What are blackheads?
Blackheads are easy to spot on the skin, they are dark in colour and slightly raised. Unlike some other spots they are not inflamed, so will not be painful if touched. Whilst they are a mild type of acne, blackheads can sometimes cause sufferers more psychological stress than other spots due to their obvious colour and unwillingness to decamp from our faces! In addition to their less than favourable appearance, blackheads can spring up on the back, chest, neck, arms and shoulders, as well as the face.
What causes blackheads?
These dark spots come about due to clogged hair follicles. Follicles contain hair and a sebaceous gland, which produces sebum to help keep the skin soft. Dead skin cells and sebum collect and form a ‘plug’, which turns a blackish colour because it is in contact with outside air, which oxidises it.
Blackheads are formed differently to other blemishes, rather than being a result of anything bacterial, they are simply a build-up of sebum. As a result, our bodies really couldn’t care less that blackheads are on our skin because they don’t threaten us in any way. Having said that, it is absolutely possible to treat blackheads, it may just take a little longer than some other blemishes. Patience is paramount in blackhead treatment!
Some products that claim to be targeted at those with blackheads will contain alcohol, menthol and eucalyptus. These should be avoided as they will essentially increase oil production and exacerbate the problem. Ingredient-wise salicylic acid is your best friend. The acid will unclog your pores and also deal with the problem of dead cell build up by promoting healthy skin-cell turnover. Salicylic acid can be found in a range of products such as face wash, creams, and gels.
Another blackhead pitfall we have probably all fallen in, is treating the skin as though it is dirty. Blackheads may resemble tiny specks of dirt but they are not formed because your skin in unclean… so quit scrubbing your face so hard! Scrubbing may in fact stimulate nerve endings which leads to a release of hormones that increase oil production. The introduction of a healthy skincare regime with a micro exfoliant is important when trying to remove dead skin cells, but do it gently and not excessively.
For the most persistent of pimples
If a combination of salicylic acid and gentle exfoliation do not work, a trip to the dermatologist is advisable. They may feel that a stronger treatment is the best thing and often encourage using prescription meditation which contains tretinoin. Tretinoin will prevent more plugs from forming and also promote the turnover of cells. In more extreme cases, or if someone with blackheads feels particularly affected by their blemishes there is a manual removal method. A dermatologist will use a round loop extractor to remove the plug at the root.
Armed with this information, a little patience, and some perseverance, you will see your blackheads start to fade.
This article is intended as general information only. You should seek advice from a professional before starting any new regime or course of conduct.