Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by licensed doctors

"What are blackheads?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat are blackheads?


I just turned 15, and I've got these little black and grey bumps on my nose and forehead. It's really embarassing. Are these blackheads? If so, what should I do about them?


First let me say a little about what scientists believe causes acne and then I'll explain what blackheads are and how they are related. Scientists believe that there are four major factors that lead to acne: 1) increased production of a protein on the skin called keratin which leads plugging of follicles and the creation of "whiteheads;" 2) increased production of an oily substance called sebum that helps to plug the follicles; 3) breakage of the whiteheads which causes inflammation of the skin; 4) and finally a bacteria called p. acnes that lives on the skin and helps to worsen the inflammation. A blackhead is one form of acne and called an open comedo. It is the result of the plugged follicle containing the excess keratin and sebum. It is frequently associated with a hair follicle which can contribute to its black color. There are several important ways to help limit their formation. First, you can choose a face wash that is designed especially for acne. There are many on the market, and the most common ones contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Second, wash your face gently and with your just your fingertips or hands. Scrubbing your face hard can only make things worse by increasing irritation and inflammation. Finally, avoid oily products for both your hair and your face. If the blackheads are still a problem after all of this you should talk with your primary care doctor about other options,

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.