You know them as those pesky clogged pores on your T-zone, but you’ve always wondered: Do blackheads lead to acne breakouts?
Acne is one of the most common, yet misunderstood, conditions on the skincare spectrum, particularly when it comes to how acne forms. Clogged pores — blackheads and whiteheads — take root in our skin every day. However, what most people don’t realize is that blackheads (stubborn clogged pores that contain oxidized oil, dirt, and dead skin cells) are actually a type of acne. They’re classified as noninflammatory acne, and they can often be precursors to inflammatory acne. That’s the stereotypical type of acne you think of — red, angry, puss filled pimples. So how do blackheads turn into pimples? P. acnes bacteria.
P. acnes bacteria feed on sebum and the sebaceous glands. When this bacteria feeds it reproduces within our pores at a rapid rate, causing pimples. But the resulting acne isn’t caused by the P. acnes bacteria, rather as a result of the body’s inflammatory response to fighting the bacteria.
In short, blackheads lead to acne if they aren’t properly treated.
How can you stop blackheads from transforming into pimples?
The key lies in antibacterial ingredients. When bacteria is nipped in the bud, it’s unable to reproduce and trigger the body’s inflammatory response. The most popular treatments for acne include salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acids (namely lactic and glycolic acids), retinol, benzoyl peroxide, sulphur, charcoal and clays. These ingredients get deep within pores to kill bacteria and prevent it from reproducing, maintaining healthy skin and cleansing the pores of any troublesome dead skin cells and plugged sebum.
It’s particularly important to note that while antibacterial treatments may work to kill bacteria, there are other skin care steps that need to be taken. Gentle cleansing twice a day before the application of an antibacterial ingredient is critical. However, be careful not to over-cleanse the skin, as this can throw off the skin’s natural pH levels and create a breeding ground for bacteria. Exfoliation is also important to sweep away dead cells, but note that harsh exfoliation granules and ingredients can irritate acne that’s already formed and inadvertently increase inflammation.
If you’re frequently applying antibacterials, your skin may become dried out, causing excess sebum to be produced, which may worsen the problem. Ensure you’re applying a light moisturizer to prevent this from occurring. Utilizing a moisturizer that contains antibacterial ingredients as well is a great choice for those looking to take a whole approach to fighting bacteria. Great antibacterial moisturizer ingredients include tea tree oil, honey, sweet orange blossom oil, and clove oil.
Can I remove my blackheads myself?
Blackheads can be unsightly, and many wonder what they can do to remove or extract them. In some cases, it’s best to leave blackhead extractions to a professional but it is possible to take care of them at home, as long as it is done properly. Improper blackhead removal techniques can exacerbate the issue, causing further inflammation that can lead to scarring and more breakouts. If you do decide to attempt blackhead removal at home, ensure you’re only touching your face with clean hands and clean tools (try the Dr. Pimple Popper Comedone Extractor) and applying antibacterial treatments immediately after extraction. Maintaining clean skin is imperative in preventing further blackheads and breakouts.
If you’re completely stuck and have problematic blackheads lead to acne and are resistant to over the counter treatments, it’s time to see a dermatologist. While antibacterials can help fight breakouts, they aren’t always enough to completely clear the skin; skin that’s under stress and incredibly inflamed needs a doctor.