Blackheads are named blackheads because they appear as a dark or black bump in the skin. They are a very common type of acne caused by a plug in the sebaceous glands. Oils natural to your skin build up in excess and plug up the glands, and bacteria builds up behind it. When this plug is exposed to air, it oxidizes and the top of it turns a dark color. Whiteheads occur in a similar fashion but are not exposed to oxygen, keeping them lighter in color. Both blackheads and whiteheads are referred to as comedones and are considered to be a non-inflammatory type of acne.
Blackheads are incredibly common; almost everyone gets them at some point in their lives. They are most likely to occur during puberty (when the skin’s oil production increases) and when skin isn’t being properly washed or cared for. This may include improper makeup choices, not removing makeup, and various other irritants to the skin. The following steps will teach you how to remove blackheads using a variety of products and techniques.
Removing Blackheads by Yourself?
If you are going to be removing blackheads on your own, without the help of a dermatologist, then please don’t go squeezing them out. Use a specialized blackhead removal tool, and follow the directions if you wish to avoid scarring yourself for life. And I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but don’t put a boiling hot washcloth on your face. It should also go without saying that if you’re having complications, you should go see a dermatologist. Duh.
Treatment for Blackheads
Choose your makeup and face products carefully. Everybody has that one brand of makeup that makes them break out. Sometimes it’s incredibly noticeable and occurs within days. Sometimes it develops slowly, over time. Either way, pay close attention to the products you put on your skin. Irritation of the skin can cause blackheads. Avoid products that are heavily oiled or scented. Don’t share makeup with friends, and don’t let it get contaminated with bacteria by leaving it open too long or letting your dirty fingers touch it. The object here is to avoid oily skin.
Cleanse your face night and day. Wash your face. This seems like such an obvious step, but it’s one often overlooked. Over or under-washing your face can cause or exacerbate blackheads. It’s easy to forget to wash your face “just this once” when you’ve been out drinking, camping, or otherwise whoo-hooing it up, but missing a good wash “just once” can really do some damage. If you knew all the oil, dirt, grime, dead skin cells, and what-have-you gunk that builds up on your face, you’d want to claw your face off, not just wash it. But don’t claw. Washing with plain soap and water is fine.
Warmth will open the pores to better treat blackheads. It’s difficult to clean out your pores when they’re clamped down tightly on a blackhead. Almost every blackhead treatment available (though not all) suggests that you wash your face in warm water before beginning the treatment. Wetting a clean washcloth in warm water and laying it over the area affected by blackheads for five minutes is a gentle way to open the pores. This can allow the blackheads to be extracted with a blackhead remover or treated with medication. Gentle steam, such as from a hot shower, is another excellent way to open your pores.
Use a blackhead remover tool and not your fingers. There are blackhead removal tools available at every corner drugstore. While there is some argument as to their effectiveness, one thing is certain: they work better than your fingers. Fingers are dirty, nasty things. Squeezing a blackhead can irritate the skin, damage it, or introduce new bacteria to cause new, worse pimples. At the very least, your face gets all blotchy and red. Yes, the temptation is hard to resist. Solution? Search YouTube for “zit popping.”
Try blackhead pore strips. They aren’t a perfect solution, but they do work. I’ve had moderate success with them. They won’t pull out every blackhead, but they get some of the most prominent ones. It’s completely painless (if you aren’t a whiner), far less expensive than some other blackhead products available, and you can get them at almost any drugstore. Bioré is a very popular brand, and it’s the one I’ve used. These particular blackhead removal strips contain witch hazel and tea tree oil, known astringents (nifty things that tighten up your pores to prevent extra gunk from getting back in to create new blackheads).
Use an exfoliant to get rid of blackheads. Exfoliants are tricky things. On one hand, they can help your body to slough off old skin cells and help keep your pores from getting blocked. On the other hand, they can irritate the skin, cause redness, and can sometimes make blackheads worse. What I can tell you is, if you exfoliate, use one made of natural materials, not synthetic. Do not exfoliate more than once or twice a week. Do not exfoliate if your skin becomes irritated or red. Rub the exfoliant on damp skin, rub it (gently) in small circles, and rinse thoroughly. Treat your skin gently afterward.
What Your Doctor Can Do about Your Blackheads
Blackheads, a result of acne, can be treated by your doctor. While general practitioners can suggest treatments and give prescriptions, dermatologists are specialists concerning skin and may be able to better cater to your specific blemish needs. Because acne comes in so many types (acne vulgaris, acne conglobata, acne fulminans, etc.), there are a wide variety of treatments available. Whether the cause is related to hormones, genetics, diet, or an outside irritant, a dermatologist is more likely to identify the source of it and either prevent it from forming or treat it once it has occurred.
Depending on what causes your acne, your treatment will, of course, vary. Some of the possible treatments include topical antibiotics, internal antibiotics, hormone adjustment (read: birth control pills), exfoliants, dermabrasion, chemical peels, or more. There is a large variety of treatments available in a variety of price ranges. However, as most of these are by prescription or specialist only, you will have to make an appointment with a dermatologist or other skin specialist.
Natural Blackhead Removal
Natural scrub/exfoliant. Natural scrubs can be made at home or purchased from any local store. Sea salt, sugar, or even coffee will work as the scrubby base in a face or body scrub. This is a cheaper option than what can be purchased in the store, and you can customize the scrub to your favorite scents. Just be sure to only exfoliate very gently and only once or twice a week. Otherwise, your skin may become irritated and more breakouts can occur.
Salicylic acid. This is perhaps one of the most common ingredients in over-the-counter acne medication, as well as prescription medication. It breaks down the protein (keratin) in skin cells, allowing your body to slough off dead skin cells and helping to loosen and expel blackheads and whiteheads. It comes in many different forms, including lotions, oils, gels, soaps, and cleansing lotions. Salicylic acid is best used on mild acne or blackheads.
Benzoyl peroxide. This medication is typically used as the next step up from salicylic acid, for moderate acne problems. Benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria that is at the root of many causes of acne. It not only kills acne-causing bacteria, but it helps to dry up oils in the skin that clog pores, and it can help to exfoliate skin and loosen blackheads. This, too, comes in many different forms and is available over the counter.
Witch hazel. Witch hazel is a natural astringent extracted from the witch hazel flowering shrub. As an astringent, it constricts swollen blood vessels, bringing them back to their normal size. While this has a wide range of applications, including treating bug bites and hemorrhoids, one of its most popular uses is treating acne and blackheads by reducing swelling and tightening up the skin after a blackhead removal is done. Witch hazel can be found in oils, creams, and even in the Witch Stick for spot-control of acne.