All About Blackheads

Used with permission from the Wikimedia Commons

Used with permission from the Wikimedia Commons

Blackheads are universally experienced, and universally hated. Difficult to remove completely, and impossible to ignore, blackheads plague everyone from the everyday girl to celebrities. But, what are they, exactly, and is there anything we can do about them?

What are blackheads?
Blackheads are actually very similar to whiteheads; the only difference is that a blackhead is open at the top, while a whitehead is covered in skin. Actually, both blackheads and whiteheads share the same technical name: comedo. As with other acne breakouts, blackheads are hair follicles which have widened and become filled with skin cells, debris, bacteria, and sebum.

Because blackheads aren’t covered with skin like a whitehead, the contents of a blackhead are exposed to oxygen, and subsequently become oxidized, resulting in a dark brown, black, or even yellowish hue. Blackheads can affect any area of the face, but are usually found in the t-zone. Please remember that blackheads are not dirt trapped in the skin!

What causes blackheads? 
There are many factors which contribute to blackheads. Those with oily skin or acne skin are most prone to blackheads, but all skin types usually experience blackheads at some point or another. Topical comedogenic oils (oils which clog pores) can contribute to blackheads, as well as heavy makeup, or not removing makeup at the end of the day. In addition, constantly touching one’s face or picking at other breakouts can worsen blackheads.

How do I treat blackheads?
Cleansing and exfoliating regularly are the best treatment for blackheads. Uncleansed skin features more dead skin cells and sebum, both of which can cause or exacerbate blackheads. However, as noted before, blackheads are not trapped dirt, and over-cleansing the skin can cause excess sebum production, leading to more blackheads. A normal cleansing routine (once in the morning and once in the evening) should suffice.

Should I pop blackheads?
As with any pimple, the best advice is always to leave it alone and treat it properly with skin care products. However, the temptation to pop is always strong. If you must pop a blackhead, be sure that both your face and your fingers are clean. Wrap your index fingers in soft tissue and apply very gentle pressure to each side of the blackhead. If it “needs” to pop, it will. Otherwise leave it be!

Should I use pore strips?
Many skin care companies try to play on the universal hatred of blackheads by coming out with a wide array of blackhead-specific treatments, such as pore strips. Unfortunately, these fad products rarely provide any real results at all, and may even irritate your skin. Instead of buying into these products, stick to a healthy skin care regimen, which will provide better results without the cost of extra products.

Can everyone see my blackheads?
The truth is that blackheads are very small and are rarely noticed by anyone other than yourself. Plus, most people are too busy worrying about their own skin care problems to notice yours! At the end of the day, blackheads are a very common occurrence that won’t cause pain or discomfort, so the best course of action may be camouflaging with a light layer of mineral makeup and leaving well enough alone.


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