Blackheads don’t mean your skin is dirty. Melanin, which is what gives skin its color, is found in sebum, too. When that melanin is exposed to air (what’s called oxidation) it turns dark, and that’s what gives blackheads their typical color. So resist the impulse to scrub your skin hard to remove the “dirt,” since that’s not what’s causing
pimples, plus scrubbing can irritate skin and make acne even worse.
Blackheads are also called “open comedones.” If you’re decided to talk to a dermatologist she may refer to blackheads by another name: a comedone. This is a small, flesh-colored, white, or dark bump that reaches the surface of the skin (they’re what make your skin feel rough and sandpaper-y). Blackheads are called “open comedones” because the bump has surfaced; by comparison, a whitehead is a “closed comedone” because it’s beneath the skin. Both are what’s called “non-inflammatory acne,” whereas papules and pustules (those bigger, painful zits) are considered “inflammatory acne.”
Blackheads are the first stage in the progression of a pimple. When too much sebum is produced and there are too many dead skin cells, microcomedones (which aren’t visible to the naked eye) are formed—setting the stage for blackheads. From there, if a blackhead isn’t treated, it can progress to a whitehead below the skin, and then on to a larger, more inflamed papule or pustule. So keeping your skin free from blackheads, as much as possible, can help your acne from getting much worse.