Friday - October 27, 2006
Squeezing blackheads, whiteheads or pimples is a bad habit that
can lead to infections, darker spots and holes in the skin
I’m addicted to Biore nose strips. OK, I know this may sound a little weird, but I just love to inspect all those black-heads and whiteheads that have been removed from my nose.
For a while, I thought it was just some weird obsession of mine, but after talking to a few of my friends and colleagues, I know I’m not alone.
The strawberry nose (a nose with blackheads and white-heads) is not a very pretty sight yet it’s often seen on adults of all ages. Even people with a vigorous face cleansing routine can’t seem to escape it.
“Blackheads are plugs of sebum, or the oil, in the skin,” says Dr. Norman Goldstein, clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine. “When the oil gets to the surface, air (oxygen) oxidizes the oil and turns it black. It’s not dirt, though there may be dirt on the skin also.
“Whiteheads are oil plugs, or cysts, that have not oxidized and are white. A pimple is the next stage in acne. It is deeper and bigger than a whitehead and may be tender because it goes deeper and presses on nerve endings - hence the pain.”
To prevent or reduce these annoying blackheads and white-heads, Goldstein suggests that you:
* Avoid moisturizers. If you must use a moisturizer, use one that is oil-free and does not clog pores.
* Keep the skin dry. * Stay cool mentally and physically. When you produce too much sweat, you also produce too much sebum.
* If you have blackheads, whiteheads and acne, get moderate sun exposure without a sunscreen. “If you use a sun-screen you don’t get ultra-violet light to dry up the pimples,” he explains.
* Wash your face morning and night, and in between if working out. And use face wash. “Regular soap doesn’t remove enough sebum,” says Goldstein.
* Exfoliate but only in the evening. When you exfoliate, you’re removing the top layer of the protective skin, so if you do it in the day you may get dark spots on the skin from sun exposure.
* If you have a tendency to get blackheads, avoid cosmetics with moisturizing lubrication.
For existing blackheads and whiteheads, Goldstein also recommends over-the-counter drying products that contain sulfur, salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide washes and gels.
Need help choosing a product? Consult a pharmacist or cosmetics specialist at your local drug store. If the problem worsens, see your family doctor or dermatologist.
As for those popular black-head/whitehead peeling face strips, Goldstein doesn’t usually recommend it.
“The Biore-type strips are OK, but I have seen too many patients with rectangular dark areas where the strips were applied,” he cautions.
And no matter what, do not attempt to squeeze them out. It’s a bad habit that can lead to infections, darker spots (postinflammatory pigmentation) and holes in the skin.
“Almost 100 percent of the population has acne at some time of their life,” notes Goldstein. “The nose has the largest sebaceous glands; hence more and severe acne there. But blackheads can be found almost any place on the body including the ears, front and back of the chest, scalp, okoles (buttocks), almost anyplace except the palms and soles (because there are no sebaceous glands there).
“And blackheads and other forms of acne are seen in all races and not just the teenager, sometimes in young children and very often in adults, so-called adult acne.”
Blackheads and whiteheads will most likely never completely vanish from your body. But at least it’s treatable.
“As long as you have hormones and stress and heat and humidity, they will reform,” says Goldstein. “It’s a constant battle, but you can keep it under control. Don’t wait years and years for your acne to get better because you will wind up with scars.”
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