Blackheads are small bumps on the skin that result from clogged hair follicles. They have dark or black surfaces and are generally very small. Blackheads are a mild form of acne and usually form on the face, especially on the nose and chin, but they can also appear on the back, chest, neck, arms, and shoulders.
Blackheads are most commonly treated with over-the-counter products, like spot treatments that contain salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. However, bumps that don’t respond to treatment or that are damaged as a result of at-home popping will require a trip to a dermatologist. Our Chesterfield office is uniquely equipped to help you treat blackheads, no matter how severe they may appear to be.
What Causes Blackheads?
Blackheads form when a hair follicle in the skin becomes clogged or plugged. Dead skin cells and excess oil collect in the follicle’s opening, which produces a bump. If the skin over the bump opens, the air exposure causes the plug to look black, thus forming a blackhead. If the skin does not open, a whitehead is formed.
Blackheads are a type of acne vulgaris, or hormonal acne. The most common cause is oil gland over-production, which can happen during hormonal shifts, such as puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy. Blackheads can also form when hair follicles are irritated or when dead skin cells do not shed regularly.
This type of acne can be treated at home, but if over-the-counter products fail to address the outbreak, it’s time to see a dermatologist. Other skin conditions, such as bug bites, boils, and other blemishes, are also often confused for blackheads. You may not truly know what a skin sore is until a medical professional takes a look. If you don’t recognize the breakout, or if you have questions about your type of acne, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment.
How to Remove Blackheads
Home blackheads treatments are common, and most are both inexpensive and available as over-the-counter creams. Topical products usually include salicylic acid, which cleans out the pores, and benzoyl peroxide, which can kill bacteria. Extracting a blackhead at home, however, can be difficult, and doing so may cause more harm than good. Squeezing pimples allows some pus to drain, but the acne’s core can remain, pushing further down into the skin. Blackheads are harder to drain than whiteheads because the plug is often stickier and less fluid-like, so expressing the blemish takes a practiced hand.
The safest course of action is to keep your hands off your skin, follow a treatment regiment, and wait for your acne to heal. However, if you are determined to extract a blackhead at home, it’s best to use cotton or tissue to add pressure on either side of the blackhead, pushing up carefully with a rocking or massaging motion. Doing this in a warm, steamed room, such as the bathroom after a shower, can help loosen and soften the plug.
While removing blackheads at home is possible, you could create more damage in the process. At-home blackhead removal is not often feasible for people with several blackheads, as home extraction is both difficult and time-consuming. If you are uncomfortable with at-home extraction, or if you have tried and failed, visiting our Chesterfield clinic can provide the safest and most efficient blackhead treatment.
When to See a Doctor for Blackheads
While blackheads can be treated at home, there are a few reasons why you might want to visit a dermatologist. Sometimes, attempting to express the pore at home can push the blackhead further into the epidermis, creating the potential for infection. Other times, basic over-the-counter products fail to cure acne or prevent future breakouts. In some cases, you might not even be able to identify your blemish as a blackhead. All these scenarios provide excellent reason to visit a dermatologist. If you live in the St. Louis area, get a consultation at our Chesterfield office and develop the best treatment plan for your blackheads.
*Results may vary per patient.