What Causes Blackheads and Whiteheads?
In addition to acne bumps and pimples, whiteheads and blackheads are common skin problems that can aggravate the skin. Either condition can appear on the face, chest, back, arms and legs. In terms of appearance, whiteheads appear as a bump with a white top, while blackheads appear embedded into the skin and have a black head about the size of a pin. Although each condition occurs most commonly in teenagers, those as young as infancy also can experience blackheads or whiteheads.
Blackheads: Basic Cause
Blackheads are generally attributed to the plugging of follicles, which are also known as pores, in the skin. Blackheads also are known as open comedones. Comedones are bumps that are at the opening of the pore and can be flesh-, white- or black-colored at the skin.
Blackheads: Additional Causes
Other factors can contribute to blackheads, including insufficient water in the body, and excess facial oil production, which can occur especially during puberty. Using makeup or skin-care products that contain oil can also lead to blackheads as the excess oil can become trapped in the pores. Overexfoliating the skin also has been linked with blackheads as scrubbing too harshly can strip the body of the natural substances it requires to regulate facial oil and prevent blackheads.
Blackheads: Medical Causes
Blackheads also can be an indicator of an underlying medical condition, including frequent indigestion or constipation. An underperforming thyroid or anemia also have been linked with blackhead causes. If blackheads do not improve with treatment or seem to be getting worse, seek medical attention to rule out an additional cause of your blackheads.
Whiteheads: General Causes
A whitehead occurs when bacteria or sebum (oil) enter and infect the pores. The pore then enlarges to support the bacteria within it, and a whitehead emerges from this follicle opening. The result is a large, bulging white dot that can rupture when the skin is touched or picked at. While doing so can release the bacteria from within, it also can have more complicated effects, such as a worsening infection or skin scarring.
Whiteheads: Additional Causes
Like blackheads, whiteheads also have been linked with dehydration and lack of water. Drinking more water or fresh juice can reduce the occurrence of whiteheads. Fluctuating hormones also has been attributed to whitehead production as well as a skin-care regimen that does not sufficiently clean the skin and leaves residue on the skin's surface.
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