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Blackheads, besides being a source of angst for teenagers and adults alike, are little more than a waxy build-up trapped beneath the skin’s surface. Blackheads are simply a form of acne, and in fact, they are the first stage of a pimple, before bacteria causes infection and the bump to redden and swell.
In more complicated terms, blackheads occur when sebaceous glands secrete too much of substance called sebum into hair or sweat follicles, and as a result, the sebum, a thick, oily substance, gets caught beneath the skin rather than being discharged as usual. Too much sebum means a blackhead.
What is Sebum?
Sebum is a yellowy substance mostly composed of wax and lipids, or fat. Sebum’s function in the body is to coat hair on its route to the surface then be released from the hair follicle, helping to protect the skin by keeping it adequately moist. In some places of the body, such as the nose, sebum is released through sweat pores rather than hair follicles, again with the same protective purpose in mind. However, too much of a good thing can be bad: when people reference oily skin or hair, it is an overabundance of sebum that causes the condition, and when people get blackheads, it is because there is so much sebum that pores get clogged with it.
The human body has sebaceous glands everywhere except the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, but these glands are most densely packed in areas where hair grows, such as the scalp, the chin, and eventually, the chest. The job of sebaceous glands is to produce a substance called sebum, which is meant to help with lubricating and waterproofing the skin.
Unfortunately, from time to time, and especially during puberty, sebaceous glands become a little over zealous and produce excess sebum, and that’s when blackheads begin to appear.
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