Blackheads or open comedones, appear as small bumps when skin pores or hair follicles are clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. This mild acne poses beauty problems to women. As a result, so many blackheads removal methods are available.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), approximately 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 24 experience at least minor acne. And, women are a greater percentage of the affected adults’ population.
Blackheads could be quite disturbing and it’s almost difficult to avoid squeezing and popping them. But, experts tell us that doing these things could be the reason why there are more breakouts.
In this article, I’ll be discussing the causes and various treatment options of blackheads.
What are Blackheads?
Blackheads fall into the category of a skin condition called comedones. As mentioned earlier, blackheads are open comedones. Generally, they form when skin pores get plugged with excess sebum and dead skin cells.
These dead cells accumulate in the follicles’ openings and form a bump. Shari Lipner, M.D., explains that when these bumps come in contact with air, they oxidize and turn black, hence, blackheads.
Compared to the other form of comedones, whiteheads (the closed comedones); “blackheads are less irritated, non-inflammatory acne lesions”, according to Erica Palmer, head of Biore Skincare R&D.
Blackheads are commonly found on the face, especially the nose, forehead, and chin. However, they may appear on other parts of the body like the back, arms, chest, cheeks, shoulders, and neck.
Causes of Blackheads
One major factor that causes blackheads breakouts is the excess sebum plus dead skin cells that plug skin pores. However, certain things can predispose you to plugged skin pores and consequently, blackheads. They include:
- Oily or acne-prone skin
- Excess shedding of dead skin cells
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menstruation
- Pubertal growth hormonal influence
- Genetic predisposition
- Use of birth control pills
- Medications like corticosteroids
- Sweats from wearing tight clothing
- Use of oil-based cosmetic products
- Day-to-day activities that open the pores, for instance, shaving
- Health conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
It is commonly believed that dirt and poor hygiene could predispose one to blackheads. Experts assure that it’s not true. On the other hand, trying to get rid of them by scrubbing will only pressurize the skin into more breakouts.
Learn More: Get Your Acne-Free Skin With a Facial Steamer
Treatment Options for Blackheads Removal
Skin experts recommend several treatment options that can effectively help you get rid of blackheads. They range from cosmetic procedures to simple home remedies for blackheads removal.
As convenient as getting rid of blackheads at home may sound, only mild or less severe cases should be treated at home. This is because it may be less effective and could lead to further breakouts.
Most importantly, you should work with guidance from a skin expert as blackheads are delicate skin conditions.
1. Cosmetic Procedures for Blackheads Removal
The cosmetic procedures for blackheads removal are quite delicate and should not be rushed into. Moreover, they are blackheads removal treatment options for cases that are no longer classified as mild or recurrent blackheads breakouts.
So, before you opt for any of these options, you should consult a skin expert who will ask you certain questions and enlighten you on the process and possible side effects. They are skin type sensitive and take into account previous health conditions. These options include:
This cosmetic procedure is usually used to treat blackheads outbreaks that are not so severe but keep persisting. Microdermabrasion targets and removes the uppermost layer of your skin using tiny particles.
A hand-held skin brush that contains crystal abrasives is gently used to brush over your skin, removing the dead cells. Consequently, the clogs that are responsible for blackheads are removed.
In addition, microdermabrasion smoothens your skin and refines your pores. But, you should keep in mind that this procedure should not be done without a proper prescription neither should it be done at home.
Laser and Light Therapy
Laser and light therapy is a cosmetic surgical procedure that effectively treats skin conditions like stretch marks, hyperpigmentation, and alopecia. Your dermatologist targets tiny beams with intense light at skin cells and alters the rate of oil production in the skin.
Lasers and light have beams that go far into the skin and removes blackheads without affecting the surface of your skin.
Chemical peels generally contain salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and retinoic acids that exfoliate your skin and get rid of excess oil and dead skin cells. With a prescription, you can use chemical peels to unclog your skin pores and generate new skin cells.
Although chemical peels are not originally made for blackheads removal, they equally get rid of dead skin cells and reduce the size of skin pores. Additionally, they are great anti-aging treatment options. So, either way, it’s a win-win for you.
2. OTC and Topical Treatments for Blackheads Removal
Exfoliators, cleansers, oral medications, and topical creams are available over the counter and based on a prescription for effective blackheads removal. This treatment option effectively removes milder blackheads.
Skin experts have found out that physical exfoliation tends to be harsh and dry out the skin. Consequently, they lead to the further occurrence of breakouts. Chemical exfoliants are rather prescribed.
Joshua Zeichner advises that “If you have blackheads, your go-to ingredient should be salicylic acid”. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxyl acid that exfoliates the skin and yet leaves it hydrated.
However, exfoliation should be weekly or based on the prescribed routine given to you by your dermatologist. Most importantly, work with a dermatologist’s prescription.
Creams or lotions that contain retinoids can be gotten over the counter in drugstores but not without a prescription. These creams have a formula that contains vitamin A which is an essential vitamin for cleaning pores and the regeneration of new cells.
Tretinoin and adapalene are common ingredients of these prescribed topical creams. They help to keep plugs formation at bay and simultaneously foster rapid cell growth.
However, you should keep in mind that these creams are UV-sensitive. That is to say, you should use them at night and when you are sure you won’t be in the sun.
When blackheads become more severe or are excessive than normal, your dermatologist may have to write you some oral medications. These medications get rid of blackheads and prevent future outbreaks.
Usually, such medication prescriptions arise when topical creams have proven ineffective. They are stronger and should not be used without a prescription.
Contrary to what is largely believed about dirt being a cause of blackheads, you actually do not need to wash your face with harsh cleansers or scrub either. Fragrance-free cleansers that do not rid your skin of moisture are best for blackheads removal.
Start your day with a cleanser like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser. This cleanser contains salicylic acid. Also, it helps to get rid of excess oil, gets rid of existing blackheads, and protects the skin from future occurrences.
Pore strips practically lift oil and dirt that cause blackheads off your skin. You can make this a weekly routine for effective results. But, you need to be consistent and patient to get lasting results.
In addition, Dr. Lipner says that if pore strips are not correctly used, you could have permanent acne scars. Moreover, without correct consultation and prescription, you might just be removing some essential elements that your skin needs.
This can cause skin irritations due to a lack of moisture. Consequently, the sebaceous glands may begin to overcompensate and produce excess oil to restore moisture.
3. Home Remedies for Blackheads Removal
Baking Soda Scrub
Baking soda is a universal and natural exfoliator; generally used for blemishes and acne.
- Dissolve the baking soda with water into a paste
- Apply the paste in the affected areas and scrub gently using your fingers
- After scrubbing well, wash off the paste with clean, warm water
- Do this procedure 2-3 times a week depending on the sensitivity of your skin
Green Tea Face Mask
- Steep some tea bags in hot water for longer than you would if you wanted to drink it
- Allow the tea to cool before you tear open the bags to release the content
- Afterward, take the leaves and mix them with about a tablespoon of honey in a separate bowl
- Apply the mix on the affected areas and leave it on for up to 15 minutes
- Rinse it off with warm water and pat dry
- Do this once a twice every week until you can see significant results
Green tea contains a compound called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which effectively reduces the production of sebum. Since it cuts down sebum production, you can be sure that your pores will no longer get clogged to form blackheads.
Clay Face Masks
Clay mask is commonly used to take care of skin acne. It easily absorbs oil and impurities from the skin. Use clay masks made from fuller’s earth and kaolin clay. They are effective blackheads removal agents and double to smoothen your skin.
Put the mask on the affected area and leave it on for about 15 minutes before you rinse your face with clean water.
- Cut tomato into round slices
- Gently rub a slice of tomato over blackhead clusters
- Then, allow the juice to dry on your skin
- You can go ahead to rinse your face with clean water and pat dry
Tomatoes are very rich in vitamin C and A. Also, they are good skin brighteners and they help to zap excess oil from oily skins.
Facial steaming works from the inside out. The steam goes up and uses the sweat that forms to clean your pores of toxins. Also, the blackheads become soft and you can now easily remove the clogs. After steaming, apply some ice cubes to your skin.
However, whenever you feel the steam is too much, you can lift your face from the water.
Lemon, Salt, and Honey
- Make a paste of lemon, salt, and honey
- Apply it directly to the blackheads and leave it on for about 3-5 minutes
- After that, use the paste to scrub your face gently in circular motions
- Allow it to seep into the skin for another 3-5 minutes
- You can now wash it with clean tepid water
Lemon acts as an astringent on your skin taking off the greasiness, salt forms the scrub while honey acts as a moisturizer. You should do this two to three times a week for effective results.
Read Also: Best Face Scrubs
Oils like argan oil or jojoba oil are non-comedogenic, that is, they do not clog your pores. They dissolve the clogged oils and also get them out of your pores.
- Apply some of the oil to your palm
- Massage it into your face using your fingertips
- Then, use a soft, clean washcloth that you must have dampened with warm water to gently wipe off the oil. Make sure you do not use a sponge
Pro Tips for Blackheads Removal and Prevention
- Avoid alcohol and oil-based cleansers, creams, and makeup products
- Include exfoliation in your skincare routine
- Regular facials can come in very handy
- Use non-comedogenic beauty products
- Wash your face at least twice a day and after exercising
- Use clean bedsheets. You can change them weekly
- Use a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every day
FAQs on Blackheads Removal
1. Why do I have blackheads?
Blackheads are bumps that usually appear when a plug (oil and dead skin cells) pushes at the skin pore and opens the hair follicles. And, when these openings come in contact with air, they become oxidized and darken.
2. Can blackheads go away naturally?
Yes, they may. Although quite stubborn, if left alone, blackheads may eventually disappear. Blackheads that are very close to the skin’s surface may clear off in a matter of weeks to months. Deeper blackheads could take months to years to go away.
3. Can I pop out blackheads?
No, you shouldn’t. Squeezing and popping out blackheads could worsen the state of your skin. This can lead to inflammation, hyperpigmentation, and even worse, you could have permanent scars.
Blackheads are harmless skin conditions that shouldn’t make you fret. But, if their presence begins to affect you psychologically, it’s appropriate to see a skin expert. And, if you want to help yourself out at home, you have to be sure of the severity of your blackheads.
Whether you’re opting for cosmetic procedures, OTC and topical medications, or home remedies, you should work alongside a dermatologist. This is because the skin on the face is very delicate and a slight mistake could become a permanent scar.
One ultimate way to prevent and treat skin breakouts is to know your skin type and care for it as such. Also, practicing the prevention tips will lessen your chances of getting blackheads and help you get rid of existing blackheads.
Thanks for reading.