Sebum, the oil that lubricates your skin, can also cause skin problems such as blackheads.
If you see tiny black or brown specks scattered across your nose, chin, and other oily areas, then you're a victim of one of skincare's biggest annoyances: blackheads. Blackheads won't hurt you, but they can leave your skin looking dirty and tempt you to endlessly pick at your pores.
So what causes these dark spots? Ultimately, it's all about the oil.
To understand what causes blackheads, you must first understand what they are. A blackhead is simply a clogged pore. Dermatologists refer to clogged pores as 'comedones'. An open comedone is a blackhead, and a closed comedone is a whitehead.
Comedones develop when your skin produces excess oil. That oil gets trapped, along with impurities and debris, in pores. In the case of an open comedone, the plug turns blackish or brownish as it's exposed to the air.
You may be able to squeeze the pore and get the blackhead out, but doing so tends to get more oil into the pore, creating a vicious cycle of more blackheads. Blackheads can become infected if they fill with bacteria, and squeezing them increases the odds that this will happen.
Think blackheads are caused by a bad diet or stress? Not necessarily. Extreme stress might cause you to slack off on your skincare routine. But stress itself won't directly cause clogged pores.
There's also no evidence that certain foods cause—or cure—blackheads, so there's no need to feel guilty about indulging occasionally. Clogged pores are just the unlucky by-product of skin that produces excess oil. That being said, certain factors do make you more vulnerable to blackheads:
- Oily skin is more likely to develop blackheads, because there's more oil available to become trapped in your pores.
- Hormonal changes, particularly during puberty, can cause your skin to produce more oil. Some medications may also affect your hormones.
- Skincare products such as moisturisers can make your complexion oilier. This doesn't mean you have to skip moisturiser, though. Instead, choose a product marked 'oil-free' or 'non-comedogenic'. Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer – Oil Free protects your skin from the sun, conceals blackheads, and prevents further outbreaks by relying on non-oily ingredients.
- Poor skincare habits: If you sleep in your makeup, allow sweat and pollutants to remain on your skin, or use oil-based cosmetics on an oily or acne-prone complexion, you'll be more vulnerable to blackheads.
- Dry skin would seem to protect you from blackheads, but that's not always the case. When your skin becomes dehydrated, your skin may overreact by producing too much oil. This oil can get trapped in your pores along with dead skin, producing blackheads and flaky, dry skin. Using too many harsh products, spending too much time in the sun, and skimping on moisturiser all increase the odds that this will happen.
- Skin allergies may encourage your sensitive complexion to produce excess oil to protect itself. You may see not only inflamed skin but also blackheads and whiteheads. Fragrances in skincare products are a common culprit, but it's possible to develop an allergy to just about any ingredient. If you have reactive skin, consider using one of the many sensitive skincare products we offer.
Combating blackheads can take a bit of effort and ingenuity, but the right products are your best allies in the fight for clear skin.