How Do Blackheads Form?

Filed in Acne by on November 8, 2016 0 Comments

You wake up in the morning, let out a yawn and crawl out of bed.  Heading over to the mirror, your eyes snap to attention at a new unwelcomed presence.  Sitting there in your left cheek is a blackhead.


Keeping our skin healthy is a challenge made difficult by just how diverse our physiology and skin types can be.  It is the main reason why Acne only affects 50 million Americans every year and not all Americans.


Simply put, our skin can be pre-disposed to certain things, requiring that we take steps to find a solution and leave our skin looking healthy and unblemished.


Another thing many people have to consider are blackheads.  Let’s take a moment to review what blackheads are, causes of blackheads, symptoms/diagnosis, and end with treatment and prevention.  Let’s begin!


What Are Blackheads?


So what exactly are blackheads?  Simply put, a blackhead is a small bump that can appear on your skin if it becomes clogged with a hair follicle.  Blackheads get their name from the fact that the surface of the skin will look black or shaded due to how the pore becomes clogged.


Blackheads typically appear on your face.  Blackheads can also appear on the chest, arms, neck, back, and shoulders as well with less frequency.  More often than not, blackheads are considered a symptom of acne and can sometimes be followed by acne.


Know that getting blackheads are not uncommon at one point in your life.  In addition, know that for the most part, the small black dots that appear on your nose are not blackheads.  Instead, they are simple black dots that can form as natural blemishes.  Typically, blackheads will be larger in size.


Causes of Blackheads


So how are blackheads caused?  We briefly covered what blackheads are further up.  Let’s take a moment to go into further detail.  Blackheads begin to form when the open hair follicles in your skin become either clogged or plugged by oil produced by your skin.  Each follicle can turn into a potential blackhead.  The follicle itself holds a single hair as well as what is known as the sebaceous gland.


The gland produces oil known as sebum.  Sebum is generally a good oil, as it helps to keep your skin soft.  However, when Sebum is combined with dead skin cells from your body, there is a chance that a clog might form and a bump will result.


If the follicle is successfully clogged, then a comedone will form.  When the skin that is over the bump remains closed, you get a whitehead.  When the skin that is over the bump opens, then you get exposure to air, which causes it to turn black.


Most of the time, hair follicles work without issue.  So what causes the chain of events listed above to begin?  Well, there are several different causes of blackheads that explain why some people get them and others do not.  One of the most common causes is that your body produces too much oil.


A build up of bacteria on the skin, as well as irritation to the skin when dead skin cells do not shed can cause them as well.  While taking certain drugs can cause blackheads to form, undergoing hormonal changes (especially puberty) can cause issues.


Symptoms and Diagnosis


Symptoms of blackheads are pretty easy to spot.  A blackhead will appear as a dark discoloration on your skin.  More often than not, it will be black in color.  In addition to being dark, they will also be slightly raised as well.  Note that blackheads will not be painful like pimples.


The reason for this is that blackheads are not inflamed.  More often than not, people will diagnose themselves with blackheads if and when they see them.  You can also go to your primary care physician or your dermatologist and have them confirm that you do have blackheads.  Once they are confirmed, you can take the appropriate steps towards treatment.


Treatment and Prevention


There are a number of different ways to treat blackheads that range from minimally invasive to more intensive.  On the inexpensive end, you have over the counter treatments that you can try.  A number of different acne medications will also work for blackheads.  You can get these over the counter products as a cream, as a gel, or as a patch.  Over the counter treatments have some success thanks to their ingredients, which help to shed dead skin cells, dry excess oil, and kill bacteria.


If over the counter medication is not working for you, then consider prescription medication.  Typically stronger than what you will get over the counter, prescription medication typically includes Vitamin A as well as other ingredients that are directly applied to your skin.  Consider prescription medication if you are already dealing with stubborn acne.


In addition to medications, you can also take action to physically remove blackheads or otherwise change your skin.  For example, your dermatologist can manually remove the blackheads.  Microdermabrasion is another option where the top layer of skin is sanded to remove the clog and blackhead.  Chemical peels and laser/light therapy are two more options you can consider as both directly deal with treating your skin and removing blackheads.


In the end, the best treatment is prevention.  There are a few things you can do to decrease your risk of getting blackheads.  The first thing you should consider is regularly washing your face.  Do this when you wake up as well as before you go to sleep.  Washing your face after eating oily foods can also help you.  Oil-free products can also be a benefit to you.  There are even some home remedies for blackheads that might even help as well.


Oil-free makeup and sunscreen in particular can provide you with fewer blackheads.  Last but not, consider trying an exfoliating product.  If nothing else, look for products that do not irritate your skin and remember them.  More often than not, simple trial and error will show you what products work and what do not.  Understand that you have a unique physiology, and works for you may not work for someone else and vise versa.

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