Blackheads are a common complexion problem. They are unsightly, irritating and can trigger breakouts. If you suffer from blackheads, rest assured that there are many things that you can do to get rid of them, and prevent them from cropping up in the future.
What are blackheads?
Blackheads are caused by a blockage in the pores. They occur when your skin’s natural oil, as well as dead skin cells and dirt, form a hard plug that lodges in the pore. The tip of the plug is exposed to oxygen, which causes it to turn black.
Blackheads appear as a series of small black spots. They are most common in people with oily skin. Blackheads most commonly form on the nose, chin and forehead. This is because these areas have the most oil glands, and so it is more likely that the pores in these areas will get blocked.
How can I get rid of blackheads?
First of all, it is important to remember that blackheads are formed gradually. They don’t just spring up overnight (although it can sometimes seem that way). Similarly, it is difficult to get rid of blackheads quickly. The most effective blackhead treatments work over a long period of time, and you might not start to see results for a few weeks. Just be patient and consistent and they will start to minimize with time.
The best way to get rid of blackheads is with a regular deep-cleansing regime. This will help to clear the blockages from your pores and help mop up any excess oil and dirt from your skin. If you can afford it, having a monthly deep-cleansing facial is a great way to keep your pores clear. However, if you don’t have the cash to splash on regular spa treatments, you can do your own deep-cleansing treatment at home.
To give yourself a DIY deep cleansing treatment, simply wash your face with your normal face cleanser to remove any makeup, oil and dirt from the surface of your skin. Next, fill a large bowl with very hot (but not boiling) water. Add ten drops of tea tree oil and lean over the bowl, with your face about 10cm from the water. Pop a towel over your head and steam your face for 5-10 minutes. The steam will help to open your pores so that the deep-cleansing mask you apply next can penetrate your pores deeply and clear out all the gunk. The tea tree oil acts as an anti-bacterial agent, to prevent infections. Once you have given your face a good steam, apply a deep cleansing mask, focusing on the parts of your face that are most susceptible to blackheads. There are plenty of deep-cleansing masks on the market, and prices vary. My favourite is Formula 10-0-6 Deep Cleansing Clay mask, which retails for about $8. Once the mask is dry, carefully rinse it off with warm water and a clean cloth. Then, apply a light facial moisturizer and an eye cream and you are all done.
It’s important to keep in mind that the first few times you deep-cleanse your skin, you might experience breakouts. This is because the mask works to dredge all of the dirt and oil from your pores, but it will take a few tries to get all of the gunk out. If you haven’t been deep-cleansing regularly, the first few times you apply the mask, it may pull the dirt part-way to the surface, but not completely extract it. This dirt can then fester in the pores and cause irritation and breakouts. Don’t panic if you do get a few pimples the first few times you deep cleanse. This is totally normal. As long as you persevere with the routine, you will have clear skin in no time.
I give myself an at-home facial about once a week. This helps to keep my skin clear and soft and get all of the dirt out of my pores.
To squeeze, or not to squeeze?
This is a slightly tricky question. The answer is that you can squeeze a blackhead, but only if it is ready, and only if you follow strict instructions.
The blackhead is ready to be squeezed if you can clearly see the tip of the plug through the pore. Never squeeze a blackhead before it is ready, because this can drive the dirt and bacteria deeper into the pore, causing infections. If you are unsure, leave it alone, or consult a dermatologist.
If you are positive that the blockage is ready to come out, place a warm face-washer over the area for about two minutes. This will soften the skin and open the pore. Then, use either a blackhead extractor (you can buy them at most chemists) or your fingers wrapped in a clean tissue, gently press the skin surrounding the blackhead. If the plug doesn’t budge under this gentle pressure, leave it alone. Don’t squeeze too hard or you could damage the surrounding skin. Once the blackhead is extracted, wash the area with facial cleanser.
How can I prevent blackheads?
The best way to prevent blackheads is with a consistent skin care routine. You don’t need to buy any expensive products or spend hours in front of the mirror. Investing about six minutes a day to look after your skin will make a big difference. In the morning, you should use a light cleanser to remove any dirt and oil from your face. Then, apply an alcohol-free toner with a cotton swab. Finally, rub a little oil-free moisturizer into your skin. At night, remove every trace of makeup before going to bed. I use a baby wipe to take off all my makeup. I follow it up with Lush’s Ultra Bland cleanser, which gets rid of every skerrick of makeup, dirt and oil, without completely stripping all of the moisture out of your skin. A swipe of toner and a rich moisturizer are all you need before you hit the hay.
Regular exfoliation can also help to prevent skin blockages, by removing dead skin cells and deeper-ground dirt. Use a facial exfoliator in the shower twice a week.
Certain products can help you to combat the blackheads even more effectively. When shopping for a cleanser, look for any products that contain salicylic acid, which helps to dissolve the blockages. Products that contain Alpha-hydroxy acids can also be helpful, but are best avoided if you have sensitive skin. Selecting a foundation that won’t clog your pores is also a good idea. Mineral foundations are a good choice.
Keeping your hair out of your face and regularly changing your pillow case can also help to prevent the spread of bacteria and oil that causes blackheads.
The best advice that I can give you when it comes to blackhead treatment and prevention is to be patient and consistent. It will take a while before you start to see results, and these treatments work gradually over time. Eventually, you will have healthier skin and fewer blackheads.