What is a Blackhead?

Blackheads are those annoying little blackish or yellowish bumps embedded in the pores of our skin. Medical practitioners classify blackheads as a type of acne, called open comedones. Blackhead acne is the first stage of acne, before bacteria invade the pore and cause infection and inflammation. These lesions typically develop after puberty, once hormones start surging in the body and skin. The excess hormones in the skin result in the stimulation of the oil glands in the skin (sebaceous glands), leading to excess oil production in the pore, which is why many teenagers experience acne. The excess oil gets trapped in the pore, resulting in a ball of accumulated oil which when exposed to air turns black in color. A few blackhead causes include excess topical oils and makeup. While blackheads are present in just about any skin type, they just vary in visibility and levels; they are most likely to develop on people with very oily skin. It is important to understand that although many people believe only teenagers get blackheads and clogged pores, many people suffer from adult acne that begins in their twenties, or continues on through the teen years into adulthood.
This is not to say, though, that only people with oily skin are prone to having blackheads. If you use a lot of makeup and fail to cleanse your skin properly, the chances of having blackhead acne is high. This is why frequent skin checks and deep skin cleansing are necessary to keep clogged pores from progressing into ugly black dots on your face. However, you must also keep in mind that blackheads can also appear on any other part of your body, even your arms, back and butt.

Common blackhead causes
Blackhead acne usually develops if your skin produces too much oil. With the start of puberty, hormones in the body increase, leading to the production of the hormone by-product Dihydrotestosterone (or DHT). This hormone causes the over-activity of the oil gland and plugging of the pore, resulting in blackheads. Blackhead acne can also be aggravated if you leave your skin dirty and dead cells accumulate within your open pores. The dead cells plug the pore opening, resulting in oil build-up within the pore. Too much makeup can also block the pore, as can the excessive use of moisturizers, foundations and sunscreens.
Therefore, the rule of thumb is: Anything you put on your skin must be rinsed off thoroughly to avoid future problems, and good hygiene is key. But you must be careful about this rule, though, as over-cleansing and over-scrubbing has also been found to be one of the causes of skin problems and irritation. Keep in mind that our skin also needs some amount of oil to stay healthy. There really is no need to get all the oil out and too much scrubbing of the skin will result in reflex overactivity of the oil gland, increased oil production and plugging of the pore, thus aggravating the blackhead acne.

Blackheads grow

Even if you do not see blackheads on your skin, it is still recommended that you cleanse regularly so you won’t have to get blackhead acne treatment. Initial symptoms of blackheads are not visible to the naked eye. If your skin is left unclean, these yellow beginnings of blackheads can invite more dirt and eventually grow into little black hard bumps that are more difficult to extract. Therefore, a periodic cleansing regimen is in order.

How do I get rid of blackheads?
You can extract blackhead acne yourself if there is no infection on and around it. Just make sure you use sterile materials and do so in a clean environment. You can begin by steaming your skin for a while over a bowl of hot water to loosen the pores and make the extraction process less painful. Be careful not to scald yourself.

If you’re in doubt about your blackhead-removing abilities or if the area looks too sensitive to tinker with, visit a professional instead. Aestheticians and dermatologists offer deep cleansing facial treatments designed to keep blackheads and whiteheads away. The cost of beauty is way too high to gamble with. It would be best to leave the dirty work to the experts.
Dr. Khadavi is an expert on acne and dermatology, writes regularly on the field of skin care and is a leader in the prevention of acne.


About Dr. Khadavi

how to control acne

Alex Khadavi, MD
Board Certified Dermatologist
Creator of Clearogen


“I developed Clearogen after becoming frustrated with the existing acne treatments that only addressed the symptoms of acne rather than its root cause, DHT”.
how to get rid of breakouts

Guide Library

What is a Black Head
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Clear Acne Solution
Benzoyl Peroxide and Acne