In the constant fight for clearer skin, blackheads are among the most obnoxious issues. Despite popular belief, these annoying spots are not the result of dirt. They occur when dead skin cells and oil plug the pores in the skin. When the pores are exposed to the air, the skin cells darken and become blackheads. They are most noticeable on the face but can occur anywhere on the body.
Most people are aware that they should exfoliate their skin, but some exfoliants are more suitable than others, especially for the face. There are two types of chemical exfoliants: alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). Gently scrubbing the skin with a BHA or AHA removes dead skin cells that contribute to blackheads and other skin issues.
Perhaps the best option for reducing blackheads is salicylic acid. It is a widely available oil-soluble BHA with anti-inflammatory effects, making it great for acne, too. It is important to remember that everyone’s skin is different, so no product will have the same effects for everyone. However, salicylic acid is considered one of the gold standards for skincare products.
Facial cleansing brushes have been rising in popularity. While dermatologists recommend not using them too often because irritation can lead to acne, the brushes easily remove dead skin cells and clean up blackheads. Experts recommend using them no more than once or twice a week and on alternate days from chemical exfoliators. Brush head variations are available for different skin types.
Certain skin types are prone to particularly tough blackheads that do not seem to respond to any of the standard exfoliants. In this case, it may be necessary to use a more powerful option: cream containing retinol, a natural form of vitamin A that is available in over-the-counter skin products suitable for general skin types. More resistant blackheads may require a retinoid cream that uses tretinoin, a synthetic form of vitamin A. Tretinoin creams are usually only available with a prescription from a dermatologist.
Skincare experts constantly stress the importance of keeping skin healthy and moisturized. Many people skip moisturizing because they have oily skin, but this is a misstep that can prompt the skin to overproduce oils. Skincare products tend to be drying, which can worsen blackheads and other acne. Moisturizing regularly keeps the skin in balance. Always use non-comedogenic moisturizers, which are less likely to clog pores.
For people with particularly oily skin, clay masks may be the answer to their blackhead issues. Clay masks are more absorbent than other type and take in excess oil. This has the bonus effect of loosening and cleaning clogged pores, improving blackheads. As with most skincare products, it is important to use clay masks sparingly as they can irritate the skin or disturb its oil balance. Look for masks with kaolin or bentonite, which also help draw oil from the skin and can temporarily make pores appear smaller.
Despite popular belief, makeup rarely contributes to blackheads or other acne. However, this assumes that a person applies their makeup correctly and removes it before going to sleep. Going to sleep with a made-up face can irritate the skin, interfere with the skin’s oil balance, and clog pores. Additionally, makeup products sometimes contain comedogenic products, which make them more like to clog pores.
Blackheads can be so difficult to deal with that no solution seems to work, at which point speaking to a dermatologist is best. Many myths surround skincare products and routines, and dermatologists can help dispel them while providing viable solutions. Plus, for people with severe issues, dermatologists can prescribe treatments that are stronger and more effective than over-the-counter products.
Sometimes the best way to reduce blackheads is to stop trying to get rid of them. Because all skin is unique, it is difficult to tell how a person will react to different skincare routines. Some products just make things worse. If there is no improvement or if blackheads noticeably worsen after several weeks of using a product, take a break from the routine.
Some of the most popular products on the market are masks and peels that claim to pull out the sebaceous filament — essentially the blackhead itself. Removing blackheads or the filaments like this damages the pores, and can lead to scarring, inflammation, and bacterial infection.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.