Bye Bye Blackheads: Treatments & Skincare Routine Tips
Squeezing your blackheads might feel satisfying, but it’s harming your skin more than you think. Try these treatment options and skincare tips instead.
Blackheads are a type of acne that’s extremely common. You’re most likely to spot them on your nose and chin, and sometimes your neck, chest and back. While most people develop blackheads in their teenage years while undergoing hormonal changes, some even get them in adulthood for the first time. Unlike whiteheads, they don’t hurt or create any discomfort. However, they can be very unsightly, affecting a person’s mood and self-perception.
Usually, people just squeeze them out until the next time they appear again. As satisfying as it may be, squeezing your blackheads out can ruin your complexion in the long run. If you truly want to get rid of blackheads and prevent them from coming back, there are other effective treatments you can explore.
Shared herewith is all the important information you need to know about blackheads: what causes blackheads, how they are different from whiteheads, treatment options and skincare tips for preventing blackheads.
What Causes Blackheads?
Sebaceous glands which are connected to hair follicles, are located all over your body. When these glands become inflamed, they become comedones. Open comedones are called blackheads and closed comedones are called whiteheads. In the case of blackheads, when these open pores which are clogged with dirt, oil and dead skin cells get exposed to air, they turn black due to oxidation. Chemistry lesson aside, here are the key reasons why you get blackheads:
- Increased sebum production. Sebum is the oil produced by your sebaceous glands
- Abnormal keratin formation. Keratin is a protein found in hair, nails and skin
- Increased androgens. An androgen is a male sex hormone responsible for hair growth, and development of primary and secondary sexual characteristics in men
- Increased presence of acne causing bacteria on the skin
Although anyone can get blackheads, oily or combination skin types are most vulnerable to developing them as they have overactive sebaceous glands.
How To Get Rid Of Blackheads?
Mild blackheads can usually be treated with non-prescription medications. These are available in the form of serum, cleanser and lotion in most drug stores and cosmetic counters. You can start your blackhead treatment with a cleanser that has:
- Salicylic Acid - It’s pretty popular in the cosmetic circle, so chances are you’ve already heard of salicylic acid. It’s an extremely powerful yet gentle exfoliating acid that dissolves the dead skin cells and prevents your hair follicles from clogging
- Azelaic Acid - It has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, found naturally in grains such as barley, wheat, and rye. Azelaic acid can clear up acne and reduce dark spots but it’s not as powerful an exfoliator as glycolic acid, lactic acid or salicylic acid
- Benzoyl Peroxide - Usually available in gels, cleansers, and spot treatments, benzoyl peroxide is a powerful exfoliator that clears up the excess sebum (oil) and dead skin cells in your pores. It’s also highly effective in treating inflamed acne like pimples
- Retinoids - It is a class of chemicals derived from vitamin A, which increases the collagen production in your body. While retinoids do clear your pores, these are more effective in clearing acne spots and improving skin colour. However, retinoids can dry up your skin, so use them once every two days, or along with a moisturiser
If your blackheads don’t go away with these over-the-counter (OTC) acne medications, then you can consult a dermatologist for stronger remedies such as:
- Manual Extraction - Round loop extraction and microdermabrasion are two of the common manual blackhead extraction treatments prescribed by dermatologists where they use a special tool to unclog your follicles
- Chemical Peel - A chemical peel, also known as derma peeling, involves applying a chemical solution on your skin to remove the top layer. The skin that grows back has lesser acne, wrinkles and sun damage
- Laser and Light Therapies - It’s a non-invasive skin treatment that uses tiny beams of intense light to kill bacteria, reduce dark spots, and repair damaged skin. Both lasers and light beams can get rid of blackheads and from deep under, without damaging the top layers of the skin
While some blackheads can go away on their own, the deeply embedded ones require a dermatologist's help. For blackheads, close to the skin’s surface, over-the-counter OTC medication and mild chemical peels are fairly effective. You can also incorporate certain products and natural remedies into your skincare routine to ward off blackheads permanently.
To sum up, blackheads are essentially open pores in your skin that get clogged with dirt, oil and dead skin cells. Some which are closer to the surface and can be treated with cleansers, serums, moisturisers and home remedies. But the deeply embedded ones require a dermatologist's help who may use a manual extractor, a chemical peel, or laser or light therapy as per your decision.
If surface-level blackheads are your primary concern, then you can add a salicylic acid cleanser twice a week to your skincare routine. If you have both blackheads and acne, then benzoyl peroxide may work better. But if you’re looking to improve your skin colour and target acne scars, then retinoids or azelaic acid is the better choice. If natural remedies are more to your liking, then tea tree oil, green tea extracts and sugar or salt scrubs are effective in removing blackheads.
An important fact to remember about OTC treatments used for removing blackheads is that the solutions in them are usually powerful exfoliants, which may dry up your skin and even irritate it if you use them frequently or without added hydration. If you are new to such products, it’s best to start with once or twice a week usage, and then slowly increase the dosage.
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