What Are Blackheads And Whiteheads?

When the pores of the skin become blocked, preventing the sebaceous glands from secreting sebum up through the follicle to the skin’s surface, the skin condition called acne occurs.

Acne is most common in teenagers due to the fluctuations of hormones that occur during puberty.

It can begin as early as the age of ten and continue into the early twenties. Though it will usually clear up on its own, some people will have acne intermittently in adulthood.

This is especially true for women. Some women will have outbreaks of acne during certain times of their menstrual cycles or during pregnancy because the hormones fluctuate a great deal.

Acne occurs mostly on the face but can also occur in other areas such as the back, neck, upper arms, chest, shoulders, legs and scalp.

The lesions caused by acne fall into two primary groups;

  • inflammatory
  • non-inflammatory

The most common, non-inflammatory acne is the type that will be discussed here. Non-inflammatory acne consists of whiteheads and blackheads, both know as comedones.


Closed comedones are called whiteheads. The opening of the pore is either completely closed or nearly so.

The sebaceous gland is blocked by dead skin cells, causing the sebum to build up and result in bumps that can be white or skin colored. These bumps can vary in size but are usually small, some so small that they almost can’t be seen at all.

They will usually drain and heal on their own without leaving any scars.


Blackheads are comedones that occur when a pore is open to the surface of the skin and becomes plugged with dead skin cells.

The sebum, which contains melanin, is blocked. The melanin is what gives skin its color. In blackheads, the melanin oxidizes and turns a blackish color.

A common myth is that dirt is what makes the surface of blackheads appear black. This is not true and the blackheads’ color cannot be washed away.

As with whiteheads, blackheads will often drain on their own and heal. Because the sebum can be very slow to drain to the surface, blackheads can last for a long time.

As with any type of acne, care should be taken to keep the affected areas clean.

Whiteheads and blackheads should never be picked at or squeezed as this can result in an infection developing.
If draining and healing does not occur on its own, a rupture in the wall of the follicle is a possibility.
When this happens, the non-inflammatory acne becomes inflammatory acne.

With proper care, whiteheads and blackheads will clear up on their own without scarring. Avoid touching the lesions as much as possible as this can cause acne to spread, as will picking and squeezing the lesions.

Following a good diet and drinking plenty of fluids will help acne and keep your skin in better condition in general.

Junk food does not cause acne but it certainly doesn’t help. Acne is not a health threat but it can be uncomfortable and even painful.

Most of all, it make a person self-conscious of his or her appearance.

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Category: Skin Problems

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