Do you notice any tiny, dark spots on your skin? You could have what’s known as a blackhead. Given their name because they are black in colour, blackheads are a form of acne and will typically appear on the face, but they can also appear on other parts of the body, including the neck, back, chest, shoulders and arms.
When a blackhead forms, this is usually the result of the hair follicles in your skin becoming clogged or plugged with dead skin and oils. Although there are other reasons why one might develop blackheads. For example, each follicle also contains what’s known as a sebaceous gland, which produces sebum, and is responsible for keeping the skin soft. Certain hormonal changes, however (such as puberty), can cause an increase in the production of sebum, which can cause pores to enlarge, thus increasing the risk of bacteria, blackheads, and other skin problems such as pustules, nodes, and cysts. It’s also not uncommon for women to notice that things like acne and blackheads will develop more during menstruation. This is because of a decrease in estrogen and increase in progesterone, which also causes the skin’s oil glands to produce more sebum. Birth Control can also be a contributing factor to blackheads. While many birth control pills are actually prescribed to help clear up acne, some can promote it – particularly if they contain what’s known as androgen-based progestin. If you are taking oral contraceptives and are noticing an increase in acne or blackheads, bring this up to your physician as they may suggest trying a different brand of birth control or prescribe something to help treat the acne itself. Pregnancy can also cause acne – particularly in women who are pregnant for the first time. Typically, acne and blackheads will occur somewhere around 6 weeks into the pregnancy and is caused from a change in hormones and increase in androgen. Because the body also retains more fluid during pregnancy, toxins can also be retained in the skin which can then lead to blackheads.
Because blackheads form inside of hair follicles, it’s important to be aware that the more hair follicles you have, the higher the risk is that you could potentially develop blackheads, acne, or other skin problems. For example, if you have greasy hair and it touches your skin, this can spread what’s known as P. acnes bacteria, which can encourage the formation of blackheads. If you have long hair or are going to be working up a sweat, it’s recommended that you tie your hair back to keep it away from your face as much as possible. There has also been a link between stress and acne or blackheads. While stress doesn’t directly cause acne or blackheads, it has been known to exacerbate these type of skin conditions by increasing oil production. Stress has also been linked to a wide range of other health problems, so it’s important to try to remain as stress-free as possible. While there is no solid evidence to support claims that diet can also contribute to acne and blackheads, some health experts recommend staying away from foods and beverages that could potentially trigger flare-ups, such as chocolate, dairy, and alcohol. To keep your skin clear, try consuming things like green tea and probiotics.
To make sure you remove any dirt and excess oil from your face and prevent blackheads from developing, you should also use a salicylic acid-based cleanser as it can help to exfoliate any dead skin cells that are inside your hair follicles, maintain a healthy balance of sebum on the skin’s surface, and remove up to 99% of germs. Some cleansers may contain fragrance or other ingredients that you might find irritating to the skin. If you happen to have sensitive skin, ask your doctor or pharmacist what they recommend. As for removing blackheads, they can be stubborn. If you go to remove the blackhead on your own, either through pinching it or squeezing it like you would if you were to pop a pimple, you may leave a scar. This can also actually lead to an increase in acne. One way that individuals will try to remove their blackheads is by using pore strips, though these are often only a temporary fix. Furthermore, pore strips can also cause damage to the skin. So, as mentioned earlier, the best thing you can do for your skin is to keep it clean.
If you have a large number of blackheads and find that you cannot get rid of them on your own by taking any of the aforementioned steps, you may need to be referred to a dermatologist for further evaluation and treatment, such as microdermabrasion, or other recommendations.