Ever since I first began getting acne since I was thirteen, I have had blackheads. When they first began on my nose, I had no idea what they were—now, I am all too familiar with them, as they have begun popping up on my chin, cheeks, and forehead. They are giant, dark pores on my face, on display for everyone who looks at me to see. They are a pain to cover up, and they’re even more difficult to get rid of. However, since I began researching exactly what they are and what causes them, I’ve started to combat them as best as I can.
Through my research, I found that blackheads are clogged pores filled with sebum that, when exposed on the surface of the skin, turn a dark color as a result of the sebum oxidizing with the air. These pores, called pilosebaceous units, each contain a hair follicle along with a gland that produces sebum. When the gland produces too much sebum, the sebum clumps itself together with dead skin cells, preventing the hair follicle from growing. This is what causes a blackhead—and since there are thousands of pilosebaceous units on a person’s face, it is inevitable that everyone will get blackheads at some point in their life. An oily, acne-prone teenager like me has the highest risk of contracting large amounts of blackheads due to puberty, which causes hormonal imbalances that enable the production of sebum to fluctuate.
I also found that multiple lifestyle choices could lead to blackheads, such as exercising (which produces sweat that can clog pores), wearing makeup (which contains certain ingredients that don’t allow the skin to breath), and consuming foods such as sugar, bread, and milk (which raise hormone and insulin levels). To my dismay, I took part in all three of these activities almost daily.
Since learning more about blackheads, in order to fight back against them, I have tried to not eat as much sugar or bread (I have found dairy completely unavoidable). After I exercise, I make sure to wash my face right afterward. I have stopped wearing liquid foundation every day and have begun to wear mineral powder more often. Through these small changes, I’ve seen big differences in my pores. Furthermore, I’ve also begun to open my pores up with steam and then put on a clay or charcoal face mask once a week. Through opening up my pores, the facemask is able to penetrate them and draw out any dirt or sebum that has accumulated.