a woman suffering from blackheads

What Causes Blackheads?

Are you struggling to get rid of annoying blackheads on your face that seem to never go away? Understanding what blackheads are and what causes them are the first steps toward treatment and a clear complexion.

A comedo is a clogged pore or hair follicle in the skin. There are two different types of comedos: open and closed. If a comedo is open and filled with skin debris, bacteria, and oil, it is commonly referred to as a blackhead. (Closed comedos are often called whiteheads.) Blackheads are generally very small dark spots on your skin, and they usually indicate the first stages of acne. If the bacterium in a blackhead invades the pores of your skin, then it can eventually develop into a pimple.

What causes blackheads to form?

  • Puberty
    Usually, your blackheads arise because of the overproduction of oil, which tends to be a side effect of reaching puberty. Hitting puberty can trigger higher levels of hormones like DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, which causes your oil glands to produce more oil. This results in the higher likelihood of clogged pores.
  • Menstruation
    Besides going through puberty, there are other things that affect your hormones and increase oil production, such as the menstrual cycle for young girls and women.
  • Drugs
    There are many prescription medications that can contribute to hormonal changes as well. For example, taking birth control pills affects women’s hormone levels, and varying from person to person, can either increase or decrease your acne. Other medications such as corticosteroids, lithium, or androgens might also contribute to higher oil production and the appearance of blackheads.

What can be done to avoid the causes of blackheads?

  • Diet
    Some research suggests that consuming foods that are high in oil and sugar might result in more clogging of the pores. Eliminating these kinds of foods from your diet and replacing them with foods high in vitamin A and beta-carotene (such as yellow and orange fruits and vegetables) will provide the necessary vitamins and antioxidants that promote healthier skin. Also, drinking plenty of water will increase your cell turnover, which results in skin that is less prone to clogging damage.
  • Cleanliness
    Washing your face twice a day with warm water and facial cleanser will get rid of any built-up bacteria in your pores. Removing makeup before bed is also essential to maintaining healthy skin. Washing more than twice a day will not provide any added benefit, and will actually irritate and inflame your skin more. Exfoliating with a fine-grain scrub, lotion, or peel about two times a week will remove any unwanted debris from your pores without damaging or enlarging them any further.
  • Moisturizers and Cosmetics
    Moisturizers and cosmetics that are hypoallergenic and oil-free tend to be the easiest on your skin. Don’t overuse moisturizer, as this tends to lead to blackheads. If your skin is not overly dry, then you may not need to use a moisturizer at all.
  • Contact
    If you are constantly touching your face, all of the oil and dirt present on your fingertips and hands will be transferred into the pores on your face. Enough of this debris will lead to clogging, and eventually blackheads. This oil and dirt can also be left on your pillowcases, so washing these regularly will aid in the prevention of blackheads as well.