Blackheads are a very common skin condition that mostly affects your face, neck, back and chest. There are a variety of causes, including too much oil on your skin and hair follicle irritation. Blackheads commonly affect adolescents, but they can occur at any age.

Blackheads are small bumps on your skin that look like dark spots because they’re clogged.


What are blackheads?

They can be considered as a type of acne. They’re open bumps on the skin that fill with excess oil and dead skin. They look as if dirt is in the bump, but an irregular light reflection off the clogged follicle actually causes the dark spots. Blackheads aren’t pimples. Pimples are small, painful, discolored bumps with a thick, white-yellow fluid (pus) at the tip.


Who do blackheads affect?

Blackheads typically affect teenagers and young adults undergoing hormonal changes. However, many adults continue to have acne into their 20s, 30s and beyond. Some even develop blackheads for the first time as adults.


How common is this condition?

Blackheads are very common. Some researchers suggest that blackheads affect nearly everyone during their lives. They’re most common among adolescents, but up to 10% to 20% of adults have blackheads too.


How do blackheads affect my body?

Your face (especially your nose and chin, sometimes your cheeks), neck, back and chest are most likely to develop blackheads. However, oil (sebaceous) glands are all over your body. They release an oily lubricant called sebum that helps keep your skin and hair hydrated and shiny. As a result, though it isn’t common, blackheads sometimes appear on your butt, thighs, ears and armpits.

Blackheads don’t seriously affect your physical health, but they can affect you psychosocially (how society and social groups affect your mind) and psychologically (your self-perception and behavior). Blackheads can cause anxiety, depression, mood disorders and suicidal thoughts.


Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of blackheads?

Blackheads are a milder form of acne. Dark, open bumps in your skin are the main characteristic of blackheads. They don’t hurt or feel uncomfortable like whiteheads.

What causes blackheads?

Sebaceous glands are located all over your body, and most of them connect to hair follicles. Blackheads and whiteheads are comedones (singular comedo). Blackheads are open comedones, and whiteheads are closed comedones. Comedones occur when a hair follicle/sebaceous gland becomes inflamed. Inflammation can occur as a result of:

  • Increased sebum (oily material produced by the sebaceous gland) production.
  • Abnormal formation of keratin (the protein that helps make your hair, skin and nails).
  • Increased hormones (androgen).
  • An increased presence of bacteria on skin that causes acne.


Are blackheads contagious?

Blackheads aren’t contagious. You can’t spread blackheads to another person through skin-to-skin contact.