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What Is a Blackhead?

What Is a Blackhead? What Is a Blackhead? What Is a Blackhead?


If you've taken a good look in the mirror and realized you had little black spots all over your nose and chin, you're not alone. Blackheads, also called open comedones, are the first stage of acne which forms before bacteria enters the pore and results in pimples, according to Medical News Today. These small, dark bumps in the pores generally develop after hormones cause changes during puberty.


Hair follicles are connected to glands which secrete an oily substance called sebum. This sebum goes up hair shafts and leaves through the hair follicle openings to lubricate the skin and hair, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, when excess amounts of sebum and dead skin cells combine, they can form a plug which can cause a bulge, known as a whitehead, in the follicle wall. If a whitehead is exposed to the surface, it darkens and is called a blackhead.

Risk Factors

Certain conditions can create an additional production of blackheads or cause them to become more severe. Topical oils and make-up are two major players, according to Medical News Today. Hormones, some medications and a predisposition to oily skin are also factors, according to the Mayo Clinic. Contrary to popular thought, chocolate and greasy foods don't actually play a big role in the overproduction of blackheads. However, some dietary choices, including starchy foods, such as bread and chips, may spike blood sugar and cause more acne.


Cleansing the skin on a regular basis, whether or not blackheads are present, can help reduce the production of blackheads, according to Medical News Today. Prior to sleep, be sure to clean off any product that is applied to the face during the day. On the other hand, don't wash your face more than a couple of times each day or your skin may dry out and try to overcompensate with excess oil production. Also, vigorous scrubbing and using a harsh soap or a product with dyes and scents can cause the skin to become irritated, according to the Mayo Clinic. Lightly scrubbing the face with a gentle cleanser and warm water will work fine.


If you want to extract blackheads that are already visible on your face, first be sure that you see no sign of irritation or infection around the blemish. Also make sure that you use sterile equipment, including hands. For ease of extraction, steam the skin by placing your face under a warm, wet towel or placing it over a bowl of hot water. This will help relax the pores. Medical News Today recommends using a flat blackhead remover rather than squeezing blemishes with your fingers.

Getting Help

Visit a dermatologist or an aesthetician if you aren't sure that you can safely extract your own blackheads. They can do the job for you by giving you a facial treatment and they may offer you products that will help keep your face clearer in the future. Also contact a dermatologist if you have trouble controlling your acne.

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