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What are blackheads?
Blackheads are small bumps that appear on your skin due to clogged hair follicles. These bumps are called blackheads because the surface looks dark or black. Blackheads are a mild type of acne that usually form on the face, but they can also appear on the following body parts:
Acne affects nearly 50 million Americans and is the most common skin disorder in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.What causes blackheads?Blackheads form when a clog or plug develops in the opening of hair follicles in your skin. Each follicle contains one hair and a sebaceous gland that produces oil.
This oil, called sebum, helps keep your skin soft. Dead skin cells and oils collect in the opening to the skin follicle, producing a bump called a comedo. If the skin over the bump stays closed, the bump is called a whitehead. When the skin over the bump opens, exposure to the air causes it to look black and a blackhead forms.
Some factors can increase your chances of developing acne and blackheads, including:
producing too much body oilthe buildup of the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria on the skin
irritation of the hair follicles when dead skins cells don’t shed on a regular basis
undergoing hormonal changes that cause an increase in oil production during the teen years, during menstruation, or while taking birth control pills
taking certain drugs, such as corticosteroids, lithium, or androgens
Some people believe that what you eat or drink can affect acne. Dairy products and foods that increase blood sugar levels, such as carbohydrates, may play a part in triggering acne, but researchers aren’t convinced that there’s a strong connection.
What are symptoms of blackheads?
Because of their dark color, blackheads are easy to spot on the skin. They’re slightly raised, although they aren’t painful because they aren’t inflamed like pimples. Pimples form when bacteria invade the blockage in the hair follicle, causing redness and inflammation.
How are blackheads treated?
Over-the-counter (OTC) treatmentsMany acne medications are available at drug and grocery stores without a prescription. These medications are available in cream, gel, and pad form and are put directly on your skin. The drugs contain ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and resorcinol. They work by killing bacteria, drying excess oil, and forcing the skin to shed dead skin cells.
If OTC treatment doesn’t improve your acne, your doctor may suggest that you use stronger prescription medications. Medications that contain vitamin A keep plugs from forming in the hair follicles and promote more rapid turnover of skin cells. These medications are applied directly to your skin and can include tretinoin, tazarotene, or adapalene.
Your doctor may also prescribe another type of topical medication that contains benzoyl peroxide and antibiotics. If you have pimples or acne cysts in addition to your blackheads, this type of medication may be particularly helpful.
Dermatologists or specially trained skin care professionals use a special instrument called a round loop extractor to remove the plug causing the blackhead. After a small opening is made in the plug, the doctor applies pressure with the extractor to remove the clog.