What is a Blackhead
The company that marketed these products produced a very popular commercial in which the female using the product to remove her blackheads referred to the spent product looking like a “porcupine,” which was a reference to the solid masses that were removed from the pore. These solid masses are known as “Comedo,” and are the biological cause of the manifested blackhead on the surface of the skin. The comedo, or blackhead, is formed when certain natural excretions of the human body mix with dirt and clog up pores and hair follicles. Once the hole is completely clogged with these substances – namely dirt, keratin, and sebum; they stop accumulating and leave the blemish on the skin, causing the characteristic embarrassment that we all have witnessed and experienced in multitude over the course of our lives. Basically, when the comedo remains open, the skin forms what we know as a blackhead. However, if skin forms over the comedones (pleural form), then the sufferer is left with what we have characteristically come to know as a “whitehead,” where the culprit material will generally have been broken down into a pus-filled fluid sac. Unfortunately, most members of society will experience blackheads either on our faces or on our chin at least several times over the course of our lives, with some of us being unable to get rid of them at all. Fortunately, there are quite a few steps that can be taken to prevent breakouts and to treat existing blackheads. However, these methods are generally contrary to common belief, so it is important to completely understand proper prevention and treatment techniques that can be performed at home in order to live as blackhead-free as possible.
Understanding the Causes of Blackheads
First and foremost, in order to truly be able to make any kind of significant attempt at treating chronic blackhead formations, one must truly make an educated attempt at understanding the pathophysiology behind their formation. Many people will first be under the impression that poor hygiene or just plain dirtiness is the inherent cause of blackheads, but this is simply not true. As a matter of fact, the real culprit is oxidation of the materials on the surface of the skin and in the pores. When the sebaceous glands begin to produce the oily substance found on the surface of the skin, known as sebum; this can mix with dirt, keratin, and bacteria; getting trapped inside the hair follicles and pores, causing blackheads that we are so familiar with. Many people, especially those of us who have extra-oily skin, will experience this build-up of sebum on the face; on and around the nose, and on and around the chin. The formation of these on the chin can also be contributed to by the foods that we eat, with oil from food staying on the lips, contributing even more to the problem. When the clogged pore closes, it is cut off to the air, and thus oxygen; which renders it a pus-filled whitehead. Conversely, when the clogged pore remains open, then the keratin-sebum-dirt-skin mixture reacts with the oxygen in the air, and it turns black. For those readers who have ever attempted to “pop” a blackhead, this characteristic of oxidation explains why the underlying material is white, yet the top of the plug is darker in color or black. Now, taking this into effect, there is no real consensus on whether or not popping these blemishes on the skin and chin is good or bad for the overall problem. There are some people who believe that popping them and immediately rubbing the spot with a solvent, such as alcohol, will lessen their visibility. However, other schools of thought believe that when these plugs are removed, the bacteria present in the clogged pore has the chance to spread to other places on the skin, thereby causing more widespread infection. When this happens, the proliferation of this material is thought to be able to spread to other places of the skin, where more characteristic “pimples” may form, leading to a complication of the problem.
Now, very rarely, these comedones can grow exponentially large, to the point of having to require a minor surgical operation called an incision and drainage in order to remove the plug. When this happens, the person suffering from the giant blackhead is generally left with quite a large hole in the surface of his/her skin. This can be a very unsightly and unpleasant occurrence, with many people trying to expel the very large comedone on their own. This is highly unadvisable, and popping something very large in size on your own can lead to major skin infections, such as impetigo. These giant blackheads are very rare, but they do happen.
Prevention of Blackheads
Now, logically speaking, the best way to get rid of a problem occurring is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Of course, there is absolutely no guarantee or even probability that you will always be able to prevent every blackhead from ever forming on your skin. That would be flawed, wishful thinking that would only lead to disappointment. However, there are certain steps that can be taken to lessen the likelihood of major occurrences of blackhead formations, with most techniques revolving around an individualistic approach based on what type of skin the person may have. As mentioned above, there is flawed thinking that squeezing and popping these blackheads over and over will keep them away. That is simply not true. Such practice is not an effective prevention technique or remedy for comedones, and performing constant squeezing can break the surrounding skin; putting you at risk for further infection. In fact, even if you spent your entire days and nights popping blackheads on your nose and chin; they will seem to automatically refill. This is because you cannot turn off your oil production, nor can you erase your pores from your skin. There are, however, a few different products that you can employ to help you in the fight against blackhead frequency and population.
First, constant exfoliation of the skin with an astringent and rough surfactant, such as salt or a loofah will allow for the constant cleansing and breakdown of the material inside of the pores. This will diminish the collection of sebum inside, therefore providing quite an effective remedy at lessening the appearance that these blackheads exist in the first place.
Using a product that contains glycolic acid will act as”glue” inside of the poor and follicle opening, effectively eliminating quite a large portion of the available surface area that is able to be filled and clogged by the sebum and keratin. Using a retinol-based product either with the glycolic acid or directly afterwards will serve to dissolve the dry skin which can mix with the sebum and keratin. This will make your skin look better while also fighting the appearance of blackheads.
Keeping well-hydrated and regularly exercising will also serve to remove waste on the skin. Many people will become turned off at the idea of using sweat to combat clogged pores, but the truth of the matter is that part of the reason that we sweat is to remove these impurities and toxins from the inside of the skin as well as the surface and pores. Believe it or not, this is a very powerful prevention technique in the fight against blackheads.
Home Remedies for Treatment and Prevention
By now, you must be thinking: “Okay, prevention is great, but what if I already have blackheads all over my nose, chest, face, and chin. I can’t prevent them until I can get rid of them.” If you are thinking such a thing, you are absolutely right! You must get rid of them first in order to prevent them from coming back. Fortunately, there are some very effective home remedies that can dissolve the comedones and their unsightly plugs of hardened sebum and dirt.
1. Mineral oil is one of the most powerful agents for getting rid of blackheads. Now, it may seem like a contradiction to recommend oil to get rid of sebum (which is oil). At first glace, this would appear to be correct, but what actually happens here is that, when mineral oil comes into contact with the hardened sebum, it actually serves to dissolve the sebum into the liquid oil base – working as a solvent for the plug. As mentioned above, this is one of the most effective, inexpensive treatments that be performed at home without any special products. Because of the oil-base of mineral oil, the skin will not overcompensate for the loss of sebum by producing extra like it would if you were to use a soap-based cleaner to remove the blackhead.
2. Baking soda can be used as an effective remedy for dissolving blackheads as well. This is due to the exfoliating properties that a rough paste of baking soda and water can have on removing the hardened plug from the pore. To use this method, simply make a paste out of baking soda and water and apply it to the blackheads. After leaving it on for about 15 minutes, it can be removed with warm water. This can remove the debris from the follicle as well as soften any stubborn plugs.
3. Lemon juice is another effective home treatment for blackheads. Most of the time, advising a treatment that is acidic can be counterproductive. However, lemon juice also contains alpha-hydroxy acid, which is in the same class as the prevention methods above, allowing it to dissolve the dead skin that is part of the culprit that comprises the blackhead. If you wish to try this method, simply apply a bit of lemon juice to a cotton ball or swap and dab it onto the blackhead. After letting it dry, rinse it off about 15 minutes later. This can be done about once or twice a day, and can be a very effective treatment method.
So, in closing, it is clear to see that there are quite a few different methods that you can employ at home for getting rid of blackheads and then preventing their future occurrence. Remember, if you do not treat the problem first, the prevention methods will do you no good, so make sure to try some of the methods mentioned above. If those do not solve your problem, just do a quick internet search for some of the other well-known home remedies, which include green tea, tea tree oil, honey, and tumeric. Chances are, however, that one of the methods listed above will do the trick for even your worst breakout. However, if you happen to notice a blackhead that keeps expanding in size, it may be a good idea to go see a dermatologist before you end up with one of the monster, massive blackheads also described above. Whatever method you choose, knowledge of these techniques is your best weapon against the blackhead/ With that said, it is in your best interest to make a mental note of some of these home remedies for both prevention and treatment of blackheads so that the next time you are faced with a collection of these sebum-filled plugs, you can reach into your medicine cabinet for an easy and effective treatment for these unsightly blemishes.