Blackheads are also called open comedones. Blackheads are tiny, dark spots which are caused by a small plug in the opening of a follicle or pore on the skin. A blackhead is a type of acne vulgaris.
Appearance of Blackheads
Blackheads are follicles or pores which have an opening that is wider than normal. These openings are filled with sebum, keratin and dead sloughed off cells. Sebum is an oily waxy and fatty secretion that is produced by the sebaceous gland. The sebaceous gland releases the sebum into the sebaceous duct. This sebaceous duct is connected to the hair follicle. The sebum is a fluid that is secreted in order to protect the skin and make it waterproof. The sebaceous glands are distributed over the entire body except the palms and soles. They are present most abundantly on the scalp, face and the neck.
When the pore is filled with sebum and sloughed off cells it becomes clogged. The sebum plug then undergoes a chemical reaction. This results in the oxidation of melanin. Melanin is a pigment which is responsible for the skin color. Oxidation of melanin gives a black appearance to the comedone. So it is known as blackhead. Blackheads appear as small, flesh-colored black bumps. They can also appear as yellowish little bumps embedded into the pores of the skin .The skin surrounding the blackheads may appear rough and of an uneven texture.
Blackheads most commonly occur on the nose, ears and other parts of the face.
Mechanism in the formation of Blackheads
According to some medical practitioners, blackheads are the first stage in the development of acne. Propionibacterium acnes, is a bacterium that is normally present on the surface of the skin. These bacteria use the sebum as their main source of nutrition. During puberty or during hormonal changes in the body the sebaceous glands enlarge resulting in an increased production of sebum. The excess amount of sebum then gets deposited into the sebaceous duct. From the sebaceous duct it is transferred into the hair follicle. This results in clogging of the pore and the sebaceous duct. When the pore is exposed to air then it turns black in color due to the oxidation of melanin.
There are many conditions that may cause blackheads or lead to the aggravation of the existing blackheads. Some of these causes are the use of topical oils and also the use of makeup which may lead to the blocking of the sebaceous duct and clogging of the pore. Blackheads are more likely to develop on an oily skin. They also occur commonly during pregnancy and puberty when the body is going through hormonal changes which lead to the excessive production of the sebum. Blackheads are more common in women than in men. Blackheads affect people more commonly in their teenage years.
Many people tend to remove the blackheads by squeezing them with fingers. This may result in the blackhead getting infected and further blocking of the sebaceous duct.