Afternoon beauty fix: Exploring your pores and how to cure those pesky clogs

My skin is consistently losing a battle against blackheads and whiteheads. Should I be treating each differently—and more importantly, how can I make them disappear?
Both blackheads and whiteheads are the result of your skin producing the same thing: sebum (a fancy word for the waxy oil created by your sebaceous glands). It’s how the sebum exits your pores which differentiates the nature of your breakout. Blackheads are caused by oil surfacing from beneath a hair follicle. When the oil reaches the surface of your skin, the sebum oxidizes and appears “black.” Whiteheads also begin from beneath a hair follicle but, if the oil can’t escape due to a clogged pore, the irritation appears white because the sebum hasn’t undergone oxidization. Rather than squeezing or drying a zit out with harsh chemicals like salicylic acid, open your pores with a hot compress (a warm face cloth or a steaming pot of water will do) and follow this with a gentle face wash to cleanse away surface level dirt and oil. To treat blackheads, an antioxidant rich face wash, like Ole Henriksen African Red Tea Foaming Cleanser ($38,, uses nutrients like Vitamin C and fruit extracts to clarify open pores with while they’re being cleansed. To treat whiteheads, try using a natural exfoliant (such as sugar mixed with olive oil) to open pores, giving that trapped oil a chance to surface. Then, seal moisture back in with a nutrient-rich skin cream, like Pure + Simple Cellular Repair Face Cream ($40,, which uses bioactive minerals to saturate cells with antioxidants so they can excrete sebum easily without irritation or, much worse, long-term scarring.