1. Style
Send to a Friend via Email

Blackheads - What are They and How Can I Get Rid of Them?

Blackhead Facts and Remedies


Woman with strip on nose
B2M Productions/The Image Bank/getty Images

What Is a Blackhead?

Whiteheads and blackheads are very similar with just a very slight difference. They are both called comedones, which are a collection of sebum and skin cells gathered in your hair follicles. They get stuck and plug the hair follicle causing the breakout. The difference in whiteheads and blackheads is simply if the hair follicle is open or closed. When open, the oxygen in the air oxidizes the oils, turning them brown - a blackhead. (Think of how an apple oxidizes when left out.)

Though, contrary to their name, they are not always black. They can be a range of color from yellowish to black. The light reflecting on the hair in your follicle can also make the blackhead appear to be a dark color. A whitehead on the other hand is a closed, or almost closed follicle which prevents the oxygen from oxidizing the oil.

A Blackhead is Not...

Dirt. If you have blackheads, please do not think that it is because you do not clean your face well enough. The cause of blackheads is all below the skin's surface and if you are cleaning your face daily, you are not responsible for your skin's blackheads.

Where are the Most Common Places to Get Blackheads?

Blackheads are most common on your face, specifically on your nose and the sides of your nose. But some people get blackheads in other places, such as on their ears, shoulders and on their back, though whiteheads and blackheads can form anywhere there is a hair follicle.

How Can I Get Rid of Blackheads I Currently Have?

The key to getting rid of your black heads is unplugging the pores and dislodging the buildup. While it might be tempting squeeze it out, it's not something that we recommend. Your fingers have oils and dirt on them which could cause further breakouts. Instead, let's look at product ingredients to look for.

Look for cleansers, exfoliators and acne products that contain salicylic acid, glycolic acid or benzoyl peroxide - or a combination of those. Products that include these ingredients loosen the dead skin cells that can get clogged in your hair follicles. These ingredients can literally help unplug the follicles. These chemical exfoliators are different than the grainy exfoliators. They work evenly and effectively without causing your face any irritation.

You can also carefully use products like Biore strips. (Or make your own pore strips) The key is to be gentle, not use them around the eyes and not use them daily.

After the Blackhead is Removed, Can I Close my Pores to Avoid Another Blackhead?

In short, no. Everyone has pores. Some people have larger pores than others, specifically people with oily skin, but we all have pores and pores do not open and close. You can, however, do your best to keep good care of your skin so they don't become clogged. Here are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to your face.

  • Keep your hands off of your face. Whether you rest your head on your hands by habit or your sleep with your hands up to your face, the oils and dirt on your hands don't need to be on your face.
  • Check your phone. Take a look at your cellphone and I bet you see oil from your face. Clean your phone daily.
  • Lose the lid.If you wear a hat every day, specifically if you have oily skin, chances are good you're seeing blackheads and whiteheads on your forehead. Back off with the time you spend with a hat on your head.

Long-Term Care

As we noted above, using products with chemical exfoliators will help unclog your pores. (See our list of 9 blackhead treatment products.) Used on a regular basis, you will see improvement in your skin. Remember that a Dermatologist is always a good person to visit, especially if your blackhead situation is severe. Dermatologists can prescribe stronger exfoliators than what you can buy over the counter and can provide in-office skin treatments for you, such as facial peels.

Best Vitamins For Your Skin

  1. About.com
  2. Style
  3. Skin Care
  4. Acne Tips and Advice
  5. Blackheads - What Are They & How Can I Get Rid of Them?

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.