Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"How do pimples and blackheads differ?"
What is the difference between pimples and blackheads? I always thought that blackheads were just one kind of pimple. How do these terms fit together?
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 "pimples;" 2) increased production of an oily substance called sebum that helps to plug the follicles; 3) breakage of the pimples 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. You were correct: the term pimple is a generic term for the skin lesions that are a result of acne. The term includes both blackheads and whiteheads. A blackhead is also called an open comedo in medical language. 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. If blackheads or pimples are a concern you should talk with your primary care physician or a dermatologist who can help further discuss their causes and the best treatments for you.
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