Blackheads happen to the majority of us, and the temptation to squeeze them ourselves is undeniable. But, giving into this temptation can cause more bad than good and lead to more and more blackheads, alongside other issues such as scarring. Continue reading for our top tips on how to treat blackheads and prevent them from returning.
How are they formed?
Blackheads are formed when our pores have been clogged with dead skin cells and excess oils (also known as sebum) from our sebaceous glands. They have open surfaces and appear dark in colour which causes the black plug many of us try to squeeze and pull out.
Blackhead Treatments & Prevention
When any form of acne appears on your skin, you may think to use benzoyl peroxide to treat it as it can prevent infections, reduce inflammation and remove any bacteria. However, blackheads are not inflammatory or caused by bacteria, so using benzoyl peroxide will not treat them but using salicylic acid will.
Salicylic acid breaks down the substances that clog our pores, such as excess oil and dead skin cells. Using a cleanser that contains salicylic acid can achieve this whilst also removing any other residue, dirt and makeup.
It’s important to always check the ingredients to see what strength of salicylic acid is used, as it can vary anywhere between 0.5% to 5%. If you have sensitive skin, you should opt for a weaker strength of salicylic acid and only use it a couple of times a week instead of a daily basis.
Retinoids are often described as the best methods in successfully tackling many skin issues. With blackheads, they provide exfoliation that can remove excessive amounts of dead skin cells that can lead to clogged pores. This method gently removes blackheads and also contains vitamin A which aids in preventing clogged pores, smoothing and protecting the skin.
Most retinoids need a prescription as they make your skin sensitive to any ultraviolet rays. They should be used ideally before bed, and it’s vital that you stay out of any sunlight when they are applied onto your skin.
Comedogenic ingredients refer to substances that have a high tendency in clogging your pores and can range from cocoa butter, lanolin and coconut oil. Non-comedogenic ingredients however do the opposite, and are recommended to prevent blackheads. Non- comedogenic ingredients to look out for vary from aloe vera, vitamin C and glycerin.
Using masks, cleansers and even exfoliators that contain comedogenic ingredients will do the opposite of what they claim to do and even cause other types of acne and blemishes.
Avoid at home treatments
Using at home treatments such as metal or plastic extraction tools can actually cause more damage to the skin to the actual blackhead itself. If not performed by a professional, you could cause scratches, wounds and even long term scars.
Similarly to at home tools, it can be enticing to use various blemish removing treatments such as pore strips and masks. However these can remove more than the blemish itself and remove vital elements your skin needs to heal and strengthen its barrier such as natural oils and hair follicles. It can also result in dry, irritated skin which makes your sebaceous glands go into survival mode and produce more oil, ultimately causing more blackheads.
AHAs & BHAs
Regular exfoliation can not only prevent blackheads by removing dead skin cells that result in clogged pores, but it can also treat blackheads by gently extract the existing blackhead.
Instead of using harsh, grainy scrubs that can damage the surface of the skin, we recommend using alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs). By working under the skin’s surface, they both extract any residue oil and dead skin cells that clog your pores and that result in blackheads. They can additionally improve cell turnover, overall skin texture and clear up any other blemishes.
Which hydroxy acid to use depends on your skin type. For more dry skin, you should use an AHA as it is milder and softer on the skin. Whereas, if you suffer with oilier skin, it is recommended you use a BHA.
See a dermatologist
Any new treatments to remove and improve blackheads can take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks to fully take effect and work. However, if after this period of time you are still suffering with persistent blackheads, then you may need to seek help from a dermatologist. They can professionally and safely perform blackhead extractions or recommend dermabrasion treatments and also prescription retinoids.