It may not be something we talk about openly, but let's face it, we all want to know how to get rid of blackheads.
These small, but annoying little black dots can appear all over the face, with a particular penchant for the nose, cheeks and chin. Sometimes they're relatively unnoticeable, sometimes they are hideously obvious, however, they are always pretty nasty and hard to ignore!
Today we're showing you how to get rid of blackheads once and for all, but first thing's first...
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What is a blackhead?
If you want to know how to get rid of blackheads, it's important to first understand what you're actually dealing with.
Blackheads are by no means unique to you. In fact, blackheads are so common that they have their own scientific name - open comedones.
Open comedones are, in essence, pores that have become blocked with dead skin cells and sebum - the body's naturally producing, protective oil. When oxygen in the air reacts with these dead skin cells, they turn black, which is what gives blackheads their colour, (and name).
What causes blackheads?
It's difficult to define exactly what causes blackheads, as every one can be different. As with all acne, the most common cause is a change in hormone levels, explaining why acne is more common during puberty.
If puberty is just a distant memory for you, yet the blackheads remain, other hormonal changes could be to blame. Stress, menstruation, birth control and pregnancy are common causes of blackheads in women throughout adult life.
Hormones have a big impact on our skin - fact. However, environmental and lifestyle choices can also impact our pore's ability to stay clean. Shaving, excessive sweating, makeup and even clothing can block the pores and increase the chance of blackheads.
Blackhead removal has become big news in recent years, and there are many dermatologists who specialise in this area specifically. If you're feeling brave, you can watch the video below to see how professionals go about removing blackheads.
Blackhead removal tool
Most professionals rely on a blackhead removal tool to perform blackhead extraction. These target the blackhead directly to prevent damage to the surrounding areas of the skin, providing a more gentle method than squeezing.
Some people will tell you to squeeze blackheads, others will tell you it only makes things worse. We say, if you're going to do it, do it properly.
There's a right way to carry out blackhead removal at home, and a wrong way. Avoid tackling blackheads as an impulse, 'last-minute' task - squeezing erratically at the skin will leave it feeling sore and looking unsightly.
To carry out blackhead removal at home correctly:
- The pores need to be relaxed, and open. This can be achieved by taking a hot shower, or placing a hot cloth over the skin for five to ten minutes.
- Ensure your hands are completely clean and dry. Then begin to squeeze the skin with your fingers, being careful not to use your nails.
- Reapply the hot compress as necessary to make stubborn blackheads easier to remove.
- Don't over do it! Some blackheads are too stubborn or minor to be removed by squeezing, and are best left alone.
- Wash the face with a product containing salicylic acid, which will get deep into your pores and break down any remaining dirt.
- Use a toner and cotton wool pad to close up pores.
Blackhead removal strips
Blackhead removal strips are another way of tackling blackhead removal at home, specifically on the nose. Cheap and readily available, they provide a quick solution for problem skin.
Blackhead removal strips are placed on the nose, and work by pulling the dirt out of the blocked pores, leaving them clearer. They're applied wet, and the drying process creates the force needed to extract the blackheads.
Although they are often needed alongside another blackhead treatment, such as squeezing, they are convenient and ideal for targeted black removal on the nose.
With the whole population wanting to know how to get rid of blackheads, there's a big market for innovative products. Another one of these is a blackhead mask, which have also grown extremely popular.
Blackhead masks are usually black in colour, applied wet, and are peeled off once dry. Their principle is similar to that of a blackhead strip - they contract to draw out dead skin cells and sebum, and are then pulled off the skin, which furthers this effect.
There are hundreds of videos showing their effects on YouTube. See below to get an idea of just how effective these can be,
There's no denying that a blackhead mask can be effective, however, not everyone encourages their use.
The pain on some of these bloggers' faces alone during removal should be enough to suggest they're not always good idea. The cheap blackhead masks in particular should be avoided. Their cheap ingredients act like glue on the skin, and when pulled off, not only remove dirt, but helthy skin cells, and hair, causing damage to the skin's surface.
Additionally, some blackhead masks also remove sebaceous filaments. Whilst these may look like blackheads, both on the skin and once extracted, they are very different and actually aid the skin in controlling excess oil.
James Welsh talks you through this concept and reveals some of the blackhead masks that don't harm the skin in the video below.
How to prevent blackheads
Learning how to get rid of blackheads is a tricky business. As with most things, prevention is much better than treatment. Additionally, without the right skincare routine, blackheads will return within 12 days.
The best face products for blackheads
Don't let all your hard work go to waste. Learn how to get rid of blackheads for good by discovering which skincare products will keep them at bay.
Your skincare routine should include cleansing twice a day and exfoliating regularly. Look out for the following ingredients:
- Benzoyl peroxide - has antibacterial qualities.
- Salicylic acid - helps break down dead skin cells and sebum to clear pores.
- Glycolic aid - similar effects to salicylic acid.
- Azelaic acid - targets blackheads and can also even out discolouration left from acne.
- Retinoids - a form of Vitamin A that is argued by some as the best treatment for acne.
Using products containing these ingredients will not only help to keep pores clear once blackheads have been removed but also help prevent blackheads in the long run.
If you have other types of acne along with blackheads, I'd recommend reading our article, What are spots? How to prevent & treat a breakout for more great tips.
If you suffer from extremely frequent bouts of acne, it's best to go to your doctor. They will be able to thoroughly investigate the causes of your breakout, and recommend the best solution.
How do you treat blackheads? Share your beauty tips with us by commenting below.