- On darker skin, blackheads have a higher risk of causing long-lasting dark spots, called postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).
- Treat blackheads promptly and maintain a good skin care regimen to reduce the likelihood of blackheads reappearing.
- Blackheads occur on all skin types, regardless of skin color.
Blackheads form when a buildup of excess oil (sebum), debris or dead skin cells clog a hair follicle. Over time, oxygen causes the opening of that follicle to turn black.
Are Blackheads on Black Skin Different?
While the causes of blackheads on black skin are the same as for any other skin color, there is a risk that is associated with blackheads on darker skin.
When inflammation of any kind occurs on dark skin, long-lasting dark patches commonly occur. These patches are due to a natural skin response called postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation results when the deepest layer of the epidermis is disrupted by inflammation or other trauma. This disruption causes melanin to migrate into the dermis where it becomes trapped – sometimes for long periods of time.
Why Do Blackheads Carry a Higher Risk of Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation on Black Skin?
Blackheads, whiteheads and different types of acne may cause a mild inflammatory response within the skin. This localized swelling may encourage an overproduction of melanin or hyperpigmentation, which results in a dark spot or patch on the surface of skin. These dark spots can linger long after the blackhead itself has cleared.
The presence of more active melanocytes, or melanin producing cells within dark skin, means darker skin is at greater risk of developing long-lasting spots of hyperpigmentation. PIH isn’t a scar, so the effect isn’t permanent. But the dark spots can last up to 2 years and even longer in some cases.
Not all blackheads will cause significant inflammation or result in PIH. But because the risks of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation are higher in those with darker skin, it’s important for those with black skin to take steps to prevent inflammation. Blackheads should be treated early and regularly to prevent infection.
Excessive irritation caused by skin care products which are too strong can cause PIH all on its own.
How to Remove Blackheads from Black Skin
- Before blackhead removal you’ll need to wash gently with warm water and a cleanser which matches your skin type. Avoid using regular soap as it can clog pores and dry out your skin. You’ll also want to avoid cleansers with alcohol or fragrances which can cause irritation.
- After cleansing, it’s a good idea to soak your skin with a warm, damp cloth. Leaving a warm washcloth on your skin for a few minutes will help to soften the skin and open your pores. After you remove the washcloth, gently pat your skin dry.
- Using a comedone spoon, apply gentle downward pressure while pressing the forward edge of the spoon against the side of each blackhead. Don’t force it if this doesn’t work. If the blackhead doesn’t come out easily, proceed to the next step.
- Apply a gentle, over-the-counter medicated treatment like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to the area, and wait a day before trying again.
Remember: Don’t ever squeeze or poke a blackhead. This can potentially force bacteria into the surrounding tissue which may increase inflammation and the risk of PIH on dark skin.
To prevent the formation of blackheads in the future, always use non-comedogenic skincare products and exfoliate regularly.
For a deeper dive into treating blackheads, see our in-depth guide on blackhead removal.
- Davis, E. C., & Callender, V. D. (2010). Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation: a review of the epidemiology, clinical features, and treatment options in skin of color. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 3(7), 20–31. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921758/
- Kubba R, Bajaj A K, Thappa D M, Sharma R, Vedamurthy M, Dhar S, Criton S, Fernandez R, Kanwar A J, Khopkar U, Kohli M, Kuriyipe V P, Lahiri K, Madnani N, Parikh D, Pujara S, Rajababu K K, Sacchidanand S, Sharma V K, Thomas J. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation in acne. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol [serial online] 2009 [cited 2019 May 23];75, Suppl S1:54. Available from: http://www.ijdvl.com/text.asp?2009/75/7/54/45488
- Rodrigues, Michelle & Ayala-Cortes, Ana. (2018). Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation. DOI:10.1007/978-3-319-70419-7_14