Did you know that blackheads are one of the most common forms of acne? Blackheads look like small, black dots on your face, often forming around the nose and chin. Blackheads are formed deep in the pore, making them hard to remove. The deep set nature of blackheads makes hard scrubbing and squeezing very tempting. However, once you understand how blackheads are formed and why you have them, the way to safely remove them is much clearer.
What exactly are blackheads?
Blackheads (also called comedones) form when pores become clogged with dead skin cells, sebum and excess oil. Despite their appearance, blackheads aren’t due to dirty skin. They have open surfaces, meaning the oil and build up of dead skin at the top of the pore is exposed to air. This exposure creates oxidation, which is why blackheads appear dark in colour.
Blackheads are most common in the t-zone, which is the forehead, nose and chin, as this area tends to produce more oil than the rest of the face.
How are blackheads formed?
Blackheads are caused by two key things:
1. Overproduction of oil
People who have oily skin can be more vulnerable to blackheads. This is because the excess oil (or sebum) makes it hard for it to flow naturally to the surface of the skin. The obstruction causes the sebum to sit in the pore for longer, where it can coagulate, narrowing and blocking the pore. Sebum accumulating at the “top” of the pore is exposed to air, which turns it black and causes a blackhead.
2. Dead skin cells
Dead skin cells that accumulate on the skin surface also contribute to the narrowing of the pore exit. They gather in the pore, preventing sebum from being secreted naturally. This blocks the pore and causes the formation of a blackhead.
This overproduction of oil and dead skin cells can occur for a number of reasons, including:
- Lifestyle and diet
- Medical conditions and medications
- Use of the wrong skin care and cosmetics
The difference between blackheads and whiteheads
Blackheads occur when pores become clogged with sebum, with the open pore exposing the sebum to air and causing oxidation. Whiteheads are formed in a similar way, however the pore is closed by a thin layer of skin. This covering prevents the sebum from reaching the pore surface and causes the bumpy, whitehead appearance.
Guide to removing and preventing blackheads
Many people try to remove blackheads by squeezing them out of the skin, which can cause serious damage to the skin and leads to scarring. The key to removing blackheads safely is to use gentle and safe products to flush out and deep clean your pores. The steps to remove blackheads are:
1. Remove the blackhead
The best way to do this is by using a mask that you can leave on your face for some time so it can really work it’s magic. Look for a face mask that is gentle but includes charcoal. Charcoal deep cleans pores using a process called adsorption, where toxic particles cling to the charcoal’s porous surface. It will bind to the sebum and skin cells clogged to your pores and pull it out.
2. Exfoliate to prevent further blackheads
Ensure you exfoliate your skin gently to remove dead skin cells and prevent build up. Steer clear of harsh exfoliators which will dry and damage your skin, making blackheads more likely. Instead, choose something gentle with antibacterial properties to aid in removing pore clogging debris. We recommend our Fresh Sea and Salty Sand Gentle-Foliant used 1-3 times per week.
3. Use a daily cleanser
Using a gentle cleanser each day will help keep oil production in check without stripping your face of all natural oils (which can actually send oil production into overdrive). Our Uncomplicated Cleanser with Charcoal is infused with the detoxifying power of charcoal, making it ideal for skin types prone to blackheads and congestion.
4. Keep skin hydrated
Ensure you are drinking plenty of water and using hydrating products each day. Dry skin can send oil production into overdrive, so it’s important to keep moisturised. We recommend our best selling Hyaluronic Hydrating Serum, which is the ultimate skin hydrator to fight dehydration, plump skin and boost radiance.
For a full skin care routine to target blackheads, check out our article Getting Rid of Blackheads.
Blackhead do’s and don'ts
1. DON’T squeeze, scrub or pick, DO deep cleanse pores.
We know how tempting it can be to squeeze blackheads. However, this can cause damage to your skin, which can sometimes be permanent. Also, the bacteria on your hands can worsen skin condition and cause further blackheads and breakouts. Instead of squeezing, scrubbing and picking, use a gentle mask to draw out impurities from deep within the pores.
2. DON’T use hard peels and blackhead strips, DO draw out impurities with a mask.
There has been a recent trend for peel off masks and pore strips that adhere to the face and must then be torn off to “remove” the blackhead. The truth is, these products only remove the surface of the blackhead (and your skin!), so you’ll see it back before long. Stay away from these products, and instead use a charcoal mask to draw out dirt and impurities from the pore.
3. DON’T use jagged and abrasive scrubs, DO use a soft exfoliator.
Steer clear of harsh scrubs, which can damage and tear the skin. Products that irritate skin will trigger more oil production, and more blackheads. Instead, use an ever-so-gentle exfoliator with fine sand to clear congestion.
4. DON’T overwash your face with harsh products, DO use a gentle cleanser.
Harsh cleansers with salicylic acid are popular products to get rid of blackheads. The problem is, salicylic acid can excessively irritate and dry the skin. This leads to the skin compensating by overproducing oil, worsening blackheads. Instead, use a gentle cleanser with low doses of active ingredients.
Can I remove blackheads at home?
If you still have very stubborn blackheads that won’t shift, you can visit a skin aesthetician who will be able to extract blackheads without damaging your skin. However, we strongly recommend against attempting to do this without a trained professional, as when done incorrectly extraction can cause permanent skin damage and scarring.
More questions? Not sure where to start? Get in touch with our skin specialist team to create your own free personal Skin Care Plan and help you get on top of your skin concerns today. The team at esmi are always here to support you on your skin journey.