Skin & Blackheads
Comedones are a type of acne that results when an obstruction blocks the openings of your hair follicles. Closed comedones are called whiteheads because of their color, while open comedones are known as blackheads because of their dark appearance. In severe cases, blackheads can result in permanent skin damage or scarring if left untreated.
Your hair follicles connect to sebaceous glands that emit an oily substance called sebum. Sebum keeps your hair and skin lubricated when it travels through the opening of the follicle and covers your skin's surface. When the body produces too much sebum, bacteria or dead skin cells, a buildup occurs and clogs or plugs the hair follicles. Clogs that are open and dark are called blackheads and most commonly appear on the forehead, nose and chin.
The cause of the excess sebum that creates blackheads is unknown, reports MayoClinic.com. However, factors such as medications, family history and hormones are all thought to play a part. While some believe eating chocolate and greasy foods results in a higher risk of blackheads and acne, research is lacking to support these claims. More research is also needed to determine if high-starch foods like bagels and potato chips that raise your body's blood sugar promote blackheads.
Understanding Your Risk
Those with an increased risk for blackheads because of hormonal changes include teenagers, women who are pregnant and people using cortisone or other medications. Also at risk are females two to seven days before the start of a menstrual period or men and women with a parent who suffered from acne. Exposing your skin to greasy or oily substances or items like telephones, tight clothing or helmets also puts you at increased risk for blackheads.
Blackheads can be remedied without the care of a dermatologist in most cases. Use a gentle skin cleanser on any problem areas twice daily and follow the directions on the label, as excessive scrubbing or washing leads to irritation. Over-the-counter lotions containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid are also helpful, according to Go Ask Alice!, a health resource from Columbia University. When selecting hair products or concealers to minimize the appearance of blackheads and acne, look for the "water-based" designation on the label and try to stay out of the sun, which may worsen the appearance of your skin. Never squeeze or pick at blackheads, which can lead to infections.
When to Seek Help
Seek a dermatologist's care if blackheads persist for several weeks or you notice inflammation, which can lead to scarring and other forms of permanent skin damage. Staff writers from MayoClinic.com recommend that you make your dermatologist aware of all medications, vitamins and supplements you may be taking. Treatment for blackheads can include prescription topical lotions that reduce oil production, enhance skin cell replenishment and fight infection, although results may take up to eight weeks. In some cases, the appearance of your skin may worsen before improvement begins.
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