If you constantly are getting blackheads, you might be well aware of how frustrating and challenging it can be to treat and prevent them. Blackheads are a common skin condition that affects many people worldwide, particularly people with oily and acne-prone skin who are more susceptible to developing it. Blackheads can make your complexion appear dull, uneven, rough, and bumpy. Unfortunately, they can also lead to more serious skin problems, such as hyperpigmentation, acne breakouts, wrinkles, and inflammation.
Therefore, if you notice these tiny black dots forming on your skin, know that it’s a sign for you to start taking proper care of your skin and get rid of blackheads promptly to avoid more serious skin problems. Not sure how to get rid of blackheads and prevent their appearance? Don’t worry! We’re here with easy and effective tips to remove and prevent blackheads.
What Are Blackheads?
Blackheads are also commonly called comedones.¹ They are tiny bumps or dots produced on the skin due to blocked or clogged hair follicles. Like whiteheads, these are also known as a milder type of acne. While whiteheads are formed with closed pores, blackheads have open pores on surfaces and are also referred to as open comedones. Open surfaces lead to the oxidation process, which gives blackheads dark color, leading to their black appearance. Although any one of us can have blackheads, those with an oily skin type are more likely to develop them on the oilier areas of their faces and other parts of the body.
How Are Blackheads Formed?
The skin has to go through a lot during the day as it comes in contact with dirt, bacteria, grime, and other pollutants on a daily basis. Blackheads are a cluster of these impurities that build up on the skin. These contaminants get combined with the natural oil or sebum produced by our skin and accumulate in the pores. It’s important to note that blackheads don’t occur overnight. Instead, they appear when you don’t take good care of your skin and don’t remove these impurities from the pores regularly. As a result, the debris keeps building up in the pores over time and leads to the formation of blackheads. Besides making the complexion look dull and uneven, this also makes the skin more susceptible to premature signs of aging, acne and blemishes, and infections.
How to Treat Blackheads
The temptation to pick, pop, or pinch the black gunk out of your pores is understandable. However, it can lead to unwanted scratches and scars on your skin. Instead, you should follow a consistent skincare routine and use appropriate skincare products to remove blackheads from the pores without irritating or damaging your skin. Here’s how you can do it at home without any hassle:
- Deep Cleanse Your Skin - Cleansing your skin after waking up and before bedtime is one of the most basic and crucial steps toward keeping blackheads at bay. Use alcohol and fragrance-free gentle formulas to help you get rid of sebum, grime, bacteria, makeup residue, and dirt that gather in the pores during the day. If you skip cleansing your skin every day, it may result in oil, bacteria, and other pollutants that buildup on the skin, clogging the pores. Congested pores will eventually lead to the formation of blackheads and other skin problems, acne in particular.
- Apply a Toner - Many of us often omit this step during our skincare rituals thinking of it as overkill. The fact is that a toner can be an excellent addition to your skincare routine for reducing and preventing blackheads, especially if your skin is susceptible to blackheads and acne breakouts. The right kind of toner can help to remove residual makeup, sebum, and other contaminants from the pores, rebalance the skin’s pH level, refresh the skin, and constrict enlarged pores. Make sure to find a mild toner with plenty of skin-nourishing and replenishing compounds, such as green tea, aloe vera, glycolic acid, rose water, and hyaluronic acid.
- Get Rid of Dead Skin Buildup - One of the leading causes of blackheads and clogged pores and blackheads is the accumulation of dead skin cells in the pores. To achieve an even-toned, softer, suppler, and brighter complexion, it’s quintessential to remove the buildup of dead, dry, and dull skin from the pores. It’s recommended to slough away dead skin once or twice a week according to your skin. Chemical exfoliators are a better option for people with sensitive, inflamed, or dry skin as they are gentler on the skin as opposed to abrasive physical scrubs.
- Use Steam to Open Plugged Pores - Steam can be helpful in blackhead extraction as it helps to soften the skin and opens clogged pores, making it more convenient to extract impurities trapped inside the hair follicles. So, if you’re planning to draw out the gunk from your pores at home instead of going to a salon, steam is your best bet. You can do it by simply taking a bowl of hot water and resting your face above it with a towel drape. Then, allow the steam to work for around 10 minutes and cleanse your pores.
- Apply a Charcoal or Clay Mask - There’s no doubt that regular cleansing, exfoliation, and steam can help you remove blackheads and prevent their occurrence in the future. However, to get them out of the pores thoroughly and take your blackhead removing skincare up a notch, use a facial mask after following the above steps of your skincare regimen. A charcoal or clay mask is a great remedy for drawing out blackheads effectively and quickly. You can select a facial mask that suits your skin the best. A charcoal or clay mask is popular for its pore-cleansing and sebum-reducing effects.
- Use a Pore Strip or Extractor Tool - Once your skin is well-prepared for the hassle-free and smooth extraction process of blackheads, you can try to follow with a blackhead extracting tool or a pore strip to get rid of blackheads. Using an extractor tool should be handled with care so as not to damage the skin. It’s recommended to always sterilize the extracting tool before using it. Now, gently start removing blackheads by pressing the edges of blackheads with the loop or head side facedown, sweeping it to the other side of the pores. Pressing the tool in the middle of the blackheads can irritate the skin and lead to infection. Slather a soothing serum or lotion after extraction to calm redness and inhibit inflammation.
How to Prevent Blackheads
If you’ve successfully managed to get rid of the black gunk from your pores and want to make sure you don’t face the same issue again, here are a few effective and easy ways:
- Add Salicylic Acid to Your Skincare - Since dead skin cells accumulated in the pores are among the main factors that lead to the appearance of blackheads, a gentle exfoliating product can be helpful. Salicylic acid is widely known for its ability to dissolve and draw out dead skin buildup and remove excess oil from the pores. These abilities make it a great blackhead-preventing ingredient for those with oily and blackhead-prone skin.
- Buy Products with Glycolic Acid - Glycolic acid, another chemical exfoliator from the AHA family, is also deemed suitable for people with oily skin that are susceptible to blackheads.² Products with glycolic acid help shed dead skin cells faster from the skin's surface, preventing clogged pores, blackheads, and various other skin problems. Depending on your skin type or needs, you can opt for a glycolic acid moisturizer, lotion, toner, peel, or other products.
- Start Using Topical Retinoid Products - If your dermatologist prescribed you retinol or retinoid, a derivative of vitamin A, for the treatment of acne, that's a great place to start.³ Other than helping to reduce and prevent acne, retinoid products can be beneficial in reducing the probability of blackheads. It works by absorbing into the skin, breaking down dead skin stacks from the hair follicles, and regulating sebum production in the skin.
- Look for Non-Comedogenic Ingredients - Another important step toward preventing the formation of blackheads is avoiding skincare products with thick and greasy formulas, which can clog the pores and lead to blackheads. In addition, mainstream lotions, sunscreens, and moisturizers are oil-based and can be problematic for acne-prone and oily skin that’s more inclined to develop blackheads. Therefore, be careful while buying your products and invest in oil-free, lightweight, and gel or water-based products.
If you’ve been struggling to get rid of blackheads and prevent them from forming in the future, you might know how difficult it can be to banish them for good. Blackheads don’t just make the skin look uneven, rough, and dull, but they can also lead to more severe skin problems. They can appear on the face and other areas of the body with more oil glands, like the shoulders, chest, and back. Therefore, it’s essential to stick to a persistent skincare routine that includes removing and preventing blackheads to help keep the skin protected against wrinkles, fine lines, acne, and infections. A well-rounded skincare regimen and the right skincare ingredients can help you get rid of blackheads and inhibit their formation in the future.
- Brannon, Heather L. (2021). ‘An Overview of Comedones and Comedonal Acne’, VeryWellHealth. Accessed April 19, 2022. Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/comedones-acne-treatment-1068700
- Molvar, Kari. (2020). ‘To Scrub, Slough, or Chemically Dissolve? Experts Weigh In on the Ultimate Guide to Winter Exfoliation’, Vogue. Accesed April 20, 2022. Available at: https://www.vogue.com/article/skincare-mechanical-vs-chemical-vs-physical-exfoliation
- Dunkin, Mary Anne. (2021). ‘Retinoid Treatment and Your Skin’, Radiance by WebMD. Accessed April 20, 2022. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/beauty/retinoid-gel-and-cream-treatments