Battling Blackheads - Who Wins?

First of all, it's important to understand the difference between a blackhead and a pimple/ whitehead. A blackhead is a pore that's clogged with a mixture of dead skin cells, oil and bacteria that thrives on the protein and oil in your pores. Unlike a whitehead (a closed and inflamed comedone), a blackhead at the skin surface (an open comedone). Exposure to air causes this "plug" to oxidize and turn black, hence its very unappealing look. Although they are indeed very annoying to look at, they typically do not hurt or cause redness.

Here are some top tips on removing those pesky blackheads:

  • Never try to remove them by hand. Whilst it can be very satisfying, it could cause bleeding, scarring and pigmentation
  • Limit your intake of sugar and dairy
    • Milk contains androgen hormones that increase your testosterone levels which leads oilier skin that's more prone to problems
  • Avoid using strips that extract blackheads. First of all, they do not remove the whole blackhead, just its very top. Secondly, they can be too harsh and cause appearance of tiny blood vessels around your nose if your skin is very thin
    • Face masks containing clay and salicylic acid are a great alternative to strips
  • Avoid heavy alcohol-based products as they will dry out your skin and cause even more problems
  • Avoid products that contain petrolatum (i.e. mineral oil) which create a moisture barrier. By sealing in moisture, they also trap dead skin cells, oil and bacteria — which will only cause more blackheads
  • Remember to take off your makeup/ SPF/ general dirt from pollution EVERY SINGLE DAY
  • Your best companions in removing blackheads is a good quality cleanser without SLS (Sodium Laureth Sulphate) + a toner or pads with Salicylic Acid
    • Salicylic Acid gently helps skin-cell turnover, helping unclog your pores. The best way to use it is once or twice a day, in concentrations between .5 and 2%
  • Remember to moisturise your skin twice a day. Starving your skin of moisture will do nothing to remove blackheads, instead it will unsettle the balance your skin requires to stay healthy
  • Exfoliate once a week to remove the dead skin cells and prevent them from forming more blocked pores
    • A good gentle scrub or glycolic acid exfoliator would go a long way to help clear your skin

Remember - it takes time to get rid of blackheads, so a good daily routine, proper cleansing and use of products that gently exfoliate your skin will go a long way to make your skin healthy. Don't try to achieve perfection on day one - opt for long-term solution that will be gentle and effective.

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