What Are Blackheads Made of?
Blackheads, which are also known as comedones, are a form of acne. Other forms of acne include whiteheads, which are another type of comedone, cysts, nodules, papules and pustules. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the most common skin condition in the United States. It affects primarily teenagers and young adults but can affect a person of any age.
Blackheads are slightly raised, dark bumps at the opening of hair follicles. These are caused when the naturally occurring skin oil, called sebum, mixes with the dead skin cells. This forms a plug in the hair follicle. When the surface of the skin is open, the air causes this plug to become dark, which results in a blackhead.
The risk factors for blackheads are the same as for any other form of acne. Teenagers, pregnant women, women who are near menstruation, and those who have a family history of acne are all at an increased risk of developing acne, including blackheads. Exposure to oily substances that are allowed to remain on your skin, taking medications like cortisone, or friction on your skin are also likely to cause acne.
The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology recommends washing areas affected by blackheads twice per day with an antibacterial soap. If the area gets oily between washings, you can rinse it off with plain water. Applying over-the-counter anti-acne creams can heal the blackheads. If you get blackheads on skin where your hair touches, such as your face, neck or shoulders, shampoo your hair often to remove the natural and synthetic oils from your hair that may be transferred to your skin.
Generally, you can expect blackheads to clear up in approximately four to eight weeks after you begin treatment, notes the American Academy of Dermatology. It is important to start treatment as soon as you notice a blackhead and to continue treatment until your blackheads and other blemishes are gone.
If your blackheads don't clear up within eight weeks of consistent treatment, you need to see a dermatologist as you may need prescription medications. Don't pick at, squeeze or try to pop blackheads as this may lead to scarring, darkening of the skin called hyperpigmentation and/or infection.
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