Blackheads. No one wants them, but many of you ask about them. Some very common questions we get at The Glowtocol are: How can I get rid of blackheads? And how do I keep from getting them? Before we dive in, it's important to understand what blackheads actually are.
Simply put, a blackhead is a congested hair follicle clogged with dead skin cells and oil which then oxidizes and turns a dark color. We also like to note that a blackhead is not the same thing as an oil plug or sebaceous filament, which tend to show up on the nose and mimic the appearance of a blackhead. These oil plugs often get mistaken for clogged pores but they are completely normal and not meant to be eradicated.
Blackheads on the other hand, are unwanted guests with a tendency to also overstay their welcome. With that in mind, here are our top tips for giving your blackheads the boot.
FIVE TIPS FOR DEALING WITH BLACKHEADS
1.) Know about factors that contribute to congestion
As we've already discussed, blackheads are clogged or congested follicles, but how is it that they get clogged to begin with? In our experience some of the most common causes are: insufficient cleansing and/or exfoliation, pore clogging ingredients in other products or makeup and other internal imbalances in the body.
Cleansing and exfoliating properly is an easy fix, which we'll detail further. To troubleshoot pore-clogging ingredients, we recommend checking your products against a list like this one. You can also look for the words "non-comedogenic" when shopping for skincare products. This term denotes that a product is designed not to clog pores.
Imbalances in the body can be trickier to troubleshoot. You should always consult with your medical professional before making any diagnoses. However, as the skin tends to mirror what's going on internally, congestion in the skin can sometimes stem from something as simple as not drinking enough water. Being mindful of this can be helpful, if you wish to address your blackheads from a holistic perspective.
2.) Know about ingredients that boost skin health
Because blackheads are often a sign of imbalance in the skin, it can be helpful to get back to some foundational skincare to rebuild skin health. Vitamin C is a powerful ingredient for boosting skin immunity and speeding up the skin's ability to repair itself. Vitamin A or retinol is great for speeding up cellular turnover, which then allows the skin to rejuvenate and renew at a more youthful rate.
Facial oils and hydrators like hyaluronic acid can also aid in restoring skin health. Congestion can often be the result of a lack of moisture in the skin. By boosting the skin's oil and water levels, the skin can begin to rebalance itself and we can start to see improved function. As skin health improves, breakouts and blackheads linger less or don't have time to form at all.
3.) Exfoliate regularly with AHAs and BHAs
Exfoliation is one of the best preventative defenses against congested skin, but for addressing blackheads, we find that the most effective form of exfoliation is chemical exfoliation. Specifically, alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acid (salicylic acid) are your best bet for dissolving oil plugs and dead skin cells. These active ingredients which can be found in a cleanser or peel treatment also encourage cell turnover, helping your skin to more easily purge impurities.
Because manual exfoliation is also helpful for breaking up congestion, you can still use a face scrub, if you prefer. Ideally, look for a facial scrub that contains both a physical exfoliant and a AHA or BHA ingredient.
4.) Extract with caution
While it can be helpful to extract blackheads, we recommend this only as a last result. Professional extractions from an esthetician or dermatologist are best. Extracting anything from the pores is risky and can potentially damage the skin or break capillaries if performed incorrectly. And yet, you may still feel compelled to attempt them yourself.
If you absolutely can't resist, there are a few things you should know to prevent making things worse. First, we recommend only attempting extractions after cleansing your hands and face and softening the area with a steam shower or exfoliation.
Never pick or attempt to "pop" a blackhead as you may end up scarring the skin and/or spreading more bacteria. Instead, we recommend extractor tool such as a skin scrubber or a loop tool which work to apply gentle pressure and "jiggle" the blackhead out. If you are using your fingers the same rule applies. Use only gentle pressure to manipulate the skin and extract debris out of the pores. Never force anything and stop if it feels painful.
5.) Incorporate regular facial massage
You might have noticed that we are big fans of facial massage at The Glowtocol. Did you know that in addition to its other many benefits, facial massage is amazing for helping to prevent clogged pores and blackheads?
Because it increases blood flow, circulation and lymphatic drainage, massage can help oxygenate, detoxify and flush out stagnation below the surface of the skin. The result is less congested pores. In fact, many holistic estheticians actually do not perform extractions in a facial, but instead incorporate lots of massage for lymphatic drainage, as they believe this method to be more effective. Check out this page for our free facial massage tutorials.
GLOWTOCOL FAVES FOR PREVENTING BLACKHEADS
AHA & BHA Cleansers
Retinol & Retinol Alternatives
Skin Scrubber for Extractions
Image courtesy of Intelligent Elixirs