What are blackheads and why are they black?
Why do we get blackheads?
"We all have pores and when those pores become blocked with debris, oil, or dead skin cells, that’s when you get a blackhead. The reason they look black is because all the oils in them become oxidised. It’s not the dirt that is black, it is just oxidised oil.” Dr. Anjali Mahto explains.
1. Wash your face regularly and after exercising
This may sound like the most basic advice but it is the easiest and most effortless way of keeping your skin free from acne. It's also best to know which cleanser suits your skin.
An ideal time to wash your face is in the morning so as to remove any dirt or even bacteria that may have gotten on your face at night. Of course, washing your bed sheets and pillowcases on a regular basis is also a must.
Washing up after exercising as soon as possible is also a must as sweat that is left to dry can clog up your pores, thus making it dirty and oily. A face cleansing wipe can do the trick if you don't have access to a sink.
However, one should be careful not to over-cleanse. This will do more harm than good as it overly strips your skin of moisture, causing your skin to produce more oil to compensate.
2. Use a pore strip
There has been great debate on whether pore strips are good for your skin but let's just say, it's about all how you use them.
While pore strips may remove natural oils and hair follicles that may cause your skin to dry out, there are ways to go around it and let it give you the best results.
Always prep your skin with warm water and make sure your pores are open. Removing the strip will lift the trapped debris and give you instant results.
With that being said, pore strips are a temporary relief and serve a great purpose only from time to time - especially when you are getting ready for an event the next day. Don't ever use any product excessively and that applies for pore strips as it may get rid of more than just the blackheads.
3. Exfoliate regularly & correctly
Another age-old rule of skincare — exfoliation. It is an important part of every skincare routine but it is oh-so-easy to overdo it, especially when you have inflammatory acne.
First, look for gentle chemical exfoliants that are not too harsh and rough on your skin like alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs).
"AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) are really good for treating blackheads, so they are basically your glycolic acids and your lactic acids" explains Dr. Mahto.
"Then you have your BHAs (beta hydroxy acids), like salicylic acid, they cause a chemical disintegration of the top layer of the skin cells, so they dissolve everything, and that unblocks the pores."
4. Try clay or charcoal masks
Both clay and charcoal masks have been considered must-haves for oily skin and they really work deep in your skin to extract all the dirt, oil, and impurities.
Having been around since ancient times, clay masks are much gentler than pore strips and work really well in unclogging pores. Some clay masks even contain sulfur which works in breaking down the dead skin cells that form blackheads.
Similar to clay, charcoal is a natural detoxifier and works great in drawing out impurities from deep within your skin. With its popularity as an ingredient in many products such as cleansers, toothpaste, and more, there's just no reason for you not to try it out charcoal masks.
5. Switch up your skincare routine
If you've been following the steps and still getting frequent blackheads, maybe it's time to check if your skincare routine is actually working for you.
Start with your cleanser and check if it has any foaming properties to lift dirt off your skin easily or for those with acne-prone skin, swap to ones that contain salicylic acid.
Next, check if your moisturizer is too rich for your skin. Thick moisturizers may clog pores which can increase the chances of blackheads. Opt for those that are oil-free or gel-like instead.
6. If you must squeeze, never use your nails
While it's heavily advised to not pick your skin, you can still DIY your blackhead extraction as long as you're being gentle. Do not put too much pressure!
Completely clean hands are extremely important as well as you wouldn't want more dirt and bacteria on your face. Place your fingers slightly away from the blackhead so that it can be extracted easily from a deeper level. Do not use your nails as you may risk scratching your skin.
You can also try extractor tools like the highly-raved facial pore vacuum cleanser that works great in sucking out clogged blackheads without squeezing or scratching your skin. It can also provide similar exfoliating benefits by removing excess dead skin cells.
However, do not overuse it so as to not irritate your skin unnecessarily. You'll also want to use it on different days from your chemical exfoliators and always use it with proper instructions such as opening up your pores with a steamer or warm towel prior to extraction.
The Bottom Line
Blackheads are common and while there are many ways to get rid of them, we need to recognize that it is an on-going problem as long as our skin is producing excess oil.
While it can be frustrating, experimenting with the 6 home remedies mentioned above will definitely help you lessen your blackheads tremendously.
If you still don't see any improvement after 2 months of trials, we strongly urge you to consider visiting a dermatologist, where he/she can better analyse the condition of your skin and give better advice and options for treatment.