Acne and Blackheads: An In Depth Discussion

Blackheads are the worst nightmare every time you look at your face in the mirror. You just hate to look at them as they are black or yellow in color and look absolutely disgusting. It bothers you that you cannot hide them with make up and they just keep on embarrassing you on your date. You end up in low self-esteem, trying ways to totally remove them but they just keep on coming back—prick after prick, squeeze after squeeze. All these just contribute in making your pores bigger. The bigger the pores, the more sebum and dirt can be trapped into it.

Comedogenic Acne

Comedones? Yup. That is the correct technical word for blackheads and whiteheads. Actually, not all acne is the same. It can be red bumps, black heads, or whiteheads.  Differentiation is important because all are treated differently. Blackheads and whiteheads, are types of comedones. Colors are distinguished because of their properties. They can be seen on the face and shoulders, sometime seven at the neck, breasts and back area.  Blackheads are are also known as open comedones. They have open follicles and the black color is due to the oxygen in the air. When these follicles are exposed to the air, they become oxidized. Remember that oxygen is found in the air. Black heads are follicles with wider than normal opening. They are filled with plugs of sebum and sloughed-off cells and have undergone a chemical reaction resulting in the oxidation of melanin. Black heads can clog deep in the pores and may have long hairlike heads showing up, that can be felt through your fingers. I know these can be very tempting to touch and remove but it helps to avoid touching affected areas.

What Causes Blackheads?

Ugh. Disgusting!

A person with blackheads is often judged as unsanitary, unkempt, dirty, and diseased but the truth is, it is only a myth. Blackheads are not a sign of poor hygiene and dirty skin. It may appear as one but it is clogged pores due to many causes such as hormonal fluctuations, medications, genetics, skin and hair products. Yes. Skin and hair products account to most of the causes. Make ups, hairsprays and skin creams clog the pores or make the skin secrete more sebum and entrap them. Many products cause residue on the skin and pores which trigger the acne formation process. Do you often notice that cosmetic products of today have the words, “non-comedogenic” on their product labels. This is because a lot of studies show that these products are common offenders. Oily sunscreens, hair greases, facial washes, make-ups, and skin moisturizers are common culprits. They cause a type of acne called, “acne cosmetic”. Stopping the use of certain brands or types of products that trigger the breakouts will decrease or totally shoo away those blackheads.

How to Prevent Blackhead from Clogging Your Pores

The key element for the treatment and prevention of acne is consistency. Meaning, you have to be consistent with what acne clearing system product you are using and you should also be consistent in avoiding products that may trigger a blackhead. Blackheads are not contagious and proper prevention strategies include routinary gentle facial washing. Washing your entire face from your nose, to your T-zone, to your cheeks, jaws, and hairline once or twice a day using a non-comedogenic facial wash or soap will help prevent blackheads. Avoid soaps with fragrances and those that are causing residues. Avoid too strong soaps as it may cause more irritation and breaking of the skin integrity. Don’t be too harsh on your skin. A mild soap or facial wash—without the residues will do the trick. Do this daily as a routine and you will see the difference. Over washing of your face will only cause sebaceous glands to form more sebum and clog your pores more. It can worsen acne. Try rotating hair products if your product seems to cause some icky changes on your hairline or scalp. Some shampoos may cause blackhead formation on the hairline and scalp even though it’s your favourite shampoo and you’re using it for years. Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 when going out. Studies show that our skin requires a small amount of SPF protection even indoors because lights and television cause slight UV rays. Have your skin checked by a dermatologist to know more about your skin assessment and needs.

Treatment

Many acne products are available in the market. Treatment may cause you a couple of weeks but it pays to be patient to see gradual difference. Most treatments may even take several weeks to months before full effect is seen. Creams with Benzoyl Peroxide have antibacterial effects and decrease the chemical reaction that changes the lining of the hair follicle. This may help reduce the clogging of the pores that causes comedones. This can be used for mild to moderate acne. Tretinoin is popular as an acne clearing agent found in most skin care maintenance products. It is used also for prophylaxis of acne. It works by increasing cell turnover and reducing the stickiness of the sloughed cells. It helps in the expulsion of clogging materials making your pores clear and zit-free. It can be irritating for those who have sensitive skin. Using this product also requires protection of the skin from the sun as it may cause burning sensations. It is contraindicated for those who are pregnant. Many over the counter remedies also include sodium sulfacetamide and sulfur containing creams. Salicylic Acid containing acne treatments are also good clearing the skin. Blackhead strips can be found in many pharmacies and department stores that works as an adhesive tape placed on the Nose or T-zone to mechanically remove them after a few minutes. Blackhead Extractors and Instruments such as those used by dermatologists and facial spa practitioners work by pricking or suction to remove blackheads clogging the pores. Mild to moderate acne can be treated at home with the many options we have now in the modern day setting but if symptoms still persist or even worsens, it is still best to consult your condition to a dermatologist who is expert on skin conditions. Avoid self-medicating if you feel the need to drink oral antibiotics. Many people think that their acne is a serious infection of the skin without even having it seen by a specialist. Antibiotics only work for those comedones that are infected and doesn’t work on blackheads that are not infected.

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