The human skin is fascinating, composed of several layers, structures, and cells, including what are known as hair follicles or pores. It is within these follicles that the topic ‘what is a blackhead?’ finds substance. Blackheads are a type of non-inflammatory acne that appear as small, dark spots on the skin, mostly on your face. They are different from other skin breakouts or inflammations because they are open which causes the black appearance at the surface.
Blackheads are formed when a plug or blockage develops in the opening of hair follicles due to the accumulation of excessive oils and dead skin cells. When these substances clump together and get exposed to air, they oxidize, turning black. This is why blackheads have a dark, noticeable color different from typical red pimples. It is important to note that this oxidation process is what differentiates blackheads from whiteheads, another type of acne formed when the pores are closed.
Blackheads are, unfortunately, a very common skin concern that affects people of all ages, but particularly those in their teens and early adulthood due to hormonal changes that can cause excessive sebum production. However, several other factors can contribute to their formation such as genetics, the use of certain medications, smoking, and factors that can lead to a rapid skin cell turnover.
Dealing with Blackheads
From a medical perspective, blackheads are categorized as a form of acne known as Acne Vulgaris. Therefore, similar to other forms of acne, treatment can involve over-the-counter skincare products that contain salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or retinol, medications prescribed by a dermatologist, or certain lifestyle changes such as a balanced diet, regular hydration, proper skincare hygiene, and adequate rest.
Moreover, dermatologists strongly advise against ‘popping’ or squeezing blackheads as this can lead to skin damage, potential scarring, and even more blackheads due to the spread of bacteria. In fact, if the blackheads are persistent or extremely bothersome, it is better to seek professional help, such as a dermatologist or skincare specialist.
Blackheads and Hidradenitis Suppurativa
If you feel that your blackhead problem is severe or different from the typical presentation, it could be a sign of a more serious skin condition, like Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS). HS is a chronic disease that presents with painful bumps, abscesses, and nodules in places like the armpits, groin, and under the breasts, which can sometimes look like deep-seated blackheads. This condition necessitates more aggressive treatment than common acne and may be linked to genetics and metabolic syndromes like obesity and diabetes.
The question now is ‘how to cure hidradenitis suppurativa‘? There is currently no known cure for HS. However, early diagnosis and treatment can help manage the symptoms, reduce flares, prevent new lesions from forming, and prevent complications. Various treatments options are available including topical or systemic antibiotics, retinoids, hormonal therapy, immunosuppressants, biological therapy, and for severe cases, surgical interventions. Lifestyle changes like weight management, smoking cessation, and wearing loose-fitting clothing can also help manage the condition.
So, in our exploration of ‘what is a blackhead?’, we understand them as a common form of open acne caused by the accumulation of excess skin oils and dead skin cells, and blackened by oxidation. Though not a severe threat to our health, blackheads can certainly be a nuisance and affect one’s self-confidence. If your blackheads are unbearable or you suspect your ‘blackheads’ might be a more serious skin disease like HS, consult a healthcare professional. Remember, healthy skin is not only about appearance but also about overall skin health and wellbeing.