Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"Can swimming in the ocean cause whiteheads?"


I always thought the beach was good for your skin: salt water and sun keep your face clean and clear, right? Unfortunately, my visit with my family to the beach this summer seemed to leave my face full of whiteheads. Could that have been the result of the saltwater?


The list of causes of acne and factors that make it worse is quite long. Swimming in the ocean and salt water are not typical triggers for developing an acne flair, everyone's skin is different and yours for some reason might be sensitive to those things. The only way to tell is for you to go back to the beach and see if it happens again.

See a doctor who can help

Find a Dermatologists near you

Then you'll know for sure. Acne is caused by the blockage of pores with keratin and subsequent filling with sebum (a skin oil). A pore filled with sebum gets larger and is known as a comedone. The reason for the "hyperkeratination" is unknown, but not likely related to salt water. Hormones effect the production of sebum which is why acne gets worse as we near puberty when sex hormones are finally present. Finally, as the sebum builds up and gets trapped, then it allows for certain bacteria to grow worsening the appearance of each comedone. My suggestion is that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or dermatologist, whoever you go to for treatment or advice for you acne. They can make sure that you are on the right treatment for your type of acne. Good luck.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.