Blackheads are one of the worst annoyances when it comes to skincare. They are usually not big enough of a problem to warrant a trip to the doctor, unlike acne, but serious enough to cause you stress every time you look in the mirror. However, understanding what they are can easily help you minimize the presence of them or get rid of them completely! Here’s a little breakdown about them as well as 7 awesome ways to rid of and prevent blackheads from coming back.
Blackheads are simply pores that are clogged with a mixture of sebum (your skin’s natural oil), dead skin cells, and sometimes dirt particles. They are actually considered a mild form of acne in the medical world. When exposed to air and light throughout your day, certain metals and debris in the mixture oxidize and become a darker color, therefore making the clogged pore look “black.” If you don’t know what “oxidize” means, it’s a process that is very common in the world where a chemical reaction occurs in the presence of oxygen. When a metal rusts or an apple turns brown after being cut, it is all because of oxidation. So now that we have a better understanding of what they are, here are 7 ways to treat and prevent them!
1. Clays. When it comes to removing blackheads, there are 3 general ways we can do this: Extract them, Dissolve them, and/or Reduce pore size. Clays are amazing for extracting blackheads. Bentonite clay works exceptionally well in this case because the minerals in the clay hold a natural charge, which add to the extraction power when the clay dries on the skin. Although pore strips are fun to look at after peeling off, a bentonite clay mask will be a lot stronger and more efficient when it comes to extracting deeply buried blackheads. The use of clay masks can leave your skin dry so make sure you follow up with a toner and moisturizer afterwards!
2. Salicylic acid. When looking for ways to dissolve the blackheads, salicylic acid is one of the best options. Found as an ingredient in many cleansers and products for acne, salicylic acid helps by slowing down skin shedding in follicles (pores) to prevent clogging as well as breaking down blackheads and whiteheads. It works as a keratolytic, which breaks down and softens a protein called keratin. When targeting blackheads, try to look for a “leave-on” product with salicylic acid instead of a cleanser so that it has time to work. Dissolving a blackhead can take time so while some might take a couple of days to a week dissolve, others might take longer or simply stop dissolving after loosening up a little.
3. Enzymatic Exfoliator/Granular Exfoliator. An enzymatic exfoliator is a product that removes dead skin cells off the surface of the skin by digesting and breaking down proteins, oils, and debris. Cleansers and masks with ingredients like papaya, pineapple, and rice enzymes are most popular. On the other hand, granular exfoliators are products that contain small granules to debride dead skin cells. Cleansers and masks with ingredients like bentonite, charcoal, pumice, sugar, or salt make for great exfoliators. Exfoliating not only helps remove and break down blackheads, but it also make your skin glow radiant, lively, and healthy!
4. Toners. There are many ways to reduce pore sizes (enough for a future article!), but toners are a great option. Toners that are great for acne will probably serve you best. Look for ones with ingredients like aloe vera, tea tree oil, and witch hazel. Toners targeted for acne will not only keep your skin moist to slow down oil build up and dense clogging, but they will also help fight off microbes while your pores open after a nice cleansing!
5. Retinoids. Retinoids are different forms of vitamin A and are another great option for targeting blackheads. They work by increasing the break down rate of cells on the surface to allow new cells to grow and migrate towards the surface. By doing so, you can essentially think of this method as pushing all the old skin out with new skin from below the surface. This is why they are great for wrinkles and for removing blackheads.
6. Cleansing. It may seem obvious, but cleansing is a great way to prevent blackheads. The good ole’ soap does a great job at washing away oils and dirt. Having blackheads does not mean you are dirty or washing improperly, since washing with soap or a cleanser would only target the surface while blackheads can form much deeper inside, but it can help prevent many surface level blackheads. Who knows, maybe you simply live in a polluted area or work in a dust-filled place, which are ideal for dirt buildup and shallow blackhead formation.
7. Doctor. If you have a much severe case of blackheads, acne medication and/or micro-needling may be the magical treatment you are looking for. The common acne medication, spironolactone, or even some birth control pills can help control sebum production. Micro-needling can also be a quick way to dissolve or melt blackheads by heating specific areas of the deeper skin with lasers without hurting the surface. Make sure you see a doctor and get the full rundown of the drugs and procedures if you choose one of these methods.
Blackheads are definitely a nuisance when it comes to skincare but they are not too difficult to treat and prevent! Just stay vigilant and stay on top of your skin regime. We discussed some awesome ways to get rid of blackheads so try one, a multiple, or all of them out and see what works for your skin. If any of these options worked for you, I would love to hear about in the comments below! If you have any questions, feel free to ask as well! Thanks for reading and I’ll catch you next time!