Pimples and blackheads can appear at any time, but you may notice more of the unsightly spots during the warmest months.
People are more diligent about applying sunscreen and they sweat more, all of which can contribute to clogging of the pores, she noted.
Why do they form?
It’s less about dirt, and more about oil. Your skin has glands that produce oil, which is a good thing.
But too much oil can mix with dead skin cells and other grime on the surface of your skin and form a plug — a whitehead — that clogs a pore. When whiteheads are exposed to air, they oxidize, turn black and become blackheads.
Blackheads and whiteheads are one spectrum of acne. The dreaded pimple is more about bacteria and inflammation. The stuff clogging your pores is a very good environment for bacteria to live and grow,
Why would my skin produce too much oil?
Hormones can boost skin oil production, especially around women's periods, Stress increases the hormone that drives oil production, as do sugary foods,
What’s the best prevention and treatment?
Wash your face regularly and gently. People often think scrubbing will prevent blackheads, but it increases the shedding of skin cells and causes further clogging of the pores, Karen noted.
Remove any makeup before you exercise and wash your face afterwards, or use face wipes to get rid of the dirt and sweat so your pores can breathe a little bit more, she added.
Once blackheads and pimples appear, there are many options.
- Salicylic acid helps rid the skin of the dead skin cells that are clogging the pores.
- Benzoyl peroxide is anti-inflammatory, so it limits the inflammation that leads to pimples or pustules. (It bleaches towels, clothing and bedding, so use white towels or wash it off completely, Karen cautioned.)
- Vitamin A creams, or topical retinoids, help to unplug the pores, fade away pink spots and decrease inflammation. Not everybody can tolerate them because they tend to be very irritating, Karen noted. You have to try them slowly in small amounts. Be aware they can make you more sun sensitive.
- Antibiotics, given topically or orally, can be of some help to decrease inflammation.
Should you ever pop or squeeze?
Don’t do it! Our experts warned that while picking can be tempting, it can lead to small scarring.
You might also increase the amount of inflammation that’s already there.
You’d be better off putting benzoyl peroxide on a pimple than to try to pop it.
There is one time it’s OK to squeeze, according to Karen. If a blackhead is “super ripe”; and you
absolutely can’t resist getting rid of it:
- Clean your face and use clean fingers
- Very gently apply pressure to the periphery of the black bump
Does diet matter?
The literature has gone back and forth as to whether what you eat plays a role. But having acne is not
always “a sign that they have a bad diet, that they’re eating too much chocolate or greasy foods”
Some people can eat a chocolate bar a day and nothing happens; while others can look at a chocolate
bar and break out, Jacob noted. Genetics may be a factor in how your body reacts.
Her advice is to adjust your diet as part of your strategy to clear up your skin.
Keep wearing sunscreen
Don’t avoid sunscreen because you’re worried it’s going to make you break out. There are many good options targeted for acne-prone skin, both dermatologists said. Look for a gel-based, lightweight formulation that works for you.