- Blackheads can appear on the nose because of bacteria.
- They’re clogged pores and technically a type of acne.
- Exfoliating can get rid of them.
There’s no doubt about it: Blackheads can be a pain. They’re dark little spots that are seemingly impossible to get rid of, and they always seem to crop up in the middle of your face – on your nose, more specifically. But what are they? Turns out, blackheads (also known as open comedones) are a type of acne, Papri Sarkar, a dermatologist in Massachusetts, told INSIDER.
“They’re clogged pores or hair follicles that collect sebum (the natural oil that the glands on our face make), dirt, skin cells and bacteria.” When the gunk in your pores are open to the air, they oxidize and the surface turns black – resulting in a blackhead. But why do they always seem to be on your nose and not the rest of your face? It all has to do with oil, Sarkar said. “[Blackheads] are more likely to form on the nose because the nose has lots of glands,” she said. “It has more than the rest of the face, which already has more oil glands than the rest of the body.”
Sarkar noted that not every black spot on your nose is a blackhead, though. Some may be sebaceous filaments, which look like blackheads, she said.
“Sebaceous filaments are in the lining of your pores and help sebum get out of the pore and lubricate your skin,” she said. “Sebaceous filaments can become visible if they fill with fats and oils and appear dark. They’re more linear and easier to extract than blackheads.”
Blackheads, on the other hand, are difficult to extract because they’re underneath the skin on your nose. “Because blackheads are hard and trapped inside pores they can’t be ‘scrubbed away’ or washed off,” Sarkar said. “Most often, they need extraction.”
But even if they’re extracted, they could keep coming back because your nose – with all of its oil glands – will continue to excrete oil.
So is it possible to get rid of blackheads for good? Yes, Sarkar said. But it will take patience.
“If you have true blackheads keeping your pores from getting clogged will help to prevent them,” she said. “The simplest way to do this is to make sure you wash your face once a day, especially if you’re sweaty.”
She also recommended trying a few at-home remedies to keep blackheads at bay. Exfoliating can help clear away grime and buildup and clear out clogged pores. Sarkar said using a chemical exfoliant or a physical one (like a washcloth or even brown sugar) will work just fine.
She added that using a topical acid, like glycolic acid or salicylic acid. Looking for another option? Sarkar said retinoids work well. “These are vitamin A derivatives and cause cell turnover (or exfoliate) so you’re less likely to get dead skin cells clogging your pores,” she said. If none of those treatments speak to you, Sarkar said that benzoyl peroxide is always an option. “It goes a bit deeper and has antibacterial properties, too.”
If you’re going to try any of these treatments to clear up your blackheads, Sarkar said to keep in mind that they can be drying or irritating. “Make sure you tailor your cleansing and moisturizing to account for that,” she said. “If skin gets too dry, it is thought to produce more oil which can put you in a cycle of dry and oily patchy skin with acne to boot.”
But if you’re tired of seeing blackheads on your nose and want to get rid of them ASAP, go see a dermatologist to get them removed.
“Because blackheads are like little cysts, they can be extracted,” Sarkar said. “The safest way to do this is at your dermatologist’s office so it’s clean, and produces less inflammation when you’re treating them. Whenever you have lots of inflammation you’re more likely to get a recurrence of a blackhead, acne, or a scar.”
Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.