that whiteheads are clogged pores comprising dead skin cells, oil, dirt, and bacteria. So then, you may wonder: why do my pores keep getting plugged even after I’ve cleaned them out?

The answer? Most of the time, they’re caused by hormones and the overproduction of sebum. Sometimes, it can be attributed to the use of certain facial products, cosmetics, wearing tight clothing, or perspiration.

While we may not be able to escape our genetics or the humid, tropical weather, we can certainly find the best products known to humankind to treat these pesky guests on our faces. Ahead, we’ve found 17 of the most effective products to say farewell to those whiteheads on our faces.

Here’s a big tip: look out for gentle exfoliating acids in the ingredients list – specifically, acids like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic or lactic acid, beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid, and topical retinoids.

Other ingredients that are tried-and-tested in the war against pimples include tea tree oil, benzoyl peroxide, witch hazel and zinc oxide – all of which are bacteria killers and antimicrobial.

17 products to get rid of whiteheads

1. CosRX AC Collection Ultimate Spot Cream


Spot treatments are like homing missiles: dab them directly on the offending whitehead that’s already right there, and pray they do their job stat. CosRX’s AC Collection Ultimate Spot Cream is an effective treatment, according to thousands of users all over the world.

With its active ingredients of zinc oxide, calamine, and aloe barbadensis leaf water – all of which help to soothe the skin and reduce inflammation – this targeted treatment truly does its job well.

On top of this, it also contains CentellAC-Rx Complex, which is a special cocktail of three acids: madecassic acid, asiaticoside, and asiatic acid. In short, these acids work very well together to protect your skin’s barrier whilst the other active ingredients work together to zap the zit.

Get it at S$19.9o (30g) from Amazon.

2. Tarte Knockout Tingling Treatment


Vegan beauty brand Tarte is known for its toxin-free products. Because of that, many of its products have gained cult status, especially its eyeshadows and Amazonian clay products. Here’s one more to add to your must-try list: its exfoliant, the Knockout Tingling Treatment.

This cream contains 10% salicylic acid to help dissolve those pesky dead skin cells that are buried deep under your skin, the culprit that clogs up your pores. It also rebalances your skin’s pH levels and resurfaces the skin’s surface as it works its tingly magic.

Get it at S$65 (150ml) and S$32 (50ml) from Sephora.

3. Dermalogica Breakout Clearing Booster


This lightweight gel is invisible and goes on thinly over those dreaded whiteheads, promising to clear them out and leave your skin feeling smooth.

Powered by salicylic acid, this goes on before you moisturise your face, so that the acid can work its magic and clear those plugged follicles out throughout the day. It claims to kill pimple-causing bacteria within 15 minutes, so expect to see quick results with this booster!

Get it at S$39 from Sephora.

4. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel


Practising dermatologist Dr Dennis Gross’s home skincare range is lauded for its medical grade formulas that are made safe for home use. The Alpha Beta Daily Peel is an absolute cult product that people swear by. Two steps are apparently all you need for removing all those dead skin cells from your face and giving it a major glow up.

Step 1 contains a whopping 5 Alpha Beta acids that work together to unglue the dead skin cells, as well as chamomile to help your skin calm down. Swipe this on your face in the morning and wait for two minutes before using Step 2 – a sheet soaked in retinol and green tea extract to improve the skin’s elasticity and provides protection against free radicals in the environment.

Using this daily will surely keep those whiteheads away, thanks to all the gentle exfoliating you’re treating your face to every single day.

Pro tip 1: If you’re using this for the first time, use this on alternate days so your skin has time to get used to the regiment.

Pro tip 2: if whiteheads frequently make your face their home, you may want to keep using this daily. It’s pricey but it really does the job.

Get it at S$135 (30 pieces) and S$27 (5 pieces) from Sephora.

5. Glossier Solution Exfoliating Skin Perfector


Remember what we said about whiteheads basically being comedones stuck under the skin? A good exfoliator is therefore key to removing all that gunk from your face.

Glossier’s Solution is renowned for being particularly effective at gently sloughing away the top layer of dead skin, with none of the physical scrubbing. It’s so good at what it does simply because it includes a special concoction of the holy grail of acids: AHA, BHA, and polyhydroxy acid (PHA).

It also contains ingredients to soothe and moisturise the skin, including aloe, glycerin, and niacinamide.

Get it at S$33 (USD24) from Glossier, and ship it to Singapore via a forwarder like VPost.

6. BeautyStat Universal Pro-Bio Moisture Boost


When your face is in the throes of a whitehead attack, the last thing you want to put on your face is a heavy, oily cream, further messing up those already pretty clogged up pores. That’s why a lightweight moisturiser like this one from BeautyStat is very much welcomed.

It contains hyaluronic acid and linoleic acid, both of which are excellent for binding moisture to the skin. Other star ingredients include ceramides and pomegranate sterols to reduce wrinkles, and Ganoderma and Bifida extract to detoxify and protect the skin from pollutants. Just what your skin needs as you fight off a bout of whiteheads, we say.

Get it at S$68.33 from Revolve.

7. Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask To Clear Pores


You’ll want to keep those pores clear in the war against whiteheads, so adding a mask that does just that will definitely pay off in the fight. This creamy Origins mask is formulated with good ol’ charcoal and white China clay. What this means is that it pulls double duty as it simultaneously removes impurities from deep within the skin AND reduces excess oil buildup while at it.

People who’ve used it and love it share that it doesn’t leave your face with that wrinkly tight feeling after washing off too. A major plus point in our books!

Get it at S$39 (75ml) and S$22 (30ml) at Sephora.

8. The INKEY List Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) Serum


Have you heard of The INKEY List? It’s been giving The Ordinary a run for its money as a hero-ingredient and budget-friendly skincare darling among beauty junkies young and old. If this is your first interaction with the brand, you can thank us later.

Meet The INKEY List’s BHA serum, which, as its name states, contains BHA – 2% of it, to be accurate. What this means is that you are guaranteed a gentle yet effective dose of salicylic acid, which exfoliates deep within your pores for a clean slate.

Get it at S$20 (30ml) from Sephora.

9. Differin Acne Gel Treatment


This is a real treasure, loved by beauty aficionados and regular folk alike. Lightweight and transparent, it’s a prescription-strength retinol acne treatment gel that dermatologists swear by.

It contains 0.1% adapalene, which is a more gentle and tolerable form of retinoid (some people are sensitive to stronger retinoids, which can cause redness, dryness, or peeling). Adapalene is also photo-stable, which means you can use this in the day too, but make sure you slather sunscreen on afterwards.

Get it at S$25.27 from iHerb.

10. Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser


AHA is one of your good friends when battling acne, so this facial cleanser that contains AHA glycolic acid from Mario Badescu is a big yes from us. This means it’s able to deep clean your pores, dissolving impurities upon contact, and exfoliates like a dream.

Soothing herbal extracts that include chamomile, marshmallow, sage, St. John’s wort, and yarrow will also leave your skin feeling and looking radiant and bright. Pro tip: try to avoid reaching for this on a daily basis – your skin could use a break from the daily AHA action. Use this up to three times a week for maximum benefit!

Get it at S$27 from Sephora.sg.

11. Zitsticka KILLA Patches


Killin’ those pimples at the source – that’s what Zitsticka’s Killa patches are all about. And we love them for that! Keep a box or two of these handy patches in your arsenal because you’ll thank us for the tip.

Self-dissolving microdarts deliver a concentrated shot of skin-loving ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, oligopeptide-76, salicylic acid, and niacinamide, right to the epicentre of the whitehead. Those unwelcomed guests will be gone even before they’ve had time to stir up any drama on your face.

PS: Social media queen Chrissy Teigen loves these too, and we’ve got the deets.

Get it at S$23 from Amazon.sg, additional shipping charges apply. 

12. CosRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid

This is exactly as its name says: a powerful AHA liquid to combat whiteheads. And we are all here for it. Extremely effective yet wonderfully gentle on the skin, it’s not hard to see why so many people love this K-beauty miracle liquid – it’s even gone viral on Reddit.

Its AHA is derived from natural apple fruit water and glycolic acid, which makes it awesome at exfoliating the skin to release the trapped dirt from within so it can be obliterated away with finality. This amazing liquid also contains skin-brightening niacinamide to bring the glow right on. It’s really little wonder it’s received so much love!

Get it at S$20.74 from iHerb.

13. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Ultra-Light Fluid Broad Spectrum SPF 50


For acne sufferers, you’ll want to look for non-comedogenic sunscreens to protect your skin from breakouts and minimise congestion. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Ultra-Light Fluid is one of the best broad-spectrum sunscreens around with zero parabens or fragrance added.

What makes it even better for those of us who deal with whiteheads is its ultra-light formulation that is also rich in antioxidants. 

Get it at S$35.17 from Watsons.

14. Clinique’s Acne Solution Clearing Gel

The holy grail product of many, Clinique’s Acne Solution Clearing Gel is so effective because it works both as a spot treatment as well as a pimple prevention product.

It contains gently exfoliating ingredients like salicylic acid to clear away dead skin cells on the skin surface, as well as sebum-controlling agents like laminaria saccharina. This soothing, cooling gel also has calming sea whip extract to reduce surface redness. What more could you ask for?

Get it at S$52 (30ml) or S$35 (15ml) from Sephora.sg.

15. Sunday Riley U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil


A medicated oil to zap those zits? Sounds like something mum would approve of. Well, it’s actually a thing! Sunday Riley’s version is a fast-acting and quick-drying oil that clears congested pores like a dream.

Formulated with a cocktail of ingredients that work wonderfully together to eliminate whiteheads, you’ll find familiar bacteria-killing oils in the formula, like tea tree oil and black cumin seed oil.

This bottle of green goodness also contains oils that smooth out fine lines, such as milk thistle and cucumber seed oil, as well as chamomile and neroli oils to calm stressed skin.

Users of this eye-catching emerald oil describe the smell as “earthy” and “herbal” – but almost all agree that it dissipates relatively quickly after application.

Get it at S$131 (35ml) and S$61 (15ml) from Sephora.sg.

16. Dr.G Red Blemish Clear Soothing Toner

Feeling defeated from the onslaught of whiteheads that just won’t go away? Slather on this lightweight toner from Dr.G for a soothing treat that your face will thank you for.

It’s got great natural calming ingredients such as aloe and cica, which are absolute ace at reducing inflammation. Willow bark essence (a.k.a. natural salicylic acid) goes right on to help deep clean and gently exfoliate those choked up pores.

We particularly like its watery texture, which doesn’t leave the face feeling sticky or clammy. Perfect for our forever-summer weather, we say!

Get it at S$26.40 from Lazada.sg.

17. Bobbi Brown Remedies Skin Clarifier Serum


Known for their understated beauty products, Bobbi Brown’s skincare line was released in 2017 and the verdict is out: their skincare products are every bit as awesome as their gorgeous makeup line.

The brand’s Skin Clarifier serum is targeted at resolving skin irritation caused by excess sebum production – something all of us with whitehead woes can definitely identify with.

This tiny but mighty serum’s list of oil-controlling and calming ingredients look impressive indeed: salicylic acid, manuka honey, seabuckthorn, saw palmetto, and rosehip oil, which exfoliate, calm, and nourish the skin.

Get it at S$70 from Sephora.sg.

Featured image credit: @cosrx and @origins on Instagram