What Is a Black Head?
You can wash your face all day long and still get a bad case of acne. While keeping your face clean and oil-free is important, acne starts beneath the surface of your skin, making personal hygiene secondary to your own body processes. Dead skin cells and oils combine to clog pores, leading to the appearance of black heads, a telltale sign of an impending acne breakout.
When skin pores clog with oil, they can close or remain open. If skin pores close, the result is a whitehead. If skin pores remain open, the oil in the pores turns dark when exposed to the air, leading to the formation of a black head. A black head, also called an open comedone, can heal on its own or be a precursor to a pimple. As Acne.org reports, however, it is not possible to remove black heads by washing your face.
Hormone surges that stimulate excess oil production are the primary cause of black heads. As you enter puberty, hormones begin to work throughout your body. One of these hormones, testosterone, produces a byproduct called dihydrotesterone, or DHT, as it breaks down in your body. According to MedicalNewsToday.com, one effect of DHT is over stimulation of oil glands, leading to excess oil in skin pores. While the presence of DHT can lead to black heads on any skin type, they appear most often if you already have oily skin.
Poor personal hygiene and using products such as moisturizers and makeup that clog pores can also contribute to the appearance of black heads, although according to MayoClinic.com, dirt is not a cause of acne.
If the hair follicle wall within the clogged pore ruptures, oil, bacteria and dead skin cells enter the pore, resulting in a condition called inflammatory acne. KidsHealth.org specifies propionibacterium acnes as the bacteria most often responsible for invading and multiplying within skin pores. Inflammatory acne can include pimples, nodules and cysts, all of which can be painful and result in moderate to severe scarring.
Because you have no control over hormone production and the effects of hormone surges, to some extent you cannot prevent black heads from forming. According to KidsHealth.org, eliminating greasy foods, chocolate and soda to prevent black heads and their resulting effects is a myth, as is reducing stress.
You can, however, be gentle with twice-daily cleaning, use oil-free products that will not further aggravate clogged pores, keep your hands away from your face and eat a healthy diet to provide your body with nutrients it needs to keep you healthy and fight infections. In addition, MyFDA.org suggests using steam treatments that help open pores naturally, leaving them more receptive to cleaning methods that can include honey and warm water or rose water and lemon (See References 5).
MedicalNewsToday.com cautions that using commercially available black head removal tools has the potential to make your condition worse and as an alternative, recommends visiting your dermatologist or a licensed skin care specialist (See References 2).
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