Blackheads develop in areas on the face and back where oil production and irritation can lead to blocked pores. Blackheads look like specks of black dirt on the skin and can be unsightly. They may lead to infected pores and redness. Blackheads can be prevented with careful cleaning and an informed use of the appropriate facial products.
How to Spot Them
Blackheads are a form of acne called open comedones. Excess oil, dirt and skin cells become compacted in the pore and then oxidize, turning black. Blackheads are common in the cheeks and nose area, or T zone, where oil production is greatest.
Distinct from Other Pimples
Blackheads differ from what are commonly referred to as pimples -- blackheads are an early stage of acne and pimples are examples of the advanced stage. Blackheads are open to the air and are non-inflamed so they do not yet exhibit the infection that leads to the pustules that develop with pimples.
Increased hormone activity during puberty, pregnancy or while taking certain drugs can result in overproduction of oil in the pores. When too much oil and dead skin cells become trapped in the pores, they form a plug. Clogged pores and blackheads can also result from the overuse of makeup, lotions and sunscreen or from inadequate cleaning. As dirt and dead skin cells accumulate, they can fill the pores. At the other end of the spectrum, overly vigorous cleaning can stimulate overproduction of oil, also leading to clogged pores and blackheads.
Blackheads can be extracted by a skin care specialist or at home with careful sterilization. Specialized comedone extraction tools are available to apply pressure to the skin and squeeze the blackheads out without scarring or infection.
Path to Prevention
To combat the accumulation of debris on the skin, clean your face regularly with a product made for your skin type. Using a product that is too harsh for your skin may irritate it and cause it to overproduce oil. Use makeup and lotions labeled oil-free and non-comedogenic, and remove them before sleeping. Avoid clothing that irritates your skin.