During puberty, boys' bodies begin to produce large amounts of testosterone, which in turn leads to over production of the body's natural moisturiser, sebum. Though sebum has an important part to play in the natural regulation of your body’s chemistry, in excess it can block up your pores, trap dead cells and lead to acne and blemishes. A blocked pore is the perfect environment for bacteria to grow, being warm and airtight, so you want to get rid of the blockage before your pore becomes infected. Blemishes don’t have to be isolated to the face, either: 60% of people will also suffer acne on their backs and 15% get blemishes on their chests. Men are more susceptible than women because our skin is more oily and our pores are larger. |
Wherever sebum can build up, blackheads can form (medical name “open comedones”, fact fans). This can be your chin, your forehead, the sides of your nostrils, anywhere. Very oily skin may also develop blackheads on the cheeks and the tip of the nose, as well as chest and back. The black-ish dot is a small lump of congealed oil that blocks up your pore and creates a blemish. If left alone the blackhead will build up until it stretches the pore permanently. Once a blackhead becomes infected it becomes a whitehead and the skin around the infected area can become red and inflamed as your antibodies try to fight off the infection. It is essential to take care of blackheads as soon as they develop.
There are ways and means to tackle blackheads. If a blackhead is large, uninfected and fairly close to the surface of the skin you can engage in some DIY skincare and extract it yourself:
- Soften the skin by having a hot (but not scalding) shower or by holding your face over a bowl of steaming water to open up your pores.
- Now here's the satisfying bit. Form pads around your fingers with tissue and gently push until it pops out - don’t overdo it though, as too much pushing can damage the skin and lead to permanent blemishes and scarring.
- After that’s done apply an antiseptic cooling moisturiser to kill any bacteria on the surface of the skin before they enter the open pore.
- After that it’s simply a case of regular skincare and daily cleansing with the right facial wash and twice-weekly use of a facial scrub to shift pore clogging debris and dead cells.
Be careful not to get too enthusiastic when it comes to the cleaning, though. Scrubbing your face too often can also cause all sorts of problems: not least an increased risk of blackheads and blemishes as your body produces more sebum to replace that which you have removed. It isn’t true that removing a blackhead causes more to develop, but excessive poking and prodding of the epidermis can lead to increased sebum production and thus an even greater risk of blemishes and blackheads forming. Too much cleaning can be counterproductive to say the least.
Oil based make-ups are a common cause of acne, blemishes and blackheads for women. While that obviously isn’t such an issue amongst men, any New Romantics, professional clowns or cross dressers should take note. Best to stay vigilant.
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