What Are Blackheads and What Are Their Causes?
Blackheads look like tiny dark dots on the surface of your skin. While they may seem like specks of dirt, they're actually the visible surface of clogged pores. Over time, dead skin cells, oil, and sebum (a natural oily substance produced by your body) can build up in the pores of your skin. This forms a small bump that eventually spills out onto the skin's surface. Once that buildup exposes itself to the air, it starts the process of oxidation, ultimately leading to that darkened or black appearance.
There are many reasons you could develop blackheads on your skin. Here are some of the most common potential causes:
- Dead Skin Cells: Without proper routine exfoliation, you'll likely experience a buildup of dead skin cells. This can also occur if your natural skin cell regeneration process isn't up to par.
- Hormones: Changes in hormone levels occur all of the time for a variety of reasons. The most notorious culprits include puberty and pregnancy, but stress, dietary changes, and aging can also affect them.
- Improper Hygiene: Inadequate personal hygiene and cleanliness might be causing your skin problems. Along with maintaining facial cleanliness, it's crucial to wash your skin thoroughly after sweating and change your bed sheets weekly to prevent the transfer of bacteria and oil, which can contribute to pore blockages and skin issues.
What Happens if You Don't Remove Blackheads?
The human body is very self-sufficient and it has a lot of systems in place to deal with unwanted substances, both internally and externally. Will blackheads go away on their own? In some cases, yes. Your skin undergoes natural self-exfoliation on a daily basis and it sheds some dead skin cells and buildup even without the help of products or scrubbing. Many blackheads will be removed during this biological process. Even so, it's not always the most efficient method.
Some untreated blackheads are a bit more stubborn than others and can become inflamed or infiltrated by bacteria. What happens if you don't remove blackheads like these? They'll likely turn into deep blackheads and potentially result in the following:
- Pimples: If you leave blackheads be, they can get all irritated and turn into pimples. Bacteria can build up in those clogged pores, making them red and swollen.
- Acne and Acne Scars: Stubborn blackheads can actually pave the way for acne to step in. And you know what acne can leave behind? Nasty little scars that stick around.
- Hyperpigmentation: The dark color of blackheads is due to melanin oxidation. If you let blackheads stay put and block your pores, they might cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, leaving you with some dark spots on your skin.
Not taking care of blackheads can cause a bunch of skin problems if they’re cared for incorrectly. So, is it really not okay to pop or squeeze your blackheads? It's generally not a good idea to play DIY surgeon with blackheads. When you try to squeeze them, here's what could go down:
- Infection Risk: Popping a blackhead with hands or tools that aren't squeaky clean can invite bacteria into your open pore, making infection more likely.
- Irritation and Puffiness: Squeezing can rough up your skin, causing redness, swelling, and extra irritation.
- Scars, Anyone?: Again, going at it the wrong way might damage the area around the blackhead and leave you with some battle scars. Not cool.
Pay close attention to how your skin reacts after using certain products. Genetics and your skin type may also be to blame. If you're having trouble pinpointing the exact cause, a dermatologist may be able to help. In the meantime, consider using proper skincare products and methods.
Some untreated blackheads are a bit more stubborn than others and can become inflamed or infiltrated by bacteria. What happens if you don't remove blackheads like these? They'll likely turn into deep blackheads and, eventually, pimples.
How to Treat Blackheads
If you want to know how to get rid of blackheads and keep them from coming back, these products and tips can help. Try a combination of options to see which ones work best for your unique skin.
Because most blackheads aren't usually inflamed or painful at first, they can be very easy to treat. This is especially true if the surrounding skin has not been irritated or damaged. These particular options offer speedy results.
2. Pore Strips
Pore strips are a must for every skincare routine. They're very effective at instantly removing blackheads and other types of pore buildup for fresher, cleaner skin. You shouldn't use pore strips on broken skin, but this usually isn't a problem when you're dealing with just blackheads.
3. Chemical Peels
A chemical peel uses powerful ingredients to remove the most superficial layers of the skin. The buildup in your pores is removed in the process, resulting in fewer blackheads. Many people love this type of treatment because it also makes for smoother, more radiant skin.
4. Treatment Masks
For a gentler approach, try a clay or charcoal mask. These products help draw material out of your pores, so they're a great way to get rid of blackheads. Keep in mind that these types of masks aren't usually recommended for daily use. Once or twice a week is a good place to start.
5. Professional Extractions
If you're dealing with a lot of pesky or persistent blackheads, you may want to schedule a professional extraction from your dermatologist or esthetician. This helps you get the instant results you want without risking unnecessary damage to your skin. Many people prefer this alternative when they have a big event coming up.
6. Retinoid Products
The right ingredients can make all the difference in treating clogged pores. Look for products that contain retinoids, a vitamin A derivative that helps clean out your pores and treat blackheads. It's also a great preventative treatment that helps reduce dead skin cell buildup. Keep in mind that most people are sensitive to retinoids at first. Start with a low dosage and give your skin time to adjust.
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How to Prevent Blackheads
No matter what type of skin issue you're dealing with, prevention is always your best option. Develop some healthy habits by following these suggestions and you'll stop many skincare problems before they even have a chance to start.
1. Build a Solid Skincare Routine
To keep blackheads from popping up, you must keep your skin clean while maintaining the proper balance of natural oils. Use a good cleanser to wash your face twice a day and after you exercise. You should also exfoliate your skin anywhere between one and three times each week. Physical exfoliants can slough away dead skin cells and buildup, but chemical ingredients, like beta hydroxy acids (e.g. salicylic acid) and alpha hydroxy acids (e.g. glycolic acid) can also do the same trick.
Every time you cleanse or exfoliate your skin, be sure to follow up with a moisturizer. This keeps your skin from drying out and producing more oil to compensate, resulting in more clogged pores. If you have oily skin, opt for a lightweight product like a detox facial moisturizer to keep your skin soft and smooth but not greasy.
2. Use Non-Comedogenic Products
Many beauty products contain ingredients that are known to settle into pores and lead to more clogs and breakouts. When shopping for the best skincare products and makeup for your skin type, look for the words "non-comedogenic" on the label. This means they aren't made with pore-clogging ingredients and are much better for your skin.
3. Keep Your Skin Clean
Cleansing alone isn't enough to protect your skin from excess dirt and oil. Keep your bed sheets clean, especially your pillowcases, by washing them at least once a week. Make sure that any fabrics you put near your face are also cleaned often. This includes hats, scarves, headwraps, and headbands.
4. Get Smart About Hair Care
If you have oily skin, there's a good chance oily hair is an issue for you too. This can create more blackheads, so keep your hair clean and try to choose a style that keeps it out of your face. You'll also want to be mindful about the hair products you use. Some may contain ingredients that can clog pores and irritate your skin.
- Blackheads result from clogged pores, often due to factors like hormones, hygiene, and dead skin cell buildup.
- At times, your skin naturally exfoliates to deal with blackheads, but untreated ones may transform into pimples.
- Many ways to treat blackheads exist, including professional help and OTC products like pore strips and masks. Don't forget, prevention matters too; establish a daily routine for clear pores.
- Never pick at, squeeze, or pop your blackheads yourself. You'll only make matters worse. If extraction is a must, see a pro instead.
Your skin can handle itself for protection and health, even against blackheads. But for a fresh, bright, and smooth complexion, assist it with a solid skincare routine and healthy lifestyle habits.