Some white heads are bigger than others

Watch the TV for a while and, sure enough, you’ll likely be treated to an advert for some kind of skincare. You know the ones, they’ll normally open with a twenty-year old actor waking up ready for ‘the big day’. Excitedly they make their way to the mirror but, lo and behold, right on their chin lies a pimple, ready to ruin their day. No wait… ruin their life. Luckily the day will be saved just in time and the ad will have a closing shot of our protagonist sitting in a convertible surrounded by implausibly white-toothed friends. It’s all pretty dreamy really, but just what is a pimple and why does it appear in the first place?

What is a pimple?

We all know what a pimple looks like, but why do we get them? To find out, imagine you’ve been shrunk to one-thousandth the width of a human hair, a size that makes a human pore look like a yawning cavern. Now it’s important to note that a pore is actually just the end of a hair follicle, like the ones on top of the head or a particularly grizzly beard; were you to look in you’d probably notice a steady stream of natural oils coming out onto the skin. This oil, called sebum, actually helps to maintain skin, keeping it hydrated and protected from the elements. Just like it does to regular hair, although people often wash it off after a while to feel cleaner.

Head a little deeper into a particularly unlucky pore and you might also see some dead skin cells being carried to the surface, ready to be washed away. Occasionally a collection of these cells and oils can block a pore, forming a cosy home where a roguish bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes to its friends), can live and multiply, leading to the unsightly inflammation and swelling commonly known as a pimple.

Okay, what about a blackhead?

When oil and cells reach the surface of the pore they form a little skin coloured bump called a comedo. If this opens up to the air a reaction takes place with the oil, causing it to turn a rather noticeable shade of black. This is why blackheads have a dot like appearance on the skin, but because there’s no infection, there’s no swelling or pain.

And whiteheads?

Whiteheads are very similar to blackheads but with one key difference. If the opening to a skin pore gets clogged and remains closed it isn’t exposed to air and therefore doesn’t turn black - a little like a sandwich kept fresh in its wrapper.

What about the blue/purple blobs under my chin?

That’s paint. You should probably wipe that off.

What can I do about them?

If you’re unlucky enough to spot any of these baddies don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s thought that 85% of people will suffer from one of these forms of acne in their lives and a whole bunch of solutions are available. In extreme or persistent cases it’s worth seeing a doctor as there might be an underlying cause they can look out for. However, in most cases staying kind to the skin is the way forward.

It might make sense to clean as often as possible, after all, the oil is the thing responsible. Just remember that the pores can overcompensate if cleaned with overly harsh synthetic cleansers, producing more oil than before in an attempt to play catch up with dehydrated skin. This is why the key to healthy skin is the quality not the quantity of care given. With this in mind, consider using natural products a few times a week; for example, our range of organic, cruelty-free coffee scrubs (and no, we’re not just saying that). By scrubbing away dead skin, oils and pesky bacteria from deep within the pores, they help to keep acne away, all the while imparting a deep, healthy glow to the skin.

Prevention is the best cure

Fortunately, most teenage acne clears away over time, restraining itself to the odd pimple in adulthood. However, even that singular pimple can cause panic - just ask that poor soul in the advert. That’s why we recommend keeping the skin at a healthy balance, cleansing daily with oil and exfoliating a couple of times a week. It’s not rocket science but it might just save you a great deal of stress in the long term. Oh, and gain you some remarkably white-toothed friends, of course.