Those ugly, little black spots seem to have a knack for popping up at the most unexpected of times, like when you have a date with that special someone or an important job interview. And of course, they always appear in the most prominent places too. How annoying is that? Luckily, with the right skincare products and habits, you can treat and prevent them from reappearing.
How are blackheads formed?
To treat, and especially prevent, blackheads, we need to know how they are formed. Basically, hormones can cause excess oil (sebum) to be produced inside the pores. The oil can’t flow to the surface as it normally does, but remains trapped inside the pores and gets mixed up with dead skin cells that cannot be shed normally. This mixture of sebum and skin cells oxidizes when exposed to air, and takes on a black colour.
How to get rid of blackheads
To effectively get rid of blackheads, you need to reduce excess oil and remove dead skin cells so that they won’t clog the pores. Here’s how:
- Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser to remove dirt, excess oil, makeup and everything else that’s on your skin that can clog the pores. You can also use it with a washcloth for a gentle exfoliating action that will help slough off dead skin cells. Instead, beware of bar soaps cos these can contain ingredients, such as Sodium Bicarbonate, that can strip skin of proteins and lipids, causing irritation and dryness, which could lead to excess oil production (Source).
- Use an exfoliant with Salicylic Acid. This ingredient has the ability to penetrate inside the pores, exfoliating both inside them and also the surface of the skin. This will get rid of all the gunk trapped inside the pores and prevent excess sebum and dead skin cells from accumulating inside them again. Make sure you use a leave-in product for best results. Salicylic Acid needs to remain on the skin to work properly.
- Avoid skin scrubs. Blackheads cannot be scrubbed away because physical exfoliants (ie products that contain beads, microdermabrasion and even washcloths) cannot reach deep inside the pores, where they are located. While gently exfoliating with a washcloth in the morning can be beneficial to prevent the accumulation of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, the other physical exfoliating methods can actually be too harsh and irritating and make matters worse, leading skin to produce too much oil (irritation of any kind can stimulate oil production). Besides, if you use a Salicylic Acid product, you won’t need to exfoliate in any other way.
- Avoid rich and greasy moisturizers. A lot of ingredients used to thicken creams and give them a thicker consistency can be comedogenic and clog the pores. Instead opt for moisturizers with a light or gel-like texture.
- Avoid skincare products with irritating ingredients. As we’ve seen above, irritation can lead to increased oil production, which is what causes blackheads. For this reason, avoid products that contain irritating ingredients such as Alcohol Denat, Menthol, Peppermint, Lemon and other citrusy extracts to name a few.
- Don’t use pore strips. Like physical exfoliants, pore strips too can’t reach the blackheads deep inside the pores, but only remove the superficial part of it. In other words, they’re useless.
- Don’t squeeze! Squeezing can tear open the walls of the pore, allowing the bacteria inside it to spread on the skin and cause pimples and infections. If you really need to remove a particularly stubborn blackhead, use a comedone extractor. Make sure that the area is clean, then warm it up for a couple of minutes with a warm washcloth and pat dry. This will soften skin. Place the comedone extractor over the blackhead and gently press it down. If you find that you can’t extract it easily, give up or you may damage skin. Finally, clean the area with an antiseptic.
- Absorb excess oil. Use oil blotting papers to remove excess oil from skin, preventing it from clogging your pores. Clay masks also help to soak up excess oil.
And be patient! It will take a few weeks before you see a noticeable change. I know the wait can be frustrating, but if you persevere, you will be rewarded by how much better your skin will look and feel.
How do you treat blackheads?