woman wearing a cleansing mask for blackheads

What are blackheads?

Sometimes when we look in the mirror, we can spot specific imperfections and know how to treat them and even prevent them, but if you’re experiencing a new lesion or skin condition, you could be at a loss. 

Have you ever seen a black dot or dots on your face? Maybe around your forehead or chin? If you have and are questioning what they might be, well, they’re blackheads. 

But, exactly what IS a blackhead? By definition, it is a type of acne or comedonal acne that occurs when pores are clogged by dead skin and oils. The blackhead appears as black bumps on the skin that are described as open comedones. Blackheads are more prevalent on the forehead and chin.

Some Main Causes of Blackheads

While we now know what a blackhead is, a big part of understanding what something is is also understanding what causes it. Below we explore some of the causes of blackheads.

Overly Hydrated Skin

Humidity is thought to worsen the symptoms of acne, or in this case, blackheads. What happens is humidity can cause a disruption in the microbial balance of the skin. Any disruption can cause a variety of skin conditions, one being blackheads. 

Humidity can also cause a decrease in the function of the skin barrier, making it easier for pollutants to enter the pores. Of course, there’s nothing we can do to stop humidity, but using your prescribed products, as well as facial wipes, and practicing good hygiene can help.

Diet

Unfortunately, some foods can worsen the skin and cause blackheads to form, especially if you are prone to acne.  Any food that raises your blood sugar relatively quickly due to being high-glycemic, will increase the chances of having problems with your skin. Foods to avoid include doughnuts, potatoes, white bread, and sugar-heavy drinks. High blood sugar can cause inflammation in your body, which can cause you to create more sebum, the oil your body naturally creates. Too much sebum then clogs the pores causing blackheads.

Hormones

Androgens, especially during puberty, are often the big hormonal culprit for bad skin. It causes the oil glands to expand and produce more sebum. Bacteria that normally wouldn’t make it into the pores does, and clogs them, creating the perfect storm for blackheads and acne overall. 

Hormones can also be the malefactor outside of puberty, when there is a hormonal imbalance.

Certain Cosmetics

Have you heard the term comedogenic? If you wear cosmetics and have a blackhead problem, today is the day to learn the term. Go through your existing products and survey ingredients on your next haul. 

Some top ingredients to avoid are cocoa butter, linseed oil, and coconut oil among others. Definitely do the research, because comedogenic cosmetics will clog your pores, especially if you forget to wash your face at the end of the day! If you don’t want to go without makeup, sheer cosmetics that state they are “acne-fighting” are the best route to take.

Smoking

Did you know “smoker’s acne” is a thing? Well, here’s one more reason to not pick up a cigarette ever again. Studies have found that there is a direct correlation between habitually smoking and acne in women who are no longer going through puberty. 

Smokers were shown to secrete sebum three times the amount a healthy non-smoker secretes. Producing so much sebum creates the ideal environment for acne and blackheads to form. The sebum has to go somewhere. There being too much of it would create the model opportunity for your pores to clog, making it nearly impossible for blackheads not to form.

Final Tips to Combat Blackheads 

While there are environmental reasons we cannot avoid that prime our skin for blackheads, we can do a lot once we understand what we’re dealing with. Blackheads are treatable and, in some cases, even avoidable. Whether you’re 15 or 45, having blackheads is not something you’re happy about. 

Identifying what a blackhead is and the root cause can lead you to a life without them. Although blackheads are typically found on the face, you can also get them on your nose, back, and chest. Exfoliating the face and body with non-comedogenic products can help.

Maintaining good hygiene, a good diet, and, in areas that are too humid, wearing breathable clothes will significantly impact the skin. 

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