October 8, 2015

All About Blackheads plus Tips for Adult Acne

What is a blackhead exactly?  And why are they black?  Is it dirt?

No.  It’s not dirt.  If you have blackheads, it does not mean you have a dirty face.

Blackheads do not mean you have a dirty face.  Blackheads are dark because of oxidized oil and dead cells.  Find out all about it on the Acne Whisperer Blog.

Exactly what is a blackhead?

A blackhead is an impaction made up of various oils and waxes made by your skin, mixed with skin cells that have died and have dislodged from the very top layer of your epidermis.  The same top layer that makes up the surface of your skin lines your pores as well. 

Just about every pore has a blackhead, some larger, some smaller, depending on the oil production level of the oil gland attached to that pore, and the level of dead skin cell production.  As we age, we produce less oil and more dead skin cells.

Now, over time (not much), these two main substances, oil and dead skin cells, oxidize and change color.  The oil gets yellow and the dead skin cells get a darker version of whatever color they were according to the melanin levels set forth by your DNA.  It’s actually the same mechanism as what happens when you leave a peeled apple out; the same chemical reaction.  This is why they have a “black” top - - the longer they’re around, the darker they get.  So you see, their dark tips have nothing whatsoever to do with dirt.  At.  All.

Sun exposure can make blackheads darker!  Read about it on the Acne Whisperer Blog

A blackhead is scientifically called a Comedone.  Some say Comedo.  This is the root of the term “Non-Comedogenic”, which means “won’t cause Comedones”, ie, won’t cause blackheads.  But what’s the connection between comedones and breakouts?

Why do we get blackheads?  Do they have a purpose?

Believe it or not, blackheads actually have to be there. 

You see, the oil of your skin is acidic.  With your skin having a lower pH, bacteria that fall from the air can’t survive - it's one of the ways your skin protects your body.  The oil and dead skin cell mix that make up blackheads allows your skin to always have a little oil staying around, making up a big part of the protective outer layer of your skin.  More of this mix accumulates in the t-zone area in order to protect your eyes, nose and mouth.

The high pH of harsh cleansers cause the skin to over-produce oil.  Find out more on the Acne Whisperer Blog.
Here’s where it gets really interesting.  The high pH of harsh cleansers cause the skin to need to rebalance itself, which it does by over-producing oil.  Your skin wants to remain acidic. 

This is huge, because old school logic has always had it that oil overproduction had to do with dryness, which meant all you had to do was apply moisturizer after cleansing.  And yet excess oil was still a problem. 

Rather, the issue is not loss of moisture, it’s loss of acidity level!  The solution, besides using a more gentle cleanser, is to use a slightly acidic toner after cleansing, and only then apply lotion.

Apricot scrubs can cause blackheads, breakouts and irritation!  Find out more on the Acne Whisperer Blog.

 The wrong kind of scrub can also prompt the skin to overproduce oil as a way of protecting it from being over-scratched.  It’s like the skin is trying to cause the grains to slide over it rather than scratch it. 

With these two factors (which sometimes can occur at the same time, as in the case of the most popular brands of apricot scrub which have very harsh detergents along with the crushed apricot pits), there not only will be more blackhead material produced in response to all of this, but the slight inflammation that’s inevitable occurs, which actually results in further darkening of the whole mix!  Why?  In addition to oxidation, which as stated above is what causes the darkening of the oil and dead skin cells, spilling additional skin pigment into areas of damage is one of the ways your skin works to repair itself.  Talk about insult to injury! 

So you see, the black "head" is actually oil plus dead skin cells hitting the air and turning dark brown, plus additional pigment when the skin needs to protect itself. 

The dark parts of blackheads are not dirt!  Find out more on the Acne Whisperer Blog.

How can we get rid of them?

As you can see, blackheads do need to be there, but they don't have to be so noticeable.  The best way to control them is to make sure the pH of your skin isn't thrown off by harsh cleansers and there isn't too much scrubbing.  The best way to prevent them from becoming too dark is to include properly formulated, broad-spectrum multi-vitamin antioxidants and anti-inflammatories in your skin care routine.

Above all, hydration is required to keep blackheads from over-accumulating.

RULE OF THUMB: The more hydrated your skin is, the more pliable it is.  The more pliable your skin is, the less it holds on to the oil that makes blackheads.  Every blemish starts out as a microscopic blackhead.

Antioxidant Serums for Blackheads?  Find out more on the Acne Whisperer Blog.

How?  The lining of your pore will collect substances that signal the body to come to your skin’s rescue when it thinks this lining is getting too bothered.  The oxidation and irritation that occur from harsh products actually creates more irritation.  To quote Gregory House, MD, “The body is smart, but it’s also stupid.”  Irritation leads to inflammation, creating swelling, redness and warmth.  With enough of these three, if the swelling from all this gets bad enough, and oxygen runs out of the pore, it will create the perfect air-free, warm environment acne bacteria absolutely love.  Most of the time, however, enough oxygen does get inside, which leaves us with just a nice, painful “undergrounder”.  Officially named a “papule”, this bugger will not go away until the inflammation is cooled off and the fluid creating the swelling is absorbed back into the body.

Now, this describes all acne formation no matter what the person’s age.  What is relevant to adults aged 30s, 40s and 50s is the fact that the chance of pore clogging from anti-aging products making all this much, much worse, is extremely high.  With fluctuations in oil production due to life changes, and various forms of stress, the chances that a blackhead will give way to a full-blown breakout go way up.  If this sounds like you, we can easily do something about this!

Eval by Email Online Skincare Consultation, virtual skin care coaching for adult acne.

Your acne problem has a source, and clearing your skin requires finding that source and either eliminating it or healing it.  You can start that right now by filling out my Eval by Email® Online Skincare Consultation Form created specially for ages Gen-Y to Baby Boom!

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