One of the most frequent complaints I hear from clients is “How can I get rid of these blackheads???” Sometimes, no matter how diligent our skin care routine, those pesky blackheads just won’t go away. But why are they there in the first place?
Blackheads most commonly form in areas of the skin that are oiliest. For the majority of people, this is in the “T-Zone” (forehead, nose and chin), though they can also form on the cheeks, chest, and back. The sebaceous glands secrete sebum, which is a semi-hard, waxy substance. As it flows out of the follicle and onto the skin, that’s what we see as “oil”. When you have oily skin, your pores dilate due to increased sebum production to allow the oil to flow out onto the skin. An increased pore size coupled with lots of sticky sebum is prime real estate for those skin cells we shed every day (especially if you’re not exfoliating), and they will collect in the pore opening and cause a blockage.
Contrary to what you may think, the black part of a blackhead is not dirt or grime! The sebum actually darkens due to something called oxidation. Think about when you slice a banana or an apple— when exposed to the air, over time the fruit will turn brown. This is oxidation. Sometimes pores will be clogged without a blackened area, and these are called sebaceous filaments.
So now you know a little more about the science behind black heads. But what can you actually do about them?
1. You may be tempted to squeeze and pick at your skin, but you know even as you’re doing it you’re thinking “I really shouldn’t be doing this!” Attempting this yourself can lead to scarring, the development of dilated blood vessels, and infection. If you MUST, I always recommend using two cotton swabs to my clients. Place the swabs on opposite sides of the clogged pore, press down gentle and wiggle (the swabs, not your booty!).
2. We talked about exfoliation last week and, trust me, that is the #1 thing you can do to treat and prevent blackheads and clogged pores! To kick things off right, come on in for a Therapeutic Facial and we can extract your existing blackheads to get you started with a clean slate. Your home exfoliation regimen will work even better then!
3. Use a leave-on product with 2% Salicylic Acid as part of your regular skin care routine to exfoliate the impaction plugs and clear the congested pores. Dermalogica’s Overnight Clearing Gel is perfect as part of your nighttime routine and contains salicylic acid, tea tree oil, and green tea. Clearing Mattifier is perfect during the day to help control oily shine while also clearing out those pores with salicylic acid, vitamin A, and Vitamin E.
4. Since I know you’re going to ask, no I’m not a big fan of pore strips. While they may pull out the clogs, the ingredients can be very irritating to sensitive skin and the pulling off motion may pull off more skin than you want!
Even after your blackheads clear up, you’ll want to keep up your routine to prevent them from recurring and clean pores will appear much smaller because they’re not dilated with excess sebum and skin cells.
Thanks for stopping by to learn all about blackheads, and join me next week to learn about Nutrition for your Skin!