None of us likes having blackheads. They can make us self-conscious and they even can make us look as if we do not look after ourselves, in spite of the fact that we might have fastidious levels of personal hygiene. For some people, especially people who are going through puberty, and other young adults, they are a major source of anxiety.
In terms of defining them, blackheads are small bumps that appear on the skin, typically on the face, chest, back, neck, and shoulders. Though not usually as inflamed as some harsher types of acne, they are nonetheless a form of acne and are caused by clogged pores. Typically, they form when sebum or oil on the skin gets blocked into pores. This then leads to the pore becoming dark and raised, giving it the appearance of a black dot. Often, they can look quite intense if they are gathered together. Blackheads on the nose are often especially stressful for people, as they are highly visible if left untreated.
Causes of blackheads
Genetics and Hormones
The oil that forms in pores and that gets blocked to become blackheads can be caused by a number of factors. Some of them are easier to control than others. Unfortunately for some people, genetics and hormones can often cause the skin to produce excess oil, and this can mean that, in puberty especially, it can require a lot of attention and care to limit the presence and appearance of blackheads. The overproduction of sebum can be one of the body’s activities that is difficult to control, and for people who have oily skin it can need careful skin management approaches.
Another cause of blackheads is bad diet. Processed foods, greasy, or junk foods will impact the skin and make it duller, oilier and more prone to breakouts of blackheads. But not everyone who eats badly gets blackheads, of course. Some people who suffer acne are eating really healthily, but may just have oily skin genetically. It is important not to think that anyone with blackheads is necessarily someone with poor dietary habits.
Poor skin care
Skincare habits, such as not cleansing or exfoliating the skin properly, can also play a role in blackhead formation. It is important that the skin is respected and that dead skin cells are removed with light exfoliation regularly. You need to ensure your skin is regularly cleaned, especially in areas where oils gather, such as the nose, chin, chest, and back, especially if you have skin that is oily to begin with.
Skin types mostly prone to blackheads
Blackheads are a common complexion issue, and it is often facial blackheads that people find most emotionally difficult. Some skin types are more prone to them than others, and the reality is that those with combination or oily skin types are much more likely to develop blackheads than those with dry or normal skin. This is because sebum naturally produced by the skin’s oil glands can become lodged in the pores, leading to blackheads on these skin types. Knowing this is important, as it enables you to assess your skincare regimen and adapt your products and habits to those suited to oilier skins.
How to Remove Blackheads
There is no doubt that an appropriate cleansing and exfoliating regime makes a difference, although it will not work instantly. It may take some trial and error before you get the right products and techniques suited to your skin.
For most people, however, the best way is to start by using a gentle cleanser on your face twice a day. Given that you are cleaning oils away, it is important to moisturize afterwards, even though this might seem counterintuitive. In fact, your skin needs to have moisture at all times, and if you use a non-oil based moisturizer it will not impact your skin negatively or form blackheads. In fact, if you overly dry out your skin, it can lead to the skin working even faster to produce oils again, which then increases your risk of blackheads.
Generally speaking, for most people suffering from blackheads, exfoliating twice a week is about right. You can exfoliate in a number of ways and they are all effective in sloughing off dead skin cells. You may wish to try a facemask, or a face scrub, or a skin peel to unclog pores and revitalize the skin’s appearance. There are innumerable options available, but make sure to use one that is gentle to begin with. Skin is very sensitive, and will respond to even mild stimulation from most exfoliants, so do not use anything harsh. It is essential to remember that excessive exfoliation, or using the wrong products, can lead to the skin overreacting. If this happens you may experience itching, redness, and even more blackhead breakouts.
Remember that blackhead removal is not going to be completely successful instantly. You need to find a good progressive set of products that sort your skin gradually.
Using a blackhead extractor
These are available in pharmacies and some supermarkets. Essentially a blackhead extractor is a tool tool for ridding the skin of impurities and for removing the sebum that has become blocked in the pore. If used well, they are generally very safe and can gently remove blackheads without leaving any trace or damage. Make sure to be gentle, however, and not to go hard on the skin.
Be aware that if you have a lot of blackheads on one isolated area of the face or body you may wish to do this in small numbers at a time, to avoid putting stress on a localized area of your body or face. Once you’re done, ensure you give your skin time to rest and then apply some toner or moisturizer to soothe any redness and keep the skin moist. Remember that a moist skin is not the same as an oily skin; skin needs moisture.
Applying topical treatments
These are treatments that you can find in many pharmacies or supermarkets and many people swear by them. Look for products that contain a small amount of salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, as these can assist in blackhead reduction and removal. The salicylic acid breaks down oil and unblocks pores, and benzoyl peroxide reduces bacteria and helps prevent future blemishes.
However make sure to have a chat with your pharmacist. Though these products are widely used, they are nonetheless quite active agents and acids can cause redness. Test them out on a small area of affected skin to begin with to ensure that your skin does not have any adverse reactions to them. Other OTC topical treatments are also available, so there are plenty out there that are very gentle and that you may find better suited to you.
Seeking professional help
Skin problems can be traumatic. We sometimes suffer greatly from our skin’s appearance, so don’t ever be shy about seeing a professional for advice and support. A dermatologist or doctor or homeopath may have options that are extremely helpful to you. Nowadays, there is a huge variety of prescription medicines that can be used to help kill off spots and reduce oils on the skin. Skin care professionals can also design a personalized plan tailored to your skin type and needs, as well as giving you emotional support and advice if you are feeling down about your blackheads and acne. Don’t be afraid to seek one-to-one professional advice.
How to Prevent Blackheads
Keeping skin clean
Cleansing is clearly one essential approach to maintaining a skin free from blackheads. However, not all soaps or cleansers are the same and some can actually cause your skin to produce even more sebum, so make sure to find a product that is designed for your skin type.
For example, if you have an oily complexion, opt for oil-free cleansers and exfoliants. In addition, though it can be tempting, do not overuse them. The skin does not need washing more than twice a day.
You can also try using a cleansing brush or a soft loofah or sponge to help buff away any impurities, but be gentle if you are using anything with a semi-rough surface. Remember how tender skin is. Even a face cloth gently wiped across a brow, for example, can be enough to lift off the upper layer of dead skin cells. You don’t need pressure.
Eating a healthy diet
Though diet is not always the solution to everyone’s situation, for example if you naturally suffer from especially oily skin, it is still wise to ensure you are eating well. Even those with oily skin and whose condition is genetic can find that blackheads and acne get worse if their diet is bad. A good diet is therefore always a net positive for our skin. Eating foods that are high in vitamins and antioxidants can definitely help keep your skin clean, nourished, and well moisturized from within. Though not a cure for everyone, this can reduce the likelihood of the clogged pores that lead to blackheads.
Good dietary habits will typically include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You can also help regulate your body by adding in lean proteins and healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts and oily fish. Avoid processed foods and refined carbohydrates, such as white breads, and limit sugars to those that are naturally occurring in foods. Even if this does not cure the situation for everyone, most people will notice some degree of positive difference, as well as feeling healthier all round.
Avoiding touching the face
This can be among the hardest things to control, but it is really essential you do so. It is widely known that the skin on our faces is particularly vulnerable to bacteria and dirt from our hands. Touching the face therefore makes the spread of bacteria, dirt, impurities and possible infections more likely, which increases the chances of blackheads forming in oily areas, such as the forehead or nose or chin.
Some people find that if they feel the instinct to touch their face it can be resisted by counting to five, or by imagining a blackhead forming, but it can definitely take time to get into the conscious habit. It is, however, worth it.
Stress can have a major influence on our skin. It is often under-recognized, but it is absolutely true. Stress and breakouts go hand in hand, one following the other.
To limit your stress levels, try to control your life as much as possible and build in good habits. Get enough exercise, even if it is just thirty minutes a day or a decent walk. Build in regular sleep habits, as this is a real help for the skin. Get outside enough, too, so that you are getting Vitamin D. In addition, try meditation and positive visualization techniques. Think consciously of your mental wellbeing and do things that satisfy you emotionally, physically and mentally. Focus on goals and assert as much control over as many factors of your life as you can, to counteract the fact that there are maybe elements of your skin that remain not as you would wish.
Skin hates being dehydrated, so effective hydration is genuinely an essential part of limiting blackheads. Hydration flushes out toxins and impurities and this assists the body in having fewer breakouts. Hydration, especially with water and herbal teas, also helps reduce any inflammation in the skin. You are also wise to cut down on caffeine, alcohol, and high sugar drinks, as these are highly problematic for the skin and can cause irruptions and inflammation and redness.
Aim for around 1.5 to 2 liters of good hydration a day, which is roughly the equivalent of around 8 glasses of water.
Getting enough sleep
Overall bodily rest and calmness matters to the skin’s health, but sleep itself really matters hugely to the skin. When we rest and get good sleep our bodies are able to repair themselves and restore lost collagen, which is an essential component of healthy skin and a natural agent that helps to reduce the appearance of blackheads. Additionally, if our bodies and skin are sleep deprived, our skin’s oils and bacteria can become imbalanced, leading to yet more blackhead breakouts. Sleep is therefore an essential support in fighting back against blackheads and in restoring and maintaining good skin health.
We often talk of our bodies being deprived of sleep or nutrition, but you should think of your skin in the same terms too. Skin can definitely be sleep-deprived.
Using Concealers or make-up
In some circumstances, perhaps when you might be on a date or at an occasion when you wish to look your best, you can sometimes benefit from using a concealer to cover up the oiliness or blackness of your blocked pores. There is no great risk to doing this, and if it is done carefully you will not be likely to make your blackheads worse. If it helps you feel more confident and self-assured, it can be worth it. However, you are best not to make this a habit, as it can lead to you ignoring the root issue, and it is also the case that, over time and with repeated applications, you may find your skin becomes even more blocked with the residue of concealer product.
Skin complaints can be really depressing and you should not underestimate the significance they play in your life. But if you take the advice that is here, and focus on being proactive in monitoring your skin, you can help make a difference and get rid of the blackheads and the acne. Always make sure to seek help from a medical professional when you feel you need it, as there is no reason to live with acne nowadays. Good luck.