Notice those little black and white spots on your face (especially on the nose) that don’t seem to go even after washing your face thoroughly? If you haven’t done so yourself, your beautician at the parlour has surely expressed her concern about your ‘blackheads’ and ‘whiteheads’. So, what are they? Where do they come from? What can you do about them?
A blackhead is an overactive oil gland that’s clogged with sebum, dead skin cells, tiny hair strands and sometimes bacteria, that combine to make a plug. Light and air contact at the opening of the pore oxidizing it, turning it black. Hence, the name ‘blackhead’.
Whiteheads are follicles that are essentially clogged with the same constituents of blackheads. However, they do not turn black as they have only a small, microscopic opening to the skin surface. Since air doesn’t come in contact with the inner components, oxidization does not take place hence retaining the white colour.
What causes blackheads and whiteheads?
- Hormonal changes, particularly during puberty, pregnancy and menstrual cycles, can cause the sebaceous glands beneath the skin to produce excess oil. This excess oil tend to clog your pores forming blackheads.
- Many skin products can clog pores and add oil to the skin. Cosmetics can be particularly oily, and people who use them frequently may be more prone to breakouts. Look for products labeled “non-comedogenic,” meaning that they do not clog pores.
- Excessive perspiration can also be a factor, particularly if you spend a lot of time in a
humid environment. The excess sweat absorbs into your pores and hair follicles, leading to breakouts.
How can they be prevented?
It all comes down to a good skincare regime. The best skin care is once-a-day cleansing with a mild soap or facial scrub to aid in the removal of excess sebum and dead skin cells. Make sure you cleanse all the way down your neck, behind the ears and into the hairline as missing these areas can cause breakouts. Avoid oil-based makeup as these can contribute to the buildup of oil in the follicles. Water-based makeup labeled as non-comedogenic can be used safely. However, remember not to scrub too vigorously as it can irritate the skin even more.
Can I squeeze them?
It is always best to see a skincare specialist or a dermatologist, as they can remove blackheads effectively without causing any trauma to the skin. However, if you want to extract blackheads yourself, do so with caution. For treatment products that clear and decongest the skin, try overnight clearing gels, antibacterial skin wipes and oil-absorbing mattifiers that can be used throughout the day.
What are the treatments available?
Medications for acne are available both over the counter and by prescription. Topical medications include benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, retinoids and antibiotics. They work by reducing your skin’s oiliness, altering the rate of skin cell shedding or killing the bacteria associated with acne. Systemic medications, which include oral antibiotics, hormone therapy and corticosteroid injections, work to clear acne from inside the body and are typically necessary for moderate to severe cases.
Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy are sometimes effective for blackheads caused by hormonal imbalances, such as those that occur during adolescence or menopause. Chemical peels help by peeling away the top layer of skin, but this treatment offers only temporary relief.
If you want to stick to the parlour routine, go to a reputed beauty parlour and get a cleanup done. Rather not fall into the trap of frequent beauty treatments and restrict it to one two visits a month. Steaming and applying packs etc on your face too often will tire and disturb the natural balance of your skin. Avoid doing facials if you have too many blackheads/ whiteheads as massaging will only worsen the problem. Do not touch your face frequently. Let time do the healing. Avoid eating oily and fatty foods. Instead, emphasize on raw veggies, increase your liquid intake and get adequate sleep.
Nowadays, peel-off facial masks are easily available in the market to get rid of blackheads & whiteheads. At times they are more effective than normal cream, gel or sheet mask at removing embedded blackheads, dirt, oil, make-up and other residue that clog the pores. But before you start off with any product, it’s best to consult your dermatologist as he/she would know what’s best for your skin-type. Do not use your peel-off masks more than once every three days, unless you have extremely oily skin. Otherwise, you run the risk of over-exfoliating, which can cause stress to the facial skin, loosen your muscle tone, make your skin rather sensitive, and produce skin pigmentation or the development of a new set of skin problems.
Remember, there is no overnight miracle for treating whiteheads and blackheads. With proper skin care and continuous treatment however, you can expect to see a brighter, clearer complexion in as little as a few weeks.
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