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Blackheads (Comedones)

Blackheads, also called comedones, are small, flesh colored, white, or dark bumps that give skin a rough texture. The bumps are found at the opening of a sebaceous follicle (pore). Comedones are the skin-coloured, small bumps (papules) frequently found on the forehead and chin of those with acne. Open comedones are blackheads; black because of surface pigment (melanin) rather than dirt. Closed comedones are whiteheads; the follicle is completely blocked. Larger and deeper uninflamed bumps are called nodules. They are more common on the trunk than on the face. The cells lining the sebaceous duct proliferate excessively in acne (cornification) and may block the sebaceous duct forming a comedone. These may be so small that they are not visible to the naked eye (microcomedones). Blackheads are one of the ways in which acne presents

itself, along with whiteheads, and larger, painful cysts. Blackheads occur when dead skin cells block the pore through which a hair emerges from the skin, and the oil that would normally travel to the surface of the skin gets stuck and solidifies. Acne is essentially due to the over-activity of the oil producing glands. It is primarily a genetic condition, but there is a large range of treatments available to those who suffer from acne.

Blackheads are not caused by dirt on the surface of the skin, and oil on the surface of the skin usually does no harm. But it is important for a person to wash their face regularly with any basic soap. There is no need to buy special soaps, and harsh abrasives should be avoided. Scrubbing can aggravate acne by forcing oils back into the skin tissue. Picking or squeezing blackheads is also not advised. A blackhead can be squeezed back into the pore, leading only to an infection of the pore, showing itself as a "zit". A person should never pick a pimple unless there is a head on the pimple or they can see pus, and they have washed their hands thoroughly. Any pus should be gently pushed out rather than forced out. The pimple can be punctured with a sterilized needle if it needs to be, rather than just pressed on. Squeezing a pimple until it bleeds can result in scars. It is also advised that a person keep their hair clean, and away from any area where they are experiencing problems. In other words, don't cover up acne by wearing bangs. Mild acne can also be controlled with a topical antibiotic or Benzoyl Peroxide, which is a peeling agent that acts to unblock the blackhead. There are many treatments available to people who suffer from more severe acne, ranging from oral antibiotics to hormone treatment.

Blackheads are caused by partially blocked pores. The "black" appearance of them is not caused by dirt, but by the oxidising effect of air on the sebum (oil) in a blocked pore and the melanin pigment from the dead skin cells. The best way to remove blackheads is to remove the cause of them -- excessive sebum (oil) and dead skin cells. Use only products made with natural ingredients that are not too astringent. Harsh products can strip the skin of oil, causing it to produce more sebum which leads to more blocked pores. Don't be afraid of using cleansing products containing natural oils, such as jojoba or coconut oil to cleanse the skin. These oils are close to our natural oils, so they don't block the pores. Use a gentle exfoliator every day to remove dead skin cells so they don't block pores. Just remember to be very gentle, over exfoliation can exacerbate the problem. Avoid products containing the following: alcohol, isopropyl mystate, lanolin, sodium lauryl sulphate, sodium laureth sulphate, propylene glycol, mineral oil and parabens.

Do not to try and extract them forcibly, either using your fingers, fingernails or a comedone (blackhead) remover. This can cause permanent damage to the pores and stop them working properly for ever. You may squeeze some of the blackhead out, but you could also force some of it even deeper into the skin, which may lead to infection (large spots, pimples or even cysts) or permanent damage. Touching your skin should generally be avoided to prevent cross infection.

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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005