Acne myth: Blackheads are dirty pores
Have you ever looked closely at the area around your nose, cheeks, chin, or forehead and wondered what those little black bumps on the surface of the skin are? Those small dark-colored bumps are blackheads and are one of the most common forms of acne.
One common acne myth with blackheads is that they are dirt-filled pores. This is far from the truth, though. Like all acne, people are more susceptible to blackheads based on a combination of hormones and genetics, which has nothing to do with your skin's cleanliness. Read on to learn about what exactly blackheads are, why they happen, and how to reduce their appearance.
What are blackheads?
Blackheads are a form of non-inflammatory acne and occur when oil and dead skin cells combine to form a plug in the hair follicle. These pores are open to the air, which causes them to oxidize and turn black. Whiteheads form similarly to blackheads, but whiteheads have a thin layer of skin covering the surface, preventing oxidation and giving them a flesh-colored appearance.
Why do we get them?
Hormones, genetics, and certain medications can cause the body to produce an excess of oil and disrupt the normal shedding of dead skin cells in the follicle. These factors combine to form a small bump called a comedo, also referred to as blackheads or whiteheads, depending on whether the surface is open or closed to air. When these comedones become infected with bacteria, they turn into inflamed, red, and tender bumps that we commonly associate with pimples.
Due to the swelling and damage on the skin surface that happens with inflammatory acne, pimples are prone to causing acne scars. That’s why it's a good idea to treat blackheads and whiteheads before they turn into a more severe form of acne.
How do you treat blackheads?
Since blackheads are essentially a product of excess oil production and clogged pores, they can be treated and prevented with a reasonably simple skincare routine. It's essential to cleanse the face twice daily (morning and evening) to remove excess oil and any debris or makeup that builds on the skin throughout the day. Use a gentle cleanser to prevent skin irritation that can make acne worse.
After cleansing the skin, apply an exfoliant formulated with salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant that penetrates oil deep into pores to dislodge comedones. Like most skincare products, it's essential to consistently use an exfoliant for 8-12 weeks to see results. Using an acne treatment containing salicylic acid between breakouts can also prevent the occurrence and severity of any future breakouts.