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Everything you need to know about blackheads – Video 16


Blackheads are a very common skin condition that mostly affects your face, neck, back, and chest. There are a variety of causes, including too much oil on your skin and hair follicle irritation. Blackheads commonly affect adolescents, but they can occur at any age.

What are blackheads?

Blackheads are small bumps that appear on your skin due to clogged hair follicles. These bumps are called blackheads because the surface looks dark or black. Blackheads are a mild type of acne that usually form on the face, but they can also appear on the following body parts:

  • back
  • chest
  • neck
  • arms
  • shoulders

Who do blackheads affect?

Blackheads typically affect teenagers and young adults undergoing hormonal changes. However, many adults continue to have acne into their 20s, 30s, and beyond. Some even develop blackheads for the first time as adults.

How common is this condition?

Blackheads are very common. Some researchers suggest that blackheads affect nearly everyone during their lives. They’re most common among adolescents, but up to 10% to 20% of adults have blackheads too.

How do blackheads affect my body?

Your face (especially your nose and chin, sometimes your cheeks), neck, back, and chest are most likely to develop blackheads. However, oil (sebaceous) glands are all over your body. They release an oily lubricant called sebum that helps keep your skin and hair hydrated and shiny. As a result, though it isn’t common, blackheads sometimes appear on your butt, thighs, ears, and armpits.

Blackheads don’t seriously affect your physical health, but they can affect you psychosocially (how society and social groups affect your mind) and psychologically (your self-perception and behavior).

What is the difference between whiteheads and blackheads?

Blackheads and whiteheads are comedones. Blackheads are open bumps on the skin. They look as if dirt is in the bump, but an irregular light reflection off the clogged follicle actually causes the dark spots. Whiteheads are closed bumps on the skin. They look white or yellowish.

What causes whiteheads?

Sebaceous glands are located all over your body, and most of them connect to hair follicles. Whiteheads occur when a hair follicle/sebaceous gland becomes inflamed. Inflammation can occur as a result of:

  • Increased sebum (oily material produced by the sebaceous gland) production.
  • Abnormal formation of keratin (the protein that helps make your hair, skin, and nails).
  • An increased presence of bacteria that causes acne on your skin.

What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?

  • How severe are my whiteheads?
  • Do I need to see a medical aesthetician or dermatologist?
  • What over-the-counter medications do you recommend?
  • Do I need more serious treatment?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Whiteheads are a common skin condition that affects the majority of people, especially adolescents. Because it mainly affects adolescents, many people attribute whiteheads as part of the transition from childhood to adulthood and don’t see a healthcare provider about them. However, despite how common they are, they can have a severe effect on your mental health. If you notice symptoms of anxiety or depression due to the presence of whiteheads, talk to your healthcare provider.

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