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What is a Blackhead?

What is a Blackhead?

A blackhead, or open comedo is a wide opening on the skin with a blackened mass of skin debris covering the opening. Despite their name, some blackheads can be yellowish in color. A comedo is a widened hair follicle which is filled with skin debris (keratin squamae), bacteria and oil (sebum).

A closed comedo is a whitehead, while an open comedo is a blackhead.

Blackheads are said to be the first stage of acne. They form before bacteria invade the pores of the patient’s skin. A blackhead can develop into a pimple, which is also known as a papule or pustule.

Blackheads, and acne in general, usually develop after puberty, when hormone levels surge and reach the skin. The presence of higher levels of hormones in the skin triggers the stimulation of the sebaceous glands, which produce oily substances. The sebaceous glands produce too much oil in the pores, which accumulates and gets stuck. When the occluded oil is exposed to air it becomes black.

Several conditions can cause blackheads, or make them worse, such as the use of topical oils and make up. Blackheads can affect people with any type of skin, but are generally more common in those with oily skin.

Treatment Options

Hormonal treatments – contraceptives have often been used for the treatment of blackheads and acne, often with good results.

Cleaning the skin – clean your face with a good cleanser, ideally, one for oily skin, such as a salicylic acid cleanser.

Medications – adapalene is a third-generation topical retinoid, used mainly in the treatment of mild to moderate acne. Many patients with blackheads have had good results. In the USA adapalene is available under brand name Differin, in three preparations – 0.1% cream, 0.1% gel, and 0.3% gel. Since 2010, it has also been available in the USA under the generic name Teva, (0.1% gel). Only the 0.1% cream and 0.1% gel forms are available in Europe.

UV exposure – exposing the skin to sunlight or ultra-violet light encourages it to peel, which helps unblock pores. Sunbathing or using sunbeds may help. However, it is important to discuss this with your doctor. Exposing skin to sunlight, if overdone, also raises the risk of burning and developing skin cancer.

Hair – greasy hair touching the face of your skin can spread infection and in some cases encourage the spread of blackheads and acne. Keeping your hair away from your face may help keep blackheads to a minimum.

Skin virus may fight blackheads and acne – a virus that lives on our skin seems to naturally seek out and destroy the bacteria responsible for blackheads and zits. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh said that harnessing a virus that naturally preys on the bacteria that cause pimples could offer an extremely useful tool against this skin condition.

Koblin’s carries RX and over the counter acne, blackhead and skin medications. So don’t suffer with pimples, acne, skin issues and blemishes. Come see us at Koblin’s Pharmacy today!

Did you know?

We offer shorter waiting times -- usually only 15-20 minutes for new prescriptions -- not the average four hour wait time as with many pharmacy chains.