Sick of blackheads? Here’s how to keep them at bay!
Have you ever looked yourself in the mirror one morning, and decided that enough is enough, and that it was time to squeeze out that blackhead that is still here after – oh my god – three days? And then have you, after squeezing out one, gone on to squeeze out just about every last one you could find on your nose?
Oh gosh your nod was so loud I could hear it. I’m going to clear up what blackheads are in this article, why there’s less to be scared about than most people think, and what the correct way is to get rid of blackheads. Geez, stop squeezing!
What are blackheads?
A lot of people think blackheads are bits of dirt trapped in your skin because they’re black. In fact, all they are is a pore that’s been blocked up with some dead skin debris and sebum to cause an opening at the surface of your skin. Because it’s at the surface, contact with air causes it to oxidize and turn black. You’ll also hear dermatologists refer to blackheads as an open comedo, whereas whiteheads are called a closed comedo (comedones are basically just clogged hair follicles). Some people are genetically pre-disposed to having more blackheads, for example those with oily skin types. But you can also increase the likelihood of blackhead appearance if you wear heavy makeup or use thick moisturizers like Vaseline on the face.
Squeezing blackheads out is a bad idea, because it could cause damage to the skin and increase the risk of spreading oils and bacteria from you finger across your face. Washing your face a hundred times a day also doesn’t particularly help the fight against blackheads. In fact, doing so could make it worse by irritating the skin. You’ll still want to stick to your normal twice-a-day cleanse for sanitation, but don’t do more than that.
How to fight blackheads
Depending on the severity and size of blackheads, you can choose from a range of treatments and ingredients I’ve listed below.
💡Do not use benzoyl peroxide
This is not very helpful against blackheads. I’m including this here because a lot of people recommend benzoyl peroxide against blackheads, but it’s not the right ingredient, because benzoyl peroxide fights inflammatory acne and reduces swelling. We’re talking about comedones here – unlike acne, there isn’t inflammation and it’s not caused by a bacterial infection. So don’t waste your time and money.
💡Use salicylic acid to cleanse
Look out for a daily cleanser that contains salicylic acid. It’s a hydroxy acid that acts as an effective chemical exfoliator to get rid of dead skin cells and oils trapped in your pores. Being a BHA, It can penetrate a bit deeper than the surface of your skin and clear excess sebum, and also has anti-inflammatory properties. Note that salicylic acid can be mildly irritating to some skin types, so patch test and consider starting with just a night time cleanse before moving to day time use as well.
💡Exfoliate with hydro acids
You can consider adding on an exfoliating face scrub that contains AHAs and BHAs and other acids. These will remove the top layer of your skin along with the excess amounts of dead skin cells that could further clog your pores. You’ll commonly find glycolic acid (AHA), salicylic acid (BHA) and azelaic acid in these formulas. You’ll want to incorporate exfoliating products into your routine once or twice a week.
💡Try a clay or charcoal mask
Both masks are especially helpful if you have oily skin, because they are able to work deep into your skin to extract oil, dead skin cells and other impurities. Clay masks are believed to be able to loosen and remove clogged pores too. You can put on a mask as a weekly addition to the daily exfoliating cleanse.
💡Use retinoid cream for stubborn blackheads
If the blackhead’s really not budging, try retinoid creams, which are available both over-the-counter or as prescription creams, which contain a higher concentration of a more potent form of retinoid. These will accelerate cellular turnover to help the new skin underneath push through.
A final word
In basketball, the best defence is a good offense. But not so for skincare. Prevention is still your best medicine when it comes to blackheads, which is why you should look for products that are noncomedogenic – i.e. do not block pores. Especially if you have oily skin.
Also, the above methods I’ve described can strip a lot of natural oil from you skin and therefore be drying. So don’t forget to put on moisturizer to restore the right balance in your skin. For those with sensitive skin who’d like to try out retinoid creams, you could consider putting the cream on top of your moisturizer, or to find moisturizer that contains retinoids, which can help reduce the likelihood of irritations.
There, you’re now equipped with a commando to combat your comedo, so stop squeezing!
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