Acne is a chronic condition that affects over 85% of adolescents and young adults. In fact, it is one of the most common skin diseases treated by physicians and dermatologists. In a study released in 2007, researchers in the largest study ever conducted on acne and stress revealed that teens under high levels of stress were 23 percent more likely to have a more severe case of acne. (1)
Acne is an umbrella term used to describe whiteheads, pustules, pimples, cysts and blackheads. The division in the description of the condition is important because each type of acne is treated differently. Blackheads and whiteheads are medically known as comedones, and are usually more numerous on the face and shoulders. Blackheads are follicles that are larger than normal at the opening and become filled with plugs of sebum (oil) and dead skin cells. They undergo a chemical reaction which results in the oxidation of melanin in the dead skin cells. This gives the material in the follicle the typical black color.
On the other hands, whiteheads are follicles that are filled with the same material but have only a microscopic opening to the skin’s surface. Since the air cannot reach the follicle the material does not oxidize, and remains white. (2)
The key to prevention of blackheads is good facial hygiene and an excellent cleansing system. However, this system will not be effective if it is not used consistently. There are no overnight cures or single vitamin which can be used to treat blackheads but consistent cleaning and care to the skin will go a long way in preventing them from forming. (3)
Whiteheads and blackheads are types of acne that affect many different types of people. There are good treatments and bad treatments available so while there is no need to suffer in silence there is a need to identify appropriate treatment methodologies prior to trying just anything. Your primary care physician or dermatologists can initiate a treatment protocol for individuals who have mild, moderate or severe cases.
While your primary care physician or dermatologists can extract blackheads in the office using a comedone extractor, if there is no sign of infection on, or surrounding, the blemish it can also be done at home. If you are attempting this on your own always be sure the materials you use are sterile and the environment extremely clean. This is because when you extract the blackheads you are leaving an opening in the skin that is fertile ground for bacterial infection.
Skin experts suggest that the first step would be to use a skin cleanser and then to steam the skin for several moments. The best way to steam the skin is to place your face over a bowl of very hot water and to hold a towel over the head to keep in the steam. This opens the pores and makes extraction less painful.
It is preferable to use a comedone extractor which can be found at any beauty store. Another option are commercially made blackheads strips, which are basically a tape like substance placed over the area and then pulled off. It is important not to attempt to extract lesions which appear aggravated, inflamed, infected or sore because it will worsen the acne and cause scarring.
When removing blackheads it is important to avoid any harsh squeezing or scraping. This can damage the skin around the around the pore and actually increase the size leading to more blackheads in the future.
Once they have been removed it is important to keep the skin as clean and oil free as possible. Use naturally prepared cleansers or astringent solutions. Avoid harsh soaps that may irritate the skin or any creams that leaves an oily finish. However, it is important to maintain the moisture of the skin using a moisturizer especially developed for individuals who suffer from acne.
(1) Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center; Link Found Between Teens’ Stress Levels and Acne Severity
(2) American Academy of Dermatology: Acne
(3) University of Maryland Medical Center: Acne