February 5, 2016 Emmy Graber Face

The Life & Death of a Blackhead

Here at Makeup.com, we would love to think that we have all the answers for you. However, there are certain issues that require the insight of a pro. Today we asked Boston-based dermatologist Emmy Graber to give us the rundown on how blackheads form … and how they go away (for good!).

How to Get Rid of Blackheads

A blackhead is born! How did it come to be? And what happens next in the life of a blackhead?  When will it go away? Read on to find out how your blackhead arrived and what might happen next.

The Birth of a Blackhead

In your pores, there is a combination of oil (aka sebum), bacteria and dead skin cells.  When your skin is working normally, the dead skin cells work their way easily out of your pores and you shed them. However, sometimes the dead skin cells clump together and get stuck in the pore, along with the bacteria and sebum. When the cells, oil and bacteria clump together they form a plug in the pore. The air oxidizes this plug and turns it a black color, giving the plugged pore it’s name: blackhead.

The Death of a Blackhead

If you are lucky, the plugged pore (blackhead), will clear on its own and that will be the end of it.  However, sometimes the blackhead gets aggravated and trouble ensues. The bacteria in the pore can stimulate inflammation around the pore and create either a papule or a pustule, which are types of little red pimples. This could also happen if you try to squeeze the pore. If the inflammation progresses further, the blemish might turn into a large nodule or cyst and these can be unsightly, tender and take a long time to go away.

RELATED: The 7-Step Face-Cleansing Ritual That Will Also Nourish Your Soul

The (Possible) Ghost of a Blackhead

Some people think that only nodules or cysts can leave scars. This is not true.  Even a plain blackhead that doesn’t progress could lead to scarring. To prevent blackheads try an over-the-counter cleanser or treatment containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. If this doesn’t work, talk to a dermatologist about a prescription cream.

Product Recommendations: Garnier SkinActive Clean + Blackhead Eliminating Scrub, Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser, The Body Shop Seaweed Iconic Face Mask

Photo: thinkstock



    About the Author: Dr. Graber is a Boston-based dermatologist specializing in acne, acne scars and cosmetic dermatology.