What Are Blackheads?

Blackheads are a common type of acne found on the skin. They are a type of comedo, which is a plugged hair follicle filled with sebum, keratin, and dead skin cells. They appear as tiny, dark spots on the skin when the follicle becomes blocked with sebum or oily substances, and the air oxidizes the blockage, causing it to darken. Blackheads can appear on any part of the body, but are most common on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, and back.

Causes of Blackheads

Blackheads are often caused by an excess of sebum (natural oil) production in the skin and a build-up of bacteria and dead skin cells. Hormonal changes are another common cause of blackheads, as many people experience increased acne during puberty or menstruation. Diet can also play a role, as certain foods may trigger a higher production of sebum and bacteria, leading to blackheads.

Treatment and Prevention of Blackheads

The best way to treat and prevent blackheads is to keep the skin clean and free of excess oils and dirt. This can be done with a gentle cleanser, using warm water, twice a day. Regular exfoliation is also important to remove dead skin cells and clear out clogged pores. Use a product containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to help reduce bacteria on the skin, and a light moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated.

Here are some other tips to reduce blackheads:

  • Avoid touching the face with hands.
  • Wash face immediately after exercising.
  • Use products labeled “non-comedogenic” or “oil-free.”
  • Change makeup and skincare products regularly.
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure.
  • Be careful not to pick, squeeze, or pop blackheads, as this can irritate skin and lead to more blackheads over time.

When to See a Doctor

If self-care techniques are not helping to reduce blackheads, or if the blackheads are accompanied by other acne symptoms, such as redness, swelling, or painful lesions, it is best to consult a dermatologist. A doctor can provide advice on more advanced treatments, such as chemical peels, laser treatments, and prescription medications.