A blackhead is a feature of the acne which is a skin condition and it is also called as comedones. It is formed on the skin when sebum (which is another word for oil) and dead cells gets clogged in the hair follicles. Due to this clogging, small bumps are formed on the skin which is called as blackheads. These bumps are termed as blackheads since the surface looks black. Blackhead is a mild symptom of acne which is developed mostly on the face, but they can also be formed on the back, chest, neck, arms and shoulder. Acne is known to affect around 40 – 50 million Americans and is one of the most common skin problems.
What are the causes of blackheads?
Blackheads are developed when the opening of the hair follicles in the skin get blocked. Each hair follicle consists of a hair and sebaceous gland that generates oil i.e. sebum which is required to keep the skin soft. In cases where the the dead skin cells and oil gets trapped in the opening of the follicle small bumps are formed on the skin. When the skin which is over the bump is closed it is called as whitehead and if the skin is opened it is called as blackhead. The open skin over the bump is exposed to the air thus making it black in color.
What are the factors for formations of blackheads?
Certain factors that increase the chances of developing blackhead are;
- Too much of oil generation in the body
- When there is development of propionibacterium acnes (p. acnes bacteria)on the skin
- The dead skin cells not getting shed regularly causing irritating on the hair follicles
- Certain hormonal changes that the body undergoes which leads to more oil generation especially during the menstrual cycle or while taking certain birth control medication
- Consuming some medications
Dairy products and other food which increases the blood sugar levels can be another factor contributing to formation of blackheads but there is not much evidence to prove this.
What are the symptoms of blackheads?
Blackheads can be easily seen on the skin due to the color. They are slightly elevated on the skin and are not painful like pimples. Pimples are developed when bacteria attacks the blockage of the hair follicle which leads to redness and inflammation.
Blackheads since it can be easily identified the necessary medication and treatment can be taken to get rid of them.
How are blackheads treated?
The blackheads can be treated with any of the following methods;
Over the counter medication
There are many over the counter medicines easily available in grocery and pharmacy stores which do not need any prescription. These are available in gel, cream and pad form can be applied directly on the skin. These medications contain ingredients that help in destroying the bacteria, drying the excessive oil and forcing the skin to get rid of the dead skin cells.
If the over the counter medication doesn’t work in removing the blackheads then the person can consult a doctor. The doctor will prescribe few strong medicines that prevent formation of plugs in the hair follies which causes blackheads and increase turnover of skin cells. These medicines can be applied directly onto the skin. If the person is having pimples or acne cysts along with blackhead then the doctor may recommend medications that have benzoyl peroxide and antibiotics.
The person having blackheads which are not treated with medications can visit a dermatologist who is a doctor who specializes in skin care. The dermatologist will remove the blackheads with equipment called the round loop extractor. This equipment is used to remove the plugs in the hair follies manually. A small opening is made in these plugs and the doctor will apply force with the extractor to remove the blockage.
In this method the doctor makes use of equipment which has a rough surface that is used to rub down the top layer of the skin. This mechanism helps remove the clogs that cause blackheads.
These peels are beneficial not only to remove the clogs but also the dead skin cells that are causing the formation of blackheads. In this method a strong chemical solution is applied on the skin which eventually helps to get rid of the top layer of the skin and reveal the smooth skin which is underneath. The strong chemical peel treatment can be done by visiting a dermatologist or any skin care professional, but mild chemical peels are available over the counter.
Laser and Light Therapy
This method makes use of tiny beams of intense light to reduce the oil creation on the skin and destroy the bacteria. Both these mechanisms of laser and light reach the surface of the skin to treat the blackheads and not cause any harm to the top layer of the skin.
How can blackheads be prevented?
Blackheads can be prevented without much of effort and expense by following the following options;
Washing face and hair regularly
The easiest option is washing of face once you wake up and before you go to sleep in the night. Washing of face will prevent the oil formation on the skin that causes blackheads. But one must not wash the face very frequently as this can cause irritation on the skin and make the acne worst. Also one can make use of cleansers that are gentle on the skin and does not contain a lot of chemicals that cause redness and irritation. Some specific acne cleansers available in the market have antibacterial ingredients that can kill the bacteria on the skin. Hair wash everyday is good if hair is very oily, since oil in the hair can be one of the factors that causes blocked pores on the skin. One must also wash the face after eating oily food since this too can block the pores.
Make use of oil-free products
Avoid using any products that have oil content since this can cause blackheads. So pick up oil free cosmetics, lotions, creams and sunscreens or else it can worsen the skin.
Use exfoliating products
Make use of exfoliating scrubs and masks that are helpful in removing the dead skin cells from the skin which will reduce formation of blackheads. Also make sure to choose products that do not cause irritation on the skin.