What are Blackheads?
Even if you’re someone with largely perfect skin, at some point in your life you would have noticed little black bumps on your face. These often pop up on your nose and on the sides of your nose. These little black-looking bumps are called blackheads and they are a mild type of acne. Most people start experiencing them early in life during puberty when the hormones change and will appear from time to time. Thankfully, they don’t usually grow to become pimples, but they can still be tricky and annoying to deal with.
Like with all types of acne and skin problems, it is best to understand what a blackhead is, how it is formed, and how it might develop in order to tackle it properly. In this article, you’ll learn what exactly a blackhead is made up of, what are its causes, and how you can deal with them in a way that does not affect the rest of your skin!
What are blackheads, exactly?
Blackheads are small bumps that appear on your skin. It is caused by hair follicles that are clogged and appear dark or black from the surface of the skin. Many people get blackheads on various parts of the body, not just on the face. Blackheads appear anywhere with hair follicles such as the back, arms, ears, neck, and chest. It is one of the most prevailing skin issues.
Everyone has hair follicles all over their body. A follicle is made up of a strand of hair and a sebaceous gland that produces an oil known as sebum. The sebum gets a bad rep due to its nature of clogging and oil production, but it is actually what keeps your skin soft and supple. When a blackhead forms, the opening of the skin follicle gets clogged up with dead skin cells and oil. The result of this is a small bump known as a comedo. If the skin over the bump is open, the exposure to air causes this clog to appear black, and that is how you get a blackhead!
It’s very easy to see a blackhead — they are very shallow bumps but are not inflamed or sensitive to touch like a pimple. You might notice more blackheads on your nose and on the sides of your nose, chin, and forehead.
What are the causes of blackheads?
Blackheads can be caused by any kind of buildup in the skin follicles. It is mostly caused by natural physical processes in your skin.
Overproduction of body oil is one of the main factors, given that the skin follicles contain sebaceous glands. Naturally, if the sebaceous gland produces too much oil there will be a build-up of oil in the follicle and hence form a blackhead.
Another cause is a buildup of Propionibacterium acnes bacteria on the skin. Propionibacterium acnes is a bacteria that lives deep in the skin follicles and pores and can also be found on the surface of healthy skin. It feeds on sebum and can also cause clogging in the skin follicle, leading to blackheads. Blackheads might also form when the dead skin cells in the hair follicles shed irregularly and cause irritation to the hair follicles.
Changes in hormones are another big cause of blackheads, as with any other skin-related issue. Hormonal changes can cause an increase in the production of oil. This is why teenagers undergoing puberty often get blackheads, as their bodies undergo numerous changes in hormones as they develop into adults. Women are also more predisposed to blackheads due to hormone changes during the menstrual cycle. Birth control pills are also a contributing factor in causing oil overproduction and hence blackheads. Some drugs and medication can also lead to blackheads such as corticosteroids, lithium, and androgens.
There is also a popular belief that one’s diet can play a role in acne and blackheads. Dairy is often named as one culprit due to its ability to increase the level of blood sugar, but there isn’t enough data to support this hypothesis.
How Can I Treat a Blackhead?
Blackheads can be treated fairly easily. You can get over-the-counter treatments from drugstores and online without a prescription. Products like gels, creams, and chemical pads that contain ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, and salicylic acids. These have the property of drying out oil and stimulating the skin to shed the dead skin cells. If these over-the-counter treatments aren’t helping, you can try prescription medications. A doctor can prescribe oral medications such as vitamin A which should also stimulate the removal of dead skin cells and replenishment of new skin cells. There are also non-oral medicines that can be applied to the skin such as tretinoin, tazarotene, and adapalene. Antibiotics are another possible prescription but do be careful with antibiotics, it is best not to be reliant on them as they are very strong.
The quickest way to get rid of a blackhead is just to remove it yourself. It is pretty easy to remove a blackhead, using a tool called a round loop can help unplug and extract the blackhead by putting pressure on the opening. You can buy a round loop and remove blackheads yourself, or get a doctor to do it. If your blackheads are very small, it is safe to do it yourself, just remember not to apply too much pressure. However, if your blackhead is very large it would be best to consult a doctor who can make an incision in the plug to remove it.
You can also seek professional dermatologists’ help. There are a number of processes and treatments to be done such as microdermabrasion, which sands the skin to remove blackheads. Undergoing a chemical peel can also help with removing blackheads as it involves using a strong solution that causes the top layers of your skin to peel off. This reveals new, smoother skin underneath.
How Can I Prevent Blackheads?
Prevention is better than cure, and luckily there are many easy steps you can take every day to prevent blackheads! Washing your face regularly is one of the most effective prevention methods. This will help remove oil buildup on the skin. However, do not wash your face more than twice a day as overwashing might irritate the skin. Also consider washing your hair more frequently as hair also contains oil and dirt, which might get onto your face throughout the day.
If you use makeup products, try making the switch to oil-free and non-comedogenic products. These products will reduce the amount of oil that gets onto your skin. You can also try exfoliating scrubs that will help slough off dead skin, preventing dead skin buildup.
Blackheads are a mild skin issue and something that affects all people! Thankfully they are not difficult to deal with and can be easily treated. Blackheads will pop up frequently and are not a big cause of worry! Just remember to be delicate if removing a blackhead yourself to avoid scarring and irritating the skin even further.