Blackheads


There is no doubt blackheads can be very annoying. They appear as dark pinpoint bumps that seem like a tedious job to get rid of. They often make their presence in the highlighted area of your face like nose tip, making your look unaesthetic and unpleasant. Bet most of you have suffered from their unusual as well as an unwanted presence at some point of time. But do you have any idea about what they are or how they pop up on the face? Maybe not. Well, this article is all about blackheads. Reading this article, you will get to know every possible thing related to blackheads, starting from their causation, appearance to remedies and treatment. So, hold on tight and go through it once and for all.

  1. What are blackheads?
  2. What causes blackheads?
  3. Areas where you can get blackheads
  4. How to remove blackheads?
  5. Blackhead treatment: over the counter medicines
  6. Other alternatives for blackhead removal
  7. Precautions to avoid blackheads
  8. Consultation with the doctor

What are blackheads?

Blackheads are minute, dark spots on the skin caused by the formation of a small plug over the hair follicle or pore.

To put it simply, blackheads are basically a type of acne. It is formed due to clogging of skin pores with bacteria, dead cells or dirt. If they are open and black in colour, they are known as blackheads or open comedones. If the same thing happens inside a layer of skin and is closed or appears white, it is called whiteheads or closed comedones.

What causes blackheads?

Now, that you know what blackheads are lets know the science behind the existence of blackheads. This will also help you in understanding the treatment so you will be able to get it removed effectively and easily.

Skin has numerous hair follicles, which contain oil glands at their base. The oil secreted by these glands helps in removal of dead skin cells and also keeps your skin soft and smooth. Problem arises when these oil glands get blocked by dirt or oil or by both, leading to the formation of blackheads. Interestingly, blackheads derive their unique colour from oxidation of oil by the surrounding air and not by dirt.

Areas where you can get blackheads

Most prone areas to develop blackheads are:

  • Face
  • Neck
  • Back
  • Chest
  • Shoulders

How to remove blackheads?

Though blackheads aren’t really threatening to your skin health they can look really unaesthetic and difficult to ignore after a certain point. It becomes really important to get rid of them to get healthy looking skin. There are several products and remedies that can help you with this. They either work by opening skin pores to pull out the dead cells and dirt or by exfoliating your skin to make it easier to clean a blackhead prone skin.

You may go to the pharmacy for over the counter medicines or just head to the kitchen and help yourselves. Let us discuss all of these options one by one.

Blackhead treatment: over the counter medicines

Everything that work for acne will also work for blackheads as it is one of the manifestations of acne. So, you can make use of the following over the counter medications or products to get rid of black heads:

  1. Salicylic acid gel for blackhead treatment
  2. Benzoyl peroxide for blackhead treatment
  3. Resorcinol for blackhead treatment
  4. Sulfur for blackhead treatment
  5. Alpha hydroxy acid for blackhead treatment
  6. Azelaic acid for blackhead treatment

Salicylic acid gel for blackhead treatment

Salicylic acid is a commonly used dermatological product, which is very effective in dissolving blackheads. It acts by reducing swelling around blackheads and unclogging the poor thereby causing shrinkage of blackheads. This compound is used in the concentration of 0.05% to 5% for the treatment of acne problems. A lot of over the counter products like cleansers, astringents and lotions constitute salicylic acid as one of its primary ingredients. However, for better effect, it is best to opt for leave on products like lotions and astringents rather then using it as a face cleanser.

Topical salicylic acid is also available in the form of wiping pads or wipes to clean the skin and as patches to be applied on the skin.

Benzoyl peroxide for blackhead treatment

Benzoyl peroxide has comedolytic activity, means it has the ability to break down comedones. This product does wonders for blackheads. It breaks the dark plug present over hair follicles so that it can be removed easily and effectively. Moreover, benzoyl peroxide increases turnover of epithelial cells, which results in peeling of skin and further helps in blackhead removal. Benzoyl peroxides are used in the concentration of 2.5% to 10% for topical application.

Resorcinol for blackhead treatment

This is another agent that can give you a clear and glowing skin by removing all the dark bumps on your face especially on nose area. It is used in the concentration of 2% in the form of topical applications.

Just clean your skin thoroughly and apply a thin layer of the product over the blackhead prone area one to three times per day. If you feel excess dryness reduce the frequency of application. If you're going outside, make sure to apply sunscreen to prevent sun damage, resorcinol can make your skin sensitive and prone to sunburn.

Sulfur for blackhead treatment

Topical application of sulfur can provide you a blackhead free skin in no time. It is used in the concentration of 3 to 8% for topical use. However, you should never apply sulfur on broken skin and large areas of skin and avoid its contact with eyes.

Right time to use sulfur is after cleaning and toning of face. Apply a thin layer of sulfur on the affected area, leave it for 10 minutes and rinse your face afterwards.

Alpha hydroxy acid for blackhead treatment

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) is one of the most commonly used anti-acne medications. They are naturally derived from plants and form an important part of various skin care products including creams, chemical peels and lotions. It mainly acts as a chemical peeling agent that exfoliates the skin and effectively removes dead layers thus clearing blackheads. It is also effective in improving skin tone and reducing wrinkles. For best results it is used topically in a concentration of 4%.

Azelaic acid for blackhead treatment

Azelaic acid helps separating and removing dead skin cells, which are one of the most common causes of blackheads. It is especially useful in conditions where benzoyl peroxide or retinoids are not able to work or cause side effects like burning or irritating the skin.

It also has antibacterial properties. So if your blackhead or acne is infected by bacterial infections, it will aid in getting rid of it.

Another big advantage of using azelaic acid is, it won't make your skin sensitive to sunlight. While using this ointment you don't need to avoid exposure from sun. Isn't it a relief?

Azelaic acid is available in the form of cream or lotion, you should apply it twice daily to banish the blackheads. If your skin is extremely sensitive, reduce the application to once a day in order to avoid skin irritation.

Tips: you should always use one type of over the counter medication at one time. Never use multiple products thinking it might speed up the process as it will just worsen your condition rather than resolving it.

Other alternatives for blackhead removal

If you are not a fan of over the counter drugs, there are many non-medical ways to expel blackheads and clear blocked pores. They involve manual effort rather than taking help from medications. Let's explore these options:

  1. Comedone extractor for blackhead extraction
  2. Chemical peeling for blackhead removal
  3. Photodynamic therapy for blackhead removal
  4. Blackhead removal masks

Comedone extractor for blackhead extraction

This is a small pen like extractor with a loop on one end. The loop engages the tiny dark spot and pops the blackheads out on application of pressure. They help in removing blackheads as well as whiteheads.

To make the process more efficient and convenient, you should take mild steam on your face. Taking steam helps in softening facial skin and opening skin pores. Along with this, it aids in easy removal of blackheads with considerably lower pressure. You can take professional help to remove blackheads with help of comedone extractor or can do it by yourself at home.

Chemical peeling for blackhead removal

Chemical peeling is quickly becoming one of the most popular methods for getting rid of skin scars, wrinkles and acne. This is done by using chemical peeling agents such as salicylic acid, pyruvic acid, and lactic acid and they work by removing the old layer of skin completely, allowing new and fresh skin to surface out. A chemical peel also helps improve skin thickness and reduces pigmentation.

Several different types of chemical peels are available in the market, depending on the skin type and condition to be treated.

However, it is best not to use these peels at home.

Photodynamic therapy for blackhead removal

Photodynamic therapy uses light radiation in an attempt to remove blackheads and unclog pores. This procedure comprises application of some photosensitizers solutions on the affected areas of skin. These solutions then lead to production of a substance known as porphyrin by the abnormal skin cells, which is then easily recognised and treated. This is a highly effective and safe treatment for blackhead removal. Studies have shown photodynamic therapy to be effective in treating mild to moderate acne where topical and oral treatments had previously been ineffective. However it is a bit costly. The results are not permanent either.

Blackhead removal masks

Opting for home remedies to get rid of blackheads might take slightly longer to see noticeable results but they are definitely effective. Moreover, home remedies don't have any harmful effects on skin.

Few effective home remedies to get rid of blackheads are as follows

Make sure you go through these once to check what potential these kitchen ingredients hold to amaze you as well as your blackheads by bugging them away.

Precautions to avoid blackheads

Cleaning

This is an essential step if you want your skin to be free from any kind of acne. Whether it is blackheads, whiteheads or pimples, all of these are associated with excess oil and dirt. Cleansing your face with mild face wash or soap twice a day will not only help you to get rid of dirt and excess oil but also it will make your skin appear refreshed and supple. Wash your entire face up to the hairline and rinse thoroughly. Avoid using harsh cleansers as it will make your face dry and cause skin irritation.

Exfoliation

As a part of skin cleaning regime, exfoliation can also be done to get the blackhead free skin. American Academy of Dermatology recommends gentle exfoliation of facial skin as often as once a day. However, persons with dry or sensitive skin should limit scrubbing their skin to once or twice a week. Before jumping into exfoliating, know your skin type and then opt for a suitable exfoliating scrub. Alternatively, you can use natural substances such as sugar crystals for exfoliating. These are chemical free and have the same effect as a commercial product. However, it is best to use a gentle hand for exfoliation as rubbing your skin hard with scrub may worsen blackheads rather than getting rid of it.

Make up

Everyone uses makeup every now and then. Oil based makeup products could block the pores of your skin leading to breakouts and blackheads. Not removing the makeup before going to bed could make it worse. If you are someone who puts makeup everyday, try using water based makeup rather than oil based makeup. Another habit you should definitely consider developing is removing complete makeup before going to bed.

Never squeeze

If you have a habit of popping up blackheads in an attempt to remove the tiny black thing out of it, you are making it worse. It could lead to scarring leaving a permanent dark spot. Train your mind, not to touch it until or unless you are cleaning, exfoliating or applying some remedies or medicines.

Be careful while shaving

If you have blackheads or acne in the areas where you shave, be cautious while shaving. You may just end up irritating the affected skin and worsening the condition. You can definitely use both electric and safety razors to remove the hairs but with a bit of extra care. While using safety razors, use sharp blades.

Shave only when you have to, don't over do it while having severe blackheads.

Consultation with the doctor

Though blackheads don’t really need medications, it's always wise to talk to a doctor about skin problem before attempting any self prescribed treatment or home remedies. This is especially true if you've severe blackheads problem or you are suffering from a long period of time. A doctor may prescribe you certain medications that can help you get rid of this chronic issue more effectively.

References

  1. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Blackheads
  2. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Acne
  3. Office on women's health [internet]: US Department of Health and Human Services; Acne
  4. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Acne. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service.
  5. Tasleem Arif. Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015; 8: 455–461. PMID: 26347269
  6. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Salicylic Acid Topical
  7. Decker A, Graber EM. Over-the-counter Acne Treatments. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012 May;5(5):32-40. PMID: 22808307
  8. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [internet]; Topical Acne Drug Products for Over-the-Counter Human Use--Revision of Labeling and Classification of Benzoyl Peroxide as Safe and Effective
  9. U.S food and drug administration. Benzoyl peroxide. US. [internet].
  10. Dailymed. Drug label information. U.S. National library of medicine. Drug label information.
  11. Kim SJ, Baek JH, Koh JS, Bae MI, Lee SJ, Shin MK. The effect of physically applied alpha hydroxyl acids on the skin pore and comedone. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2015 Oct;37(5):519-25. PMID: 26032934
  12. American Academy of Dermatology. Rosemont (IL), US; Evaluate before you exfoliate
  13. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Acne
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