How to get rid of blackheads How to get rid of blackheads

How to get rid of blackheads

Guides & Advice

Photos Project Apollo Archive / Flickr

Words Anthony Vincent

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Open comedones may be small, but they’re also very stubborn. They must, therefore, be removed with care, to ensure they leave no marks or scars on your skin.

Even if they’re rather small, blackheads can prove to be particularly stubborn. They are mostly found around the nose, chin, and cheeks (but they can appear pretty much anywhere, including your back and ears), and tend to be quite visible. Comedones can take the form of dilated and dark pores, or small spots with blackheads, hence the name. In any case, they must be handled with care, as removing them can sometimes inadvertently lead to making things worse.

Learning to spot them

The first step to get rid of your blackheads is learning to identify them and understanding where they come from. You can’t bring up blackheads without first discussing pores, the little holes on your skin’s surface. Each human being has approximately 300,000 of these pilosebaceous canals, which push the sebum generated under the skin towards the outside to protect and moisturise it. However, if excess sebum is produced, these canals can expand (also known as a microcomedo), get clogged (closed comedo or pimple), and even oxidize and grow darker (blackheads).

As you might have understood, sebum in itself isn’t really the issue. What you should be wary of is the excess of it. Excess sebum is generally due to an unhealthy lifestyle, stress, smoking, or an inadequate skincare routine (either too aggressive or too rich). This leads to oily skin, in particular around the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin), and ultimately, clogged pores.

Removing existing blackheads

You can’t be blamed for wanting to remove a massive blackhead by squeezing it to death with your fingers as soon as you see it; we all feel the same way. Try to avoid this compulsion because, as it turns out, this would be a huge mistake. Yes, we agree, there’s a certain pleasure in removing a blackhead and seeing the sebum clogging your pore leaving your skin. That being said, is it really worth the risk of infecting your skin with your dirty fingers and leaving a nasty scar or a gigantic pimple on your face in the name of fleeting satisfaction?

To properly remove blackheads, our first recommendation is to start with a nice warm shower. The hot water will ensure your pores are dilated. Once that’s taken care of, make sure you have enough time ahead of you to thoroughly clean your face. You could also place your face above a bowl of warm water for approximately ten minutes. Add a couple of drops of tea tree or thyme essential oil to the water to further soften the sebum. With your clean hands and a paper tissue at the end of each index finger, gently press on either side of the blackhead. Avoid using a comedone extractor, unless you’re extremely proficient with this abstract torture tool. Pore strips are also a no-no, for risk of ripping out harmless sebaceous filaments, which would only further disrupt sebum production. Once you’ve finished the squeezing part, dab a cotton pad with disinfectant or tonic lotion on your skin, and finish off with a specific locally-applied product with salicylic acid to prevent a second wave of blackheads from appearing.

If you have several blackheads in the same area, sensitive skin, or you’re simply afraid of messing up, you can always make an appointment with your dermatologist or with a skin care beautician to let an expert handle your open comedones.

Preventing further comedones

Once you’ve removed the offending blackheads, your pores may still look dilated, and the general area might look darker. To avoid leaving your skin scarred and open to recurring open comedones, follow this simple routine. Every morning and every evening, cleanse your face with a purifying face cleanser, follow that up with a cotton pad doused in tonic lotion to re-balance your skin’s pH and tighten your pores and apply some mattifying face moisturiser.

Once or twice a week, when you have a little more time, in the evening or at the weekend for example, use a face scrub to unclog your pores. Follow that up with a purifying face mask to control sebum production, and top it off with a non-comedogenic mattifying face moisturiser (i.e., a moisturiser that won’t lead to further spots or blackheads). Even if your skin is oily by nature and you consider that it doesn’t require any cream, moisturiser will actually help regulate your skin’s natural moisturisation, thereby fostering a more balanced production of sebum (which your skin would previously secrete in excess as a defence mechanism against dryness or external stimuli), on top of preventing your skin from looking super shiny.

Congratulations, you’ve just completed a full course on blackheads! You know how to get rid of them, and even prevent them from ever happening. You have the power to increase the effectiveness of your comedone removal operations, thereby making blackheads a thing of the past. Not bad.