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Blackheads are small “plugs” that develop in the pores of the skin. They are caused when the over active sebaceous (oil producing) glands in the skin become clogged with oil. This sebum then begins to harden in the pore. Since skin pores are open to the air, the top part of the hardened sebum or oil oxidizes, turning black. This black top of the oil plug is then forced closer to the surface of skin by the oil hardening beneath it. This then causes the blackhead to be visible.
It is not clearly understood why the sebaceous glands begin to become overactive. It is often noted that this situation begins at puberty, and may stop at the end of puberty leading to the conclusion that it is hormonally controlled. For some people this is not the case however, and they may continue to experience blackheads and whiteheads well past puberty and into adulthood. Whiteheads are formed the same way as blackheads with the exception that the pore is closed and the oxidation does not occur.
Acne results from infection of the oil gland due to the blockage by the blackhead. Preventing and removing blackheads helps to control acne.
The following are some tips for removing blackheads:
– Keep the skin as clean and oil free as possible. Use natural or chemically prepared cleansers, astringent solutions or masks to accomplish this. Avoid harsh soaps that may irritate the skin or any creams that leave an oily finish.
– Use a gentle exfoliant to keep the dead cells off your skin and away from the pore openings.
– Avoid harsh squeezing or scraping at the blackhead. Excessive squeezing can damage the skin surround the pore and can actually increase the size of the pore leading to more blackheads in the future.
– A warm compress of water applied to the area of the blackhead followed by a very, very gentle pressure can help in clearing the clog from the pore.
– Commercial “blackhead strips” which are basically a tape like substance that is placed over the nose and then pulled off will remove some blackheads that are at the surface. Caution should be used with these products and it is important to read the directions completely before deciding to use the strips or not.