Skin Conditions

Blackheads: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Blackheads: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

What Causes Blackheads?

Blackheads form when the sebaceous glands of skin produce excessive oil. This oil and dead skin cells clog the hair follicles in your skin, producing a bump called a comedone. If the skin over the bump stays closed, it forms a whitehead. When the skin over the bump ruptures, exposure to the air oxidizes it to look black and a blackhead is formed.

Some other factors that can trigger the development of blackheads include:

  • Production of too much body oil
  • Buildup of acnes bacteria on the skin
  • Hormonal changes
  • Irritation of the hair follicles
  • Certain medications, such as corticosteroids, or androgens
  • Harsh skin products and cosmetics
  • Sweating

Symptoms of Blackheads

Blackheads are darker in color; therefore, they are easy to spot on the skin. They are slightly raised, but not painful to touch. At times, these may develop into pimples when bacteria infects the blockage in the hair follicle, causing inflammation.

How are Blackheads Treated?

Blackheads can be treated using both over-the-counter medicines and medical procedures. Your doctor may suggest a treatment on the basis of your condition.

  • Over-the-Counter Medications

Over-the-counter medications are available in the form of topical creams, gels, and pads in drug stores. The drugs contain active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and resorcinol. They work by drying excess oil, killing and reducing the growth of bacteria, and shedding dead skin cells.

  • Prescription Medications

If over-the-counter treatment doesn’t work for you, your doctor may prescribe you stronger medications that contain vitamin A, such as tazarotene, tretinoin, and adapalene. These medicines prevent the formation of plugs in the hair follicles and promote more rapid shedding of dead skin cells. These medications are applied directly to your skin. Your doctor may also prescribe you oral medications such as antibiotics that may be particularly helpful if you also have pimples or cysts in addition to blackheads.

Medical Procedures

For those who want quick results or can’t endure the side effects of these medications can consider other blackhead treatments as well that are provided at the doctor's office. Following are a few such procedures used by dermatologists, either alone or in combination with medications to treat your blackheads:

Microdermabrasion: During this procedure, doctors use a special instrument to remove the top layers of your skin. The procedure is performed by a professional cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist and takes between a half-hour to two hours depending on the size of the area to be treated. Microdermabrasion removes clogs that cause blackheads.


Chemical Peels: Chemical peel is another way to remove the top layers of the skin. It also removes clogs and helps to get rid of dead skins cells that contribute to blackheads. In this procedure, your doctor repeatedly applies a mild chemical solution, such as salicylic acid on your skin. The top layers of the skin peel off over time, revealing smoother skin underneath.


Laser and Light Therapy: In this technique, the doctor uses tiny beams of intense light to kill bacteria that causes acne. Not only does the medication kill bacteria, it also reduces the size and activity of the oil glands over a few months, without damaging the top layers of the skin.

The Bottom Line

At last, you must know how to prevent blackheads if you don’t wish to spend money on these costly medications and treatments.  Make sure to wash your face regularly, eat healthy, and use oil-free products to prevent acne and other skin problems.