Blackheads are a type of acne and often occur as blackheads on arms, the face, back, chest, and neck. These are small bumps that develop when hair follicles get clogged. Each follicle has a sebaceous gland that is responsible for producing an oil called sebum. This is a naturally occurring oil that keeps the skin soft and moisturized. When this oil and some dead skin cells accumulate in the opening of the follicle, it creates a clogged pore called a "comedo". In the case of blackheads, the comedo is often dark or black.
Distinguishing a blackhead from a whitehead can be quite confusing. One noticeable difference between a blackhead and a whitehead is the color of the clogged pore. When comedo forms and the skin on top of the pore remains closed, it creates a whitehead. When the skin on the pore breaks open, air exposure causes the comedo to darken or turn black, thus, creating a blackhead.
Blackheads are more common on the face but can also appear on the arms, among other parts of the body. There are many different factors that could trigger the development of blackheads on the arms, such as:
Compared to other types of acne, blackheads are milder and easier to treat. Some of the most recommended treatment methods are:
Most acne medications are available at most drugstores and grocery stores and can be bought without a prescription. These come in different forms but gels and creams are the most popular. The most common ingredients of such medications are benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and resorcinol. What these do is treat blackheads by killing the bacteria that causes it, stopping or slowing down the production of oil, and drying the skin to force it to shed dead skin cells more regularly.
For severe cases of blackheads, a dermatologist can prescribe stronger medications that contain Vitamin A, which is effective in preventing the formation of comedo and inducing the shedding of dead skin cells. Active ingredients in prescription acne drugs include adapalene, tazarotene, and tretinoin. For patients suffering from a combination of blackheads and pimples or any other type of inflamed acne, topical medicines that contain benzoyl peroxide and antibiotics can be prescribed. Make sure to wash hands before and after applying such gels or creams and to follow the doctor's instructions strictly.
Manually removing blackheads is an easy and inexpensive way of getting rid of them. Some use pore strips, a round loop extractor, or their fingers to force the plug out of the pore. Although these are effective, it leaves the pore open, giving dirt and bacteria a place to build up again. Some people recommend using a toner or any other product that closes or minimizes pores right after blackheads are removed. It is important, however, to make sure that removal is done properly. Popping blackheads out of pores does not guarantee that all the buildup and bacteria are removed.
Dermatologists could recommend various treatments, depending on the severity of the blackheads and the sensitivity of the patient's skin. One of the most popular methods of treating blackheads is microdermabrasion. This involves scrubbing the surface of the arm skin to remove clogs in the pores. This can be quite painful since it sands a bit of the top layer of the skin.
Chemical peels make use of a chemical solution that is strong enough to shed the top layers of the skin, including the blackheads, to reveal the smoother layer underneath. There are milder types of peels that can be purchased in drugstores or grocery stores but if blackheads are excessive, the patient should consult a professional skin care specialist.
The most effective but slightly expensive method is Laser and Light therapy. Using intense laser beams, blackheads on arms are treated without damaging the skin. Since a laser targets the deeper layers of the skin, the treatment is a lot more efficient and the results last longer than other skin care treatments.
Aside from making arms look dark and ugly, untreated blackheads can also cause worse blemishes like pimples or acne cysts. A clogged pore that remains clogged could become bigger as the sebaceous gland continues producing oil. However, when a patient decides to manually remove it, it must be done properly, with clean hands, and the right tool. This is to ensure that there will be no bacteria left and that it won't rip the skin and cause permanent scarring.
As with any type of medical condition, prevention is better than cure. Simple things to do to prevent blackheads include: