No one is immune to this common skin problem. Especially in the Singapore heat, with makeup, sweat and pool chemicals regularly invading our pores, it’s difficult to keep blemish free. Here’s all you need to know about blackheads.
Admittedly, I’m a beauty junkie – almost half of my room is taken up by beauty products! I love hoarding clay masks (great for drawing out excess sebum), lipsticks (they’re an instant-fi x for dull skin) and hair serums (to manage my thick locks). Plus, I’ve spent just over a decade perfecting my skincare routine – I’ve followed a proper regimen since I was 15, when my mother insisted I start wearing sunscreen daily – and I can’t leave the house without at least three makeup items in my bag.
What are they?
Blackheads are open comedones, enlarged hair follicles that are clogged with dead skin cells and sebum.
What causes them?
The most common cause is an overproduction of oil; when this happens, hair follicles get clogged with sebum. This is why blackheads typically sprout up on oilier areas of the face, such as the T-zone.
What causes them to become pimples?
The main culprit is inflammation. When blackheads become inflamed, they form little red or pink pimples.
Can they be scrubbed off?
Unfortunately, some are too deep in the follicles to be removed with physical exfoliants such as scrubs. Worse, excessive scrubbing can actually irritate the skin and cause a further increase in sebum production.
Are there ways to get rid of them?
Products with ingredients such as salicylic and glycolic acid, which work wonders by sloughing off dead skin cells and preventing build-up in follicles, should do the trick. Another ingredient I swear by? Retinoids, which help stimulate skin cell renewal. The blackheads on my nose reduced significantly after I used prescription Retin A cream for a month.
Can they be extracted?
Some blackheads can be manually removed with a comedone extractor, but there’s a risk of scarring or infection. It’s best to get a skilled facial therapist or dermatologist to remove them for you. This applies especially if you have skin that is particularly prone to post-inflamatory hyperpigmentation; if the extraction is too rough, or if it’s not done properly, it’ll leave unsightly marks on your skin (trust me, I’ve been there!). Another thing to note: Manual extractions won’t keep blackheads at bay completely.
Why are they black?
I bet you didn’t know this: Sebum has melanin. Yep, the pigment that affects skin, hair and eye colour. When the melanin in sebum comes into contact with oxygen, it oxidises and turns black.
How are they different from whiteheads?
Whiteheads are also comedones, but they are closed ones; unlike blackheads, they don’t have openings on the surface of the skin. Consequently, the melanin in sebum does not come into contact with oxygen and turn black.
Is there any way to prevent them from reoccurring?
Yes. Switch to oil-free cosmetics and makeup to reduce the build-up of oil. Or, do like I do and use a clay-based facial mask once or twice a week – this helps to draw out dirt and excess oil.
Can they form anywhere?
They can occur anywhere on the body that has hair follicles, although they tend to be more common on the face, especially on and around the nose.
By Jaclyn Gunasilan, Her World, August 2015