Are They Blackheads?

To most of us, blackheads are a sign of troubled skin and clogged pores. However, what you may be seeing are not actual blackheads, rather they are just that, pores!  Pores naturally contain a threadlike filament (a fiber formed from thickened oil and shed cells) that sometimes make the pores appear more obvious, called “sebaceous figments”. The size of a person’s pores is determined by genetics and larger pores are due to having larger oil glands (called sebaceous glands).  Therefore, larger pores may have more noticeable sebaceous figments, which are often mistaken for blackheads.

No matter what size a pore is, it is the nature of pores to contain these filaments, and we all have them, especially in areas of the face, such as the nose.  Sebaceous filaments appear as uniform dots of darkish pores (due to oxidation of the oil on top), whereas blackheads are larger, inconsistent and are darker. Blackheads are an indication of a clogged pore that may lead to a breakout or is a pore enlarged with skin debris.  A blackhead can be extracted and disappear, and although sebaceous filaments may be extracted to some degree, they will always return again due to normal skin cycles.

What can be done about them? Over- scrubbing and squeezing will damage the pore, and pore strips leave the pore open to collect debris and may appear larger over time.  But, the pore’s surface may be lightened with routine, gentle exfoliation and benzoyl peroxide, or covered with makeup.

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Antioxidants and Age Spots

Brown spots on the skin? Living under a star has its consequences! What you are actually seeing is “free radical” damage from the sun’s UV rays, also known as photoaging or sun damage. Compare this to slicing an apple and seeing it turn brown. To help these spots disappear there are many topical “antioxidant” skin care products available to repair the damage.

But, what actually are “free radicals” and what is so great about “antioxidants”? For a simplified explanation, see below:


Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that have lost an electron (remember science class…) and steal another one from nearby healthy molecules. For our bodies, this sets off a “free radical chain reaction” turning healthy cells into diseased ones and even altering DNA, causing mutated cells (cancer).  See the photo at the end of this article.. This process is called oxidation, and can be seen everyday when a slice of apple turns brown or metal rusts, or you get a brown/sun spot on your skin.

Because our bodies utilize oxygen, free radicals are produced as natural bi-products of metabolism. But, they also exist in our environment from pollution, sunlight, radiation, drugs, pesticides, fried foods, alcohol, and tobacco smoke, just to name a few. So, what can we do about free radicals? The answer is “antioxidants”!


Antioxidants seek out free radicals and replaces the missing electron without becoming a free radical itself! Our body makes it’s own antioxidants from the food we eat, but looses this ability as we age. Therefore, it is a good idea to eat foods with a high antioxidant content, take dietary supplements and use skin care products containing antioxidants.

The photo below shows actual free radical damage to cells in our body:


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