what are blackheads
Image: Rabinenko Olha Shutterstock.com

What are blackheads? They might not look like it, but blackheads are actually a form of acne. They are caused by clogged follicles. You can hardly see them from afar because they’re microscopic, but a clump of clogged hair follicles is an ugly sight indeed. In contrast, a whitehead occurs when the hair follicle stays closed.

What causes the clog? It’s mostly made up of dirt, dead skin cells, and sebum. The sebum is composed of melanin, and this is what turns black when exposed to air. That’s the reason why whiteheads remain, well, white.

We often think that blackheads are contained in the face, especially around the nose area. But the worst breakout can also be found on the shoulders, arms, neck, breasts, and back.

What are Blackheads caused by?

Unfortunately, not all people are created equal. Women with oily faces are more prone to getting blackheads. Hormonal changes can also mess up the body, which makes you produce more sebum. Other factors include:

  • When dead skin cells irritate the hair follicles
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Menopause
  • Puberty
  • Medication
  • Diet
  • High sugar levels
  • Birth control pills

It should be noted here that poor hygiene doesn’t lead to a breakout in acne. It is this myth that leads people to believe that blackheads can be treated by frequent scrubbing and washing of the face (it will actually aggravate the condition).

Blackheads are also not caused by abstinence, or too much masturbation.

Is it Dangerous?

Apart from being gross, blackheads are totally harmless and easily treated. However, there’s documentation on what are blackheads that suggests, especially if the surrounding area is dry, they could be your body’s warning sign that your liver may be congested.

How to Treat Blackheads:

There are many ways to treat blackheads. You can manually take them out; although it’s advised that you go to the dermatologist to thoroughly clean the pores – while at the same time prevent scarring.

For bad breakouts, the dermatologist may recommend some antibiotics or creams. But for the most part, you will be prescribed drugs that contain Vitamin A, adapalene, tazarotene, and tretinoin that are for external use only.

When you do go to the dermatologist, you may undergo these treatment procedures for blackheads:


It’s literally sanding your top layer of the face with the use of modern equipment.


Also called light therapy, which utilizes intense concentration of light to kill the bacteria and reduce sebum. The light penetrates the epidermis and into the dermis so it doesn’t damage the outer layer of the skin.

Chemical peel:

A synthetic solution is applied onto the blackheads. This chemical will help peel off the top layer and the dead skin, revealing a smoother surface underneath. There are actually over-the-counter chemicals which help to smooth the skin, but you must be careful about the application. It’s better to go the dermatologist because you might have an allergic reaction.

What are blackheads? For the most part, they are mildly annoying. Now we know what are blackheads, and the treatments for them. With proper skin care, and regular visits to the dermatologist, you can maintain clear skin.