The battle against blackheads can be quite tiring! They are a very common skin problem that affects teens and adults alike! Whilst they aren’t harmful per se, blackheads are a major skin concern especially for those looking for a “flawless” or “glass skin” complexion. Worse still, blackheads removal can be hard and if not done properly may even damage your skin. If you’re fed up of blackheads and want to get rid of them, we’ve put together this guide to the best treatments to prevent and remove blackheads.
What are Blackheads & What Causes Them?
Blackheads are small dark spots that appear on the skin. In medicine they are known as open comedones and are actually a type of acne lesion. The most common place that blackheads appear is the nose but they can also affect other parts of the face and or even the body. You get blackheads when pores (also known as follicles) become clogged with a combination of sebum (the skin’s natural oil) and dead skin cells. Each pore contains a sebaceous gland that makes oil, which helps to keep the skin soft. However, when there’s too much of it, sebum can build up in the follicles along with dead skin cells. This mixture forms a plug that, when exposed to air, oxidises and turns black. This is a blackhead. It is also important not to confuse blackheads with sebaceous filaments which look similar but require a different treatment approach.
There are a few things that can make you more likely to get blackheads. These risk factors include hormonal changes (which can increase oil production), certain skincare products and insufficient cleansing that leaves behind residue which clogs pores. Also, factors like high humidity and pollution can clog pores and lead to more blackheads. The most important thing to remember though is that blackheads are not dirt. As such, you can’t scrub them away and need to use well known treatments to get rid of and prevent blackheads without injuring your skin.
Do Blackheads Go Away on Their Own?
Blackheads can sometimes go away on their own. This largely depends on a number of factors such as the your skin type, age and skincare routine. In teens, blackheads often result from hormonal changes that increase oil production. This means blackheads and other teenage acne lesions may reduce or go away as hormone levels stabilise with age. This is the same for hormonal acne and menopausal skin changes where treating the underlying hormonal imbalance will help in the removal of blackheads. However, if the pores remain clogged and the factors contributing to the blackheads are not addressed, they will likely persist. In this case, you will need to use treatmenst to help get rid of your blackheads and prevent new ones from forming.
Best Treatments To Get Rid of Blackheads
There are a number of options for treating blackheads but the best way to get rid of them is likely to be a combination of two or more treatments. Skincare treatments help to dissolve the plug of dead skin cells and oil which will aid in the removal of blackheads. These treatments can also prevent blackheads by regulating oil and accelerate skin cell turnover. For more stubborn or severe cases, professional treatments can safely and quickly remove blackheads without injuring the skin.
Best Skincare To Get Rid of Blackheads
Effective skincare can help get rid of blackheads. It involves a consistent routine that prioritises gentle but deep cleansing, regular exfoliation and regulating oil without drying out your skin or damaging its barrier.
- Cleansing: Using a gentle foam, gel or lotion cleanser in the mornings can help remove excess oil, debris and last light’s skincare without over-drying the skin. In the evenings we recommend double cleansing first with a balm or oil to dissolve oil, makeup, sunscreen and pollutants. Follow up with the same cleansing gel, lotion or foam from the morning to finish cleaning the skin. This will clear out pores without stripping it off oil which is vital as overly dry skin can lead to increased oil production and more blackheads.
- Exfoliation: Acid exfoliants like beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) help to clear away dead skin cells that can clog pores. Salicylic acid (a type of BHA) is particularly effective as it penetrates into the pores to dissolve the blockages. These are best used as a toner in the mornings.
- Retinoids: Retinol, Retinal and prescription retinoids like Tretinoin are potent ingredients for treating blackheads and regulating oil. Retinoids accelerate cell turnover which prevents dead skin cells from clogging pores. They can also reduce the production of sebum.
- Clay: Incorporating a clay mask once or twice a week can help in absorbing excess oil. Don’t over do it though as over drying the skin can make it produce more sebum and worsen blackheads!
Professional Treatments for Blackheads Removal
When it comes to removing stubborn or extensive blackheads, professional treatments can yield the best and quickest results. However, the are not a substitute for a good skincare routine which will help reduce the amount of blackheads and also prevent them over the long run.
- Manual Extractions: This is a common and effective method for removing blackheads if done properly. A skincare professional carefully extracts blackheads from pores sterilised tools. This treatment must be done carefully to avoid skin damage or scars.
- Chemical Peels: These involve applying an acid or enzyme solution to exfoliate the skin. Chemical peels help to clear clogged pores and shed dead skin. You will normally need a course of treatments usually 4-6 weeks apart depending on the type of peel and severity of your blackheads.
- Hydrafacial: This is a multi-step treatment that combines cleansing, exfoliation, extraction and hydration. It can be particularly effective in removing blackheads and improving skin texture.
- Microdermabrasion: This minimally invasive procedure exfoliates the outer layer of skin. It can help treat certain types of blackheads.
- Laser Therapy: Professional laser treatments can help in reducing oil production and improving skin texture. They can also resurface the skin and reduce blackheads as well as other acne lesions.
- Oral Medications: For blackheads in the context of severe acne, it may be necessary to consider oral medications like antibiotics, spironolactone or even isotretinoin. These are all prescription medicines and you will need to see a dermatologist to discuss whether they are appropriate for you.
How To Get Rid of Blackheads at Home
Although it may be tempting to squeeze or pick at blackheads, this can lead to skin damage, large pores, hyperpigmentation and scarring. Your best course of action is to use a consistent and tailored skincare routine. This will help get rid of blackheads over time and help you maintain clear and healthy skin. It will also help you get the most out of professional treatments and maintain their results for longer. That being said, it is possible to extract blackheads at home safely and effectively with the right removal technique. You should however, proceed with caution to avoid damaging your skin. Remember, if you have severe or widespread blackheads, it’s better to consult a dermatologist for professional treatment rather than attempting to remove them at home. Too much or incorrect extraction can lead to skin irritation, infection and potential scarring.
Step-By-step Guide on how to Safely Remove Blackheads at Home:
- Cleanse Your Skin: double cleanse with a balm or oil and a gentle cleansing lotion, gel or foam. This removes makeup, dirt, and oil. It also helps reduce the risk of potential infection.
- Steam Your Face: Apply a warm, damp cloth to your face or take a warm shower to open up the pores. Steaming makes the extraction process easier and less painful. However, avoid overly hot steam to prevent skin irritation and scalds!
- Lubricate Your Skin: To loosen blackheads and make removal easier, apply a clay mask then follow with a hydrating mask or a rich moisturiser or face oil. This will make it easier to remove blackheads and
- Disinfect Your Tools: We don’t recommend tools but if you must use a blackhead extractor tool, ensure it’s washed with soap and water then sanitised with rubbing alcohol. Also read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
- Gentle Extraction: Wrap clean tissues around the tips of your fingers to prevent slipping and to minimise the spread of bacteria. Gently press down around the sides of the blackhead. If you are using a blackhead extractor tool, place the looped end over the blackhead and applying slow, even pressure. If the blackhead does not come out easily, do not continue to press, as this can damage the skin.
- Don’t Force It: If the blackhead doesn’t come out with gentle pressure, leave it alone. Forcing it can cause skin damage, inflammation, or scarring.
- Apply a Toner: After extraction, apply a gentle, alcohol-free toner with antiseptic or anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe the skin and close the pores.
- Moisturise: Finish by applying a hydrating moisturiser or balm to sooth your skin and help it recover.
How To Prevent Blackheads
For the majority of people, a good consistent skincare routine can help in get rid of blackheads more quickly and prevent them. This includes regular cleansing to remove excess oil and dead skin cells and incorporating exfoliation as well as retinoids to keep the pores clear. In some cases, particularly where blackheads are stubborn or widespread, they might not resolve without targeted treatment. You may need to try prescription retinoids or professional skincare treatments.
Getting rid of blackheads isn’t easy but it is not impossible! At the core of successful treatment is understanding that this is a type of acne. For most people a good targeted skincare routine is enough. For stubborn blackheads, there are a number of professional treatments that will help with their removal. The best one depends on your skin type and the severity of the blackheads. You might even need a combination of treatments to get rid of the most difficult blackheads. For best results, ensure that you see a professional. They will help decide the best treatment for you and carry it out correctly. Lastly, avoid squeezing or manipulating blackheads as this can cause permanent skin damage and scars. Although it is possible to gently extract blackheads at home, it doesn’t mean that you should. If you do, this should be done with the utmost care and sparingly.
At City Skin Clinic, we are fanatical about personalised skincare. Our doctors offer safe and effective treatments with prescription-strength products like Tretinoin and Hydroquinone through our online skin clinic. We treat skin conditions like acne, hyperpigmentation, melasma and skin ageing. To start your personalised skincare plan, book a virtual video consultation or use our online consultation form. The journey towards great skin starts here.