When it comes to acne, blackheads are one of the milder forms. Unlike other kinds of acne, blackheads are not red or inflamed, but they certainly are persistent. They can turn an otherwise good-skin day into a mediocre one. So, in the quest for good-skin days every day, here is everything you need to know about how to improve blackheads and how to decrease the appearance of your pores.
Blackheads are a type of non-inflamed clogged pore and are also known as open comedones. Once exposed to the air, the top of the clogged pore oxidizes and turns black (hence the term “blackhead”). Whiteheads are also a kind of comedone; however, they are called “closed comedones” because they are covered by a layer of skin cells that prevents them from oxidizing. Learning how to improve blackheads can be a game-changer, because if you do not send them packing, they stick around for the long haul. Some blackheads stay for weeks and some for months if they are not extracted. Whiteheads, on the other hand, are often taken care of by the body—they usually clear up within one to two weeks.
What causes blackheads?
Now we know that blackheads occur over time as sebum (an oily substance), makeup and other environmental debris build up within pores. But why? There are a few factors that influence the formation of blackheads, among them:
- Hormones: Blackheads most commonly crop up during puberty because hormone levels trigger a spike in sebum production. However, they can appear at any age. Shifts in the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and stopping the birth control pill can also trigger blackhead formation.
- Smoking: Tobacco smoke can cause resistant blackhead formation, especially in women.
- Occlusion: Use of occlusive (prevent or retard water loss) skincare and hair care products can trigger blackhead formation. Plus, things that physically come into contact with skin such as a headband, hat, phone or even your hands, can block the oil glands, congesting the skin and triggering blackhead formation.
Blackheads love to hang out on noses and chins, but that does not mean they do not wander. Beyond the face, you can also find them on the back, neck, chest, arms and shoulders. The reason? These areas have lots of hair follicles.
How do you improve blackheads?
Once you spot a blackhead, what is the best way to actually remove it? Slowly and gently. Try using exfoliants or exfoliating masks as part of your skincare routine; it is the easiest way to gradually release the debris from a congested pore. Follow up with a daily salicylic acid treatment. Salicylic acid is an ideal ingredient in oily skin—it penetrates the oil gland effectively and triggers exfoliation. Not all blackheads are alike; some may be larger and deeper than others. Resist the urge to squeeze any blackhead as it can injure the skin—and potentially trigger discoloration or scarring. Plus, you run the risk of introducing bacteria into pores. It is also best to skip the blackhead-removal tools; if misused, they can cause hyperpigmentation and increase inflammation. The best course of action to treat and prevent blackheads on the nose, chin, cheeks and anywhere else on the face is to adopt an effective skincare regimen. By simply adding one (or two or three) of these formulations into your regular routine, you will say hello to a clearer complexion in no time.
- The best cleanser for blackheads - Look for a mild cleanser that will not strip your skin of moisture, which actually can trigger the overproduction of sebum and contribute to the formation of new comedones.
- The best toner for blackheads - Adding a powerful punch of skin-boosting ingredients via a toner will help remove the last traces of pore-clogging dirt and debris that cleansers might leave behind.
- The best blackhead treatment - Consider adding a targeted acne treatment to your routine, one that has a combo of glycolic acid and salicylic acid, like Vichy Normaderm Corrective Anti Acne Treatment. Glycolic acid is an AHA that penetrates deep into the skin, scooping out and neutralizing pore-clogging impurities. Salicylic acid is a larger molecular size, so it stays on the surface of the skin longer and works as a chemical exfoliant—an excellent pore cleanser.
- The best blackhead-removal mask - If you are looking to turn up the intensity on your skin pampering—and blackhead banishing—try a charcoal mask. Its end goal is to gently draw out the oil and dead skin that create those pesky blackheads, while increasing hydration.