Embedded Blackheads & Pits
When pores become blocked with dead skin cells, oil and bacteria, they can form blackheads. Blackheads get their name from the color that often appears in the small, round hair follicle when dirt attaches to the oil. According to the Mayo Clinic, blackheads, also called comodones, are embedded in the hair follicle. When the clogged pore remains covered by skin, it fills with pus and is called a whitehead. Pits form when the blackhead is removed by squeezing or other artificial means.
The skin produces oil in the sebaceous oil gland located in the dermis, or second layer of skin. According to the Public Employees Health Program, the oil glands are spread all over the body, but are concentrated in the pores on the face, chest, genitals and scalp. The oil produced in the glands is called sebum and serves to protect the skin and the hairs that grow through the same pores.
Blackheads and pimples are caused by an overproduction of sebum. Excessive oil production typically is genetic. Fluctuating hormones during adolescence and menopause also cause excessive oil production in many people. Medications such as cortisone also cause an increase in oil production. According to the Mayo Clinic, excessive and irregular skin shedding causes the pores to fill quickly and turn into a comodone.
While it may seem counterintuitive, scrubbing can cause blackheads to burrow down and become embedded. Rather than erase the errant oil and bacteria, excessive scrubbing can irritate the pore and push the dead skin cells and bacteria deeper into the hair follicle opening through which it came. According to Aurora Healthcare, oily cosmetics, sunscreen products and greasy moisturizers fill the hole, causing the blackhead to become even more embedded in the skin.
It may be tempting to remove the embedded blackhead by squeezing or popping the pores to remove the bacteria and dirt. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it can be difficult to wait for topical acne creams and time to naturally clear up blackheads and whiteheads. Harsh scrubbing, squeezing, popping, picking or scratching the blackheads can permanently damage the pore, and should be avoided. Once a pit, or scar, has formed, only cosmetic techniques such as dermabrasion, chemical peels or laser surgery can repair the damage.
Ultraviolet light damages the skin and causes the top protective layer of the epidermis to deteriorate. Blackheads lose the surrounding protective layers of skin and become even more embedded, which can lead to pitting and scarring even when they are not squeezed. Avoiding the sun is one of the most effective ways to prevent embedded blackheads. Applying a water-based sunscreen can help. Washing gently with a mild cleanser using only the tips of your clean fingers is the second most important preventive treatment that can help blackheads heal and disappear naturally without leaving pits.
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