Those annoying blackheads and pores on my skin!

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Patients often ask me why they have “blackheads” on their nose and what can be done to “clean” them out.  First off let me just tell everyone who owns a magnifying mirror to throw it out!  No one should ever look at their skin under that magnification as it is not only shocking but often traumatic and definitely unrealistic.

What you need to know is that your skin has pores which are basically glorified hair follicles.  Pores are the visible openings of the hair follicles and each pore contains a hair (visible or not) and a sebaceous or “oil” gland.  Each of us have about 5 million hair follicles/pores, with approximately 20,000 on the face alone, believe it or not!  The pores provide a safe passage of oil to the skin surface where it protects the skin.  Most people see the pores across the nose and misjudge seeing the actual normal oil in the pore and what is known as sebaceous filaments and NOT blackheads.  So what is a sebaceous filament then you may ask? Great question!  They are a mix of things like triglycerides, wax esters and squalene and essentially reside in the lining of the pores and their main function is to channel the flow of sebum (or oil) along that lining into the skin to moisturize it.  For most people they will never notice these sebaceous filaments while others will see them as they become visible when the lining of the pores fills with sebum.  A normal sebum-filled pore looks light gray or tan rather than black (like a true blackhead).  People with oily skin or larger pores are more inclined to notice these but again if you use a magnifying mirror you will see them looking frighteningly enormous!  Most people also don’t realize that it is normal for us to have more visible pores across the nose and on each side of it as well as on the forehead – also commonly known as the “T zone”.  We all have a greater number and higher concentration of sebaceous glands here on these areas of our face.

Many even tell me that they could squeeze out something from these suspected blackheads so they insist they MUST be blackheads then, right?  Nope.  You can in fact extrude the sebaceous filaments by squeezing them and they come out like gray or tan/brown little squiggles but know that in 30 days of so they will in fact be back as they are part of your pore structure.  

So what is the difference between a sebaceous filament and an actual blackhead then you may ask?  Although they can look similar they are very different.  Sebaceous filaments exist to assist the seamless flow of oil to the skin without clogging or backing up the pore.  Blackheads on the other hand, occur when there is an overproduction of sebum and it becomes mixed with dead skin cells, bacteria and dirt and then actually clogs the pore causing a visible plug that is dark or black in color.  See, one is a normal function of the pore and the other is not.  

The good news is that both can be treated by the proper products and procedures and NO that does not mean picking, squeezing, scrubbing and for goodness sake do not use those sticky pore strips (basically that’s like putting duct tape across your nose then pulling it off ??)

Side note – who ever came up with some of this stuff anyway???  Back to business…certain skin care products like cleansers, lotions and creams that contain exfoliants can and will help the situation.  Ingredients like salicylic acid, glycolic and lactic acid as well as retinoids will in fact assist in sloughing off the dead skin cells and leave a cleaner pore behind.  In office treatments like microdermablasion and chemical peels can also help by mechanically or chemically exfoliating the skin.   

It is recommended to avoid picking or squeezing either of these by yourself at all costs as it can lead to infection, worsening of the problem and permanent scarring.  Medical extraction is available and should be performed by someone knowledgeable and practiced in the specifics of this procedure.  A properly trained person with the right tools can safely and gently take care of sebaceous filaments and blackheads if you want the quick fix of picking ??  We are happy to help find the right treatments for you if you find yourself plagued with this problem.

Feature product that helps with pores and blackheads :  Glycolic Elite 10% Moisturizing Cleanser

Glycolic Elite 10% Moisturizing Cleanser is a rich, soap-free cleanser that uses 10% glycolic acid to gently exfoliate, cleanse and smooth the skin.  Formulated with a rich blend of antioxidants which includes, liposomal-vitamins A, C and E, green tea extract and Co-Q10.  Glycolic Elite 10% Moisturizing Cleanser assists in minimizing free radical-induced skin damage while aiding in the restoration of healthy looking skin.  Good for all skin types.

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