Blackheads are also known as open comedones. Comedones are bumps on the skin which are caused by blocked hair follicles.
Hair follicles are tiny holes within the skin through which individual hairs grow. These hairs cover the skin all over our bodies, though in most places they are so small and fair that we cannot see them.
Small glands called sebaceous glands are attached to these hair follicles. These glands are responsible for producing an oil called sebum. Sebum is necessary to lubricate the skin and hair and keep it healthy.
However, sometimes excessive sebum production can occur. In these cases, the excess sebum may mix with dead skin cells and other particles, creating a mass that plugs the hair follicle. This plug results in a comedone.
Sometimes these comedones bulge outwards from the surface of the skin, and this is called a whitehead. In other instances, the comedone is open to the surface of the skin and the substance inside of it oxidizes because it is exposed to air, resulting in it taking on a dark, grey-black color. In these cases, the comedone is called a blackhead.
Ultimately, blackheads are a form of acne. Acne occurs when the body produces excessive amounts of sebum, and there are many different reasons why it might occur.
For example, acne can occur when the body experiences hormone changes, such as during puberty, during menopause, or during pregnancy. Stress is known to cause or exacerbate acne, and some believe that poor diet or dramatic dietary changes could contribute to acne. Some medications may also affect sebum production and lead to acne and blackheads.
Some people may simply be more susceptible to acne and blackheads due to genetic factors. It is believed that acne and susceptibility to blackheads could run in families.
Often, people with blackheads on their neck will find them on other areas of the body too, particularly on the chest and back where the thickness of the skin is similar to that of the neck. People with facial acne may find that they have blackheads on both the face and the neck.
Skin on the neck is much thicker than skin on the face. It can therefore be more susceptible to particularly deep and large blackheads. For this reason, blackheads on the neck may simply be more noticeable than those on the face, rather than being restricted to the neck area only.
Existing blackheads can be removed from the skin using gentle pressure. However, excessive squeezing of the skin could result in the blackhead being pushed deeper into the skin, or the skin becoming bruised or otherwise damaged.
1. Wash your hands and neck with a gentle cleanser, rinse clean, and pat dry.
2. Soak a washcloth in warm water and apply to the neck for a few minutes to soften the skin and open up fair follicles.
3. Wipe rubbing alcohol across the affected area.
3. Apply latex gloves or wrap a layer of tissue around the fingertips.
4. Apply gentle pressure with fingertips on each side of the blackhead until the plug emerges from the skin.
5. Once blackheads are extracted, use a gentle cleanser once more on the area, rinse, and pat dry.
If you have particularly deep, stubborn blackheads, you may need to apply the warm washcloth for a little longer to soften up the skin. Taking a warm bath or shower or applying steam to the affected area may also help.
Sometimes it can be helpful to use a comedone extractor to remove blackheads. These metal devices are pressed against the skin to apply targeted pressure to the area around the blackhead. You should follow the instructions outlined above to ensure the skin is cleaned both before and after extraction.
If you are struggling to remove a blackhead with gentle pressure, do not squeeze or pick at the area as this could lead to skin damage and scarring. Instead, it is safer to visit a dermatologist who will have specialist tools and treatments for blackhead removal.
If you persistently experience blackheads on the neck, you may require treatment for acne. Acne treatments might include:
You should also focus on prevention of blackheads in order to reduce the rate at which you develop them. You can help to prevent blackheads by:
Untreated blackheads can sometimes be simply left in the skin without causing further complications. They may become larger as more and more dead skin cells and other particles gather in the plugged follicle. Many people therefore find it favorable to treat the blackheads early to avoid them becoming large and unsightly.
Sometimes blackheads may develop into whiteheads or cysts. This might occur if bacteria enters the follicle but cannot be flushed out due to the blackhead plug. Due to this risk, it tends to be preferable to safely remove the blackhead.