How do blackheads get so bad

Blackheads (comedones): Not just a puberty problem

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Written by Wiebke Posmyk • Medical editor

Our content is based on well-founded scientific sources that reflect the currently recognized state of medical knowledge. We work closely with medical experts.

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Blackheads shouldn't be simply expressed - many people know this. Nevertheless, some sufferers are repeatedly tempted to squeeze and squeeze unrestrainedly - and this may turn the initially small skin problem into a big one. But what exactly are blackheads and above all: What really helps against them?

Whether on the nose, on the upper arm or in the back area: Blackheads, also called comedones by doctors, make life difficult for not only teenagers. Adults can also be affected. Especially in connection with Acne vulgaris blackheads occur frequently, but oily or blemished skin also offers comedones optimal conditions.

What are blackheads? Blackheads are enlarged hair follicles that are filled with sebum, horny substance (keratin) and often with bacteria. Medical professionals refer to blackheads as comedones. The Latin wordcomedonis means something like "eater, gourmet".

Blackheads are particularly common on the following parts of the body:

  • Face, e.g. on the nose
  • move
  • Cleavage and chest
  • Upper arms
  • side neck area

Blackheads appear less often in the armpits or in the groin region.

One distinguishes open and closed blackheads.

Closed blackheads (whitehead): Closed comedones can be recognized as hemispherical and closed nodules about 1 millimeter in size, which lie deep below the surface of the skin and are filled with a horn plug. They are whitish to light yellow in color. If a lot of secretion builds up under the skin and the blackhead grows, it can open up explosively - and thus become an open blackhead.

Open blackheads (blackhead): These approximately 1-2 millimeters large comedones are open to the surface of the skin. Unlike the closed blackheads, open blackheads are mostly dark colored, which is why they are also known as blackheads. The dark color is not caused by dirt, for example. Rather, it is formed through oxidation processes and through the pigment melanin, which is formed in the cells of the sebum glands.

By the way: In the Middle Ages, doctors thought of open blackheads as small worms that reside in the skin and feed on it - hence the name blackheads. The treatment at that time: the places were smeared with honey, in the hope that the worms would stick out their black heads to lick the honey. Then the culprits should be eliminated with a shaving knife.

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