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Blackheads are small, dark-colored bumps that appear on the surface of your skin. They are a type of acne known as acne vulgaris in medical terms. The sites where blackheads are most commonly observed are the nose and chin, but they can be present in other regions. The hair follicles on your skin get filled with sebum and dead skin cells, which accounts for the dark color of blackheads. When they are removed, it can be seen that they are actually lighter in color. Blackheads are not a serious skin condition, but they can be considered an aesthetic concern. 


Your skin has many hair follicles responsible for the growth of facial and body hair. These hair follicles also contain a sebaceous gland that produces oil. Oil produced by your skin is necessary to keep skin soft and prevent it from drying out. Accumulation of oil or sebum along with dead skin cells creates a small bump in the hair follicle region. When the bump appears through the skin, it is visible as a blackhead. Blackheads can clog the opening of the hair follicles.

Certain factors can contribute to the appearance of blackheads. Blackheads are predominant during teenage life. This is attributed to the fluctuating levels of hormones. Females going through menstruation or taking birth control pills may also develop blackheads due to similar reasons. Those who have oily skin types are more prone to develop blackheads. In certain cases, overgrowth of a bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes can also cause the formation of blackheads on the skin. Certain medications such as topical corticosteroids and cosmetic products can also trigger the formation of blackheads. 

Risk Factors And Epidemiology

Although blackheads can form at any age, teenagers going through puberty are at the highest risk. High level of androgen in both males and females contributes to the development of blackheads. Adult females can also develop blackheads if they have altered hormone levels due to menstruation, birth control pills, stress, or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Having an oily skin type is another major risk factor. Frequent shaving, use of harsh cleansers, or excessive use of cosmetic products can also plug your hair follicles.

Blackheads are one of the most common skin conditions worldwide. In America, around 50 million people have some form of acne, including blackheads. According to research, 80% of people in the age range of 11 to 30 suffer from acne at least once in their life. 

Signs And Symptoms

Blackheads are easy to spot because of their dark color. They are most commonly observed along the bridge of your nose and the bump of your chin. But they can also be noticed in other regions such as the back, arms, chest, neck, and shoulders. Blackheads are a mild version of acne. They are non-inflammatory in most cases. They are different from pimples which are caused by inflammation of clogged hair follicles. They can be a cause of social embarrassment for some people. 


The diagnosis of blackheads is made on the basis of its clinical presentation alone. Your doctor may ask for a brief history. Questions will include onset, duration, and severity of blackheads. If you are a female, your doctor may also ask about periods in which acne flares up. These are associated with the menstrual cycle and a few other factors. Close inspection will indicate the sites where blackheads are present. Unless you have inflammatory acne elsewhere on your skin, no other diagnostic tests are required. 

Differential Diagnosis

Blackheads and acne should be differentiated from other diseases with bumps or nodules. These conditions include measles, chickenpox, herpes zoster, impetigo, varicella, erythema multiforme, and other skin diseases. 


Treatment of blackheads varies depending on their severity and your skin type. There are a lot of remedies that promise the complete removal of blackheads, but not all of them are reliable. Begin with gently cleansing your skin with a cleanser suited for your skin type. This reduces oil buildup and removes dead skin cells. Nose strips are available to remove blackheads, but they should be used with caution. Often, they can further irritate your skin. Use non-comedogenic makeup products that do not block your pores. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing your nose or skin regions to remove blackheads. They can worsen the problem. Use of tweezers, metal blackhead remover, or other tools should also be avoided unless done by a professional. If you have very oily skin, consult a dermatologist to aid in properly managing your skin.


Over-the-counter and prescription medications are available for the treatment of acne and blackheads. Common ones include salicylic acid, azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide, tretinoin, and tazarotene. It is better to consult a dermatologist before using any medication on your skin, as it may make the problem worse in some cases. 


Blackheads usually disappear on their own when you transition from teenager to adulthood. Females may have recurrent blackheads compared to males. Adopting a care routine suited for your skin can help diminish the appearance of blackheads. 


It is difficult to prevent blackheads during periods of hormonal fluctuations. However, you can lower the risk in adulthood by maintaining a proper skincare routine. Wash your face with a gentle facial cleanser daily. This prevents the blockage of pores by dirt, oil, and dead skin cells. Follow it up with a moisturizer. If you have acne-prone skin, avoid using cosmetic products that may trigger your skin. Always remember to remove your makeup before sleeping for better skin. 

Our clinical experts continually monitor the health and medical content posted on CURA4U, and we update our blogs and articles when new information becomes available. Last reviewed by Dr.Saad Zia on May 01, 2023.




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