It’s important to be gentle when treating blackheads on dark skin tones. Never squeeze, poke, or pop blackheads. Rough treatment can cause more inflammation and increase the risk of hyperpigmentation.
Blackheads are caused by a buildup of oil, debris, and dead skin cells. This buildup clogs pores and forces them to stay open. Oxygen then darkens the opening of the pore.
Blackheads can happen to people of all skin colors. However, people with darker skin tones face additional challenges. That’s because darker skin contains more melanin, which increases the risk of blackheads leading to long lasting dark spots. This is called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).
PIH occurs when the body senses inflammation and releases extra melanin to protect the skin. Melanin does have a protective effect, both from inflammation and sun exposure, but it can also leave behind dark spots. In some cases, it can even result in thin thickening or scarring.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to successfully treat and prevent blackheads on darker skin.
All types of acne, including blackheads, cause a mild inflammatory response in your body. Melanin has protective effects and is part of the inflammatory response your body uses to protect the skin.
People with darker skin have more active melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin, than people with lighter skin. This means that more melanin is produced during an inflammatory response. Sometimes this leads to dark patches and PIH.
PIH isn’t a permanent scar, but it lasts much longer than the original blackhead. Often, PIH marks will last for around 2 years. However, there are treatment options to help heal PIH marks faster.
If you only have a few small patches, an over-the-counter product like retinoid or lightening cream can help. If you have multiple PIH patches, it can be important to talk with a dermatologist to get medical advice and to learn whether prescription strength treatment is a necessary and suitable part of your treatment plan.
Read more about how hyperpigmentation affects black skin.
Read more about hyperpigmentation treatment.
Finding a dermatologist with experience treating people of color
Finding a dermatologist that specializes in skin of color is an important aspect of treating hyperpigmentation on black skin. Here are a few resources to help you get started:
- Skin of Color Society: The Skin of Color Society focuses on promoting awareness of skin conditions in skin of color. Their site has a search tool that you can use to find doctors in your area.
- Black Derm Directory: You can use Black Derm Directory to find a dermatologist who focuses on treating conditions in black skin.
- American Academy of Dermatology (AAD): A search tool on the AAD website can help you locate a nearby dermatologist. Search filters allow you to search for practices that focus on skin of color.
It’s important to be gentle when treating and removing blackheads on darker skin tones. Rough treatment can cause more inflammation and can increase the risk of hyperpigmentation.
To remove blackheads safely at home, consider following these steps:
- Wash your face with a gentle cleanser: Pick a cleanser that matches your skin type and isn’t overly drying.
- Use a warm washcloth to open your pores: Take a few minutes to set a warm, wet washcloth on your face. This relaxes your skin and opens your pores.
- Dry your face. Move slowly and gently as you dry your face to avoid irritation.
- Try a comedone spoon: You can purchase a comedone spoon at drugstores, mega-retailers, or online. Use this tool to apply light pressure to the blackhead but do not try to force it out. The tool should help blackheads come out easily. If it does not, wait a day and try again.
- Apply a treatment: Use a treatment product that contains an acne treatment like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These treatments can help clean out the clogged follicle.
Avoid squeezing or popping blackheads
It’s important to never squeeze, poke, or try to pop blackheads. When you pinch or squeeze the skin surrounding a blackhead, you create additional irritation and inflammation. This can create an even larger immune response, which can increase the risk of PIH and result in a larger dark patch.
Blackheads develop when oils, debris, and dead skin cells clog pores. Some people experience blackheads along with other forms of acne like whiteheads. Common causes of blackheads include:
- Stress: High stress levels are linked to blackheads.
- Sleep: A lack of sleep can lead to blackheads.
- Genetics: Some families might be at higher risk of blackheads and other types of acne.
- Diet: Some people find that certain foods increase the oil on their faces and the number of blackheads in their skin.
- Skin care: Not having the right skin care routine can make it hard to defend against other causes of blackheads. A good skin care routine can help keep your face free of oils, dead skin cells, and debris.
- Hormones: Hormones affect your skin. For instance, the hormone androgen affects the amount of oil your sebum glands produce. Androgen levels can play a major role in blackheads developing.
You can reduce your risk of hyperpigmentation by taking steps to prevent blackheads. Tips include:
- Finding a skin care routine that works for you: Look for cleansing skin care products that are gentle to help avoid irritating your skin. Harsh cleansers and scrubs can cause negative skin effects like increased irritation.
- Use products that do not clog pores: It’s a good idea to choose sunscreen, moisturizer, and makeup that are labeled “noncomedogenic.” These products are designed to stay out of your pores, and they can help you prevent blackheads.
- Use over-the-counter spot treatments: Having products with ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or vitamin A on hand can be helpful when the need arises to address skin care issues like oily skin. Doing these spot treatments can help prevent clogged pores.
If you’re having trouble managing blackheads with at-home care tips and over-the-counter products, seeing a dermatologist can help. They can prescribe treatments that are strong enough to treat your blackouts and prevent new ones from developing.
People of any skin color can develop blackheads. However, people with darker skin tones are at higher risk of hyperpigmentation that can last long after the blackhead is resolved.
Hyperpigmentation occurs because darker skin has more melanin-producing cells. Melanin has a protective effect. The body sends out melanin as part of its immune response to skin inflammation like blackheads.
Since people with darker skin already produce more melanin, overproduction and hyperpigmentation are more likely to occur.
Treating blackheads gently and taking steps to prevent blackheads from forming can help reduce this risk.