The Dos & Don’ts Of Dealing With Blackheads
Most of you will have had the displeasure of a blackhead or two at some point in your lives. Gosh, aren’t they annoying? Here’s everything you need to know about dealing with the pesky little things…
From whiteheads to full-blown pimples, acne is the worst and, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), it affects almost 50 million Americans every year. And blackheads are right up there among the things you definitely do NOT want on your skin. Puffy eyes, dark spots and saggy jowls can do one too, but they’re topics for another day…
So, blackheads. What the heck are they? And why you?
What Are Blackheads?
Also known as open comedones, blackheads are caused by overactive sebaceous glands that create way too much oil than your skin really needs. This oil sits in and blocks up dilated hair follicles where it combines with dead skin cells, opening the pore so much that it breaks through and hits the air where it oxidizes and turns black. This means that contrary to popular belief, blackheads aren’t pores filled with dirt; their dark color is simply because of their reaction with the air. So, there’s one piece of good news, at least. Oh and btw, when all this happens, but the hair follicle remains closed, the bump becomes a whitehead (or closed comedone) rather than a blackhead. The lesser of two evils? Potayto, potahto…
Blackheads are rarely painful because they’re not inflamed like regular pimples. They usually appear on your t-zone (especially on and around the nose), but they can also crop up on your back, chest, arms and shoulders. If you have oily skin, then you’re way more likely to be a blackhead sufferer, but hormonal changes during menstruation, menopause or while taking the pill can also increase oil production and your chances of developing them. And, of course, all the other culprits that send your sebaceous glands into overdrive can also play their part – hi there stress, environmental pollution and lack of sleep.
So, How Can You Win The Blackhead War?
Keeping oil production under control is the absolute key – and you can do that through a number of ways…
1. DO Use A Detoxifying Cleanser
Cleanse your skin morning, night and always after exercising to help remove oil buildup. But remember, steer clear of super harsh products that completely strip your skin and kick-start it to produce even more oil. That’s what we call a vicious circle. Instead, look for more gentle, non-irritating cleansers that help detox your skin while helping to restore balance.
Skin Clearing Charcoal Face Wash is great for this as it contains activated coconut charcoal to mop up any debris (oil included) from the skin’s surface to help decongest your pores and clarify your complexion.
2. DON’T Squeeze Your Blackheads
As tempting as it is to prod, poke and press away at your blackheads, removing them is a fine art and best left to the professionals. Unless you love causing inflammation and possible scarring of course? No, thought not.
Book yourself in for an extraction facial instead of attempting to squeeze them out at home.
3. DO Embrace Salicylic Acid
One of the most effective ingredients for tackling oil production is the mighty salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that works like a chemical exfoliator to dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells which makes them fall off to reveal the fresh, new skin underneath. Unlike alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic and lactic acids, however, salicylic acid goes one step further, penetrating deeper into your skin to target and remove excess sebum.
Our Tea Tree Clear Skin Super Serum harnesses the powers of salicylic acid, combining it with hydrating hyaluronic acid and free radical-fighting niacinamide to help unblock pores and heal your skin. It’s perfect as an all-over treatment, two or three times a week, or use it nightly to spot treat specific areas that are prone to blackheads and other breakouts.
4. DON’T Forget To Moisturize Twice Daily
Keeping your skin as balanced as possible is vital if you want to reduce oil production and maintain healthy skin. Yes, it might feel weird to put something on your skin that has the potential to block your pores, but as long as you choose wisely, your skin will be fine. In fact, more than fine: better. So, never skip moisturizer. It’s important, OK?
Just make sure to avoid occlusive ingredients which really will block your pores. Occlusives create a physical barrier on your skin’s surface to help prevent moisture loss and they’re great for dry, sensitive or dehydrated skin… but they’re terrible for oily or acne-prone skin types as they’re far too thick and heavy. Instead of occlusive ingredients like cocoa butter and mineral oils, choose formulations that contain a blend of humectants (eg. hyaluronic acid and glycerin) to draw in water and emollients (eg. jojoba oil and squalane) to seal it all in.
5. DO Apply Retinol Before Bed
Retinol is considered the cream of the crop as an anti-aging ingredient, but it’s also pretty kick-ass when it comes to tackling breakouts.
It works by speeding up cell proliferation to make dead skin cells get out of town quicker. This, of course, means retinol is ideal for helping to keep your pores clear, allowing your skin to stay smooth and blackhead-free. Not only that, but studies show retinol also has the potential to decrease sebum production. Win-win.
Retinol is a pretty potent ingredient, however, so you should always introduce it slowly into your skincare routine. After patch testing, begin applying it just once or twice a week to clean, dry skin. Then, as your skin acclimates, you can move to three or four times a week, gradually building to every night.
Finally, If your blackheads are seriously getting you down, it might be worth coupling a great skincare routine with a trip to your derm’s office. There are many powerful medications and treatments like dermabrasion and chemical peels that can help keep severe breakouts under control.
So, the moral of the story? Don’t let blackheads get you down. Simply get even.
About Georgia Gould
Georgia is an award-winning beauty writer who has been in the business for over 20 years. British-born, she began her career as a magazine beauty editor in London before moving to San Francisco, CA in 2012 where she now continues her love as a freelance writer and editor. As well as her editorial work, Georgia has created content for many high-profile beauty brands, including Clarins, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Simple and TRESemmé. Her passions include retinol (obviously), golfing, skiing and walking her beloved Schnauzer, Dave.