What are Blackheads?
Also known medically as an open comedo, plural: comedones, it is a yellow or dark solid plug found on the face or on the back. It is made up of mostly keratin and sebum which darkens as it is oxidized. (Sebum: a sticky oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. It is a waterproofing agent and acts as protective barrier)
What causes Blackheads?
A common misconception is that blackheads are caused by dirt or poor personal hygiene, but the fact is that they are caused by Excess oils accumulated in the sebaceous gland ducts which are trapped or clogged.
What’s the difference between White Heads and Black Heads?
Essentially they are made of the same substances however, white heads are closed comedones and are not exposed to air and so cannot darken through oxidation.
How to prevent Blackheads?
1. Reduce your stress – Sebum production is partly controlled by testosterone which is why so many pubescent males suffer from acne problems. Men who are stress tend to have higher amounts of testosterone produce to help them cope. This in turn causes excess sebum production.
2. Get sufficient sleep – In the same way testosterone levels increase in stressed individuals, it also increases with those who do not get enough sleep.
3. Keep your face relatively oil free but not oil-less – Individuals who have oily skin/scalp are often compelled to get the strongest cleansers in the market, the ones that leave your skin feeling squeaky clean and smooth to the touch. A trip to the dermatologist last year told me otherwise. He prescribed either using Cetaphil or QV for sensitive or baby’s skin. He explained that while it is important to keep my face clean, many face cleansers strip moisture from the skin, causing the skin to react by producing more sebum which is worst for the oily skin population.
4. Gentle exfoliation – Blackheads form when pores gets clogged with dirt. Find a suitable daily exfoliant (i.e. a gentle one) and a stronger one for twice a week ritual. This is to make sure that your pores stays unclogged and clean.
5. Moisturize – This I’m still experimenting on the right products for your skin. While many products claim their suitability for different skin types, i advice taking a high degree of suspicion when deciding on what to use. Cream base moisturizers work for some, while water based lotions for others. Best to trial and error to see whats best for you or see a dermatologist on whats best. I have found at this point that the AI lotion or the QV lotion works for me. I sometimes apply them more than the usual twice a day. Making sure my face is cleanse first of course.
How to Remove Blackheads?
As far as possible, and I’ve learnt the hard way, leave extraction as the very last resort and only to those you can gently squeeze out if you have to.
1. Pore Strips – These are little wet stickers that attached to your skin and allowed to dry and then peeled of (my closest experience to a brazilian wax i think). On close examination, your comedones should be standing proudly at attention. Can be fun.
2. Over the counter topical products or cleansers that contain: benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur or resorcinol in their ingredients – Benzoyl peroxide dry up excess oil while the others help breakdown the blackheads. Patience… I know squeezing is a lot faster.
3. I guess prevention is better than cure. If you are interested in more home remedy treatments and prevention, I’ve come across another article which you may find quite interesting: 5 Natural Ways to Remove Blackheads