Everyone gets them, everyone dreads them. Some of us are lucky enough to have them disappear on their own, and some of us have to live with them for much longer. Here’s the good news: your face can be free of black heads, and that too, without having to undergo complicated procedures and using thousand-dollar serums.
In the first part of this two-part series on blackheads, we’ll look at what you can do on an everyday basis to prevent blackheads from appearing in the first place, and give your face a smooth,even look. In the second post (coming soon), we’ll look at what you can do to ease them away from your face – without aggressive treatments.
First up, what are blackheads?
It’s important to understand that blackheads are not dirt sticking out of pores, that can be yanked away or scrubbed away. Medically speaking, blackheads are “small, dark spots on the skin, caused by a small blockage in the opening of a pore (follicle)” - US Library of Medicine. So they are actually spots on your skin – pigmented spots, to be precise.
How are blackheads formed?
Your skin produces an oily or waxy matter called sebum which helps lubricate and waterproof the skin and hair. This sebum naturally emerges from the pores in the skin (too much sebum = “oily” skin, too little = dry skin). Sometimes, this sebum is produced in excess and the pore gets blocked. Sebum contains melanin (Oh! That pigment that gives us our skin color). When exposed to air, melanin oxidises and becomes dark. And that’s what you see as a blackhead. So it’s not dirt or just a blocked pore that’s visible as a blackhead – it’s actually a pigmented spot, which is why it's a little tricky to get rid of...
Does everyone get blackheads or is it only me?
Going by the above, blackheads can occur to any of us (just like anybody can catch a cold), but yes - people with oily skin and combination skin are more susceptible. Very often, people with otherwise dry skin have a cluster of blackheads on their nose tip, because sebum production is highest in that area (why that is so is a topic for another day :P)
How can I prevent blackheads?
The good news, finally. Blackheads can be prevented to a large extent if you follow (and don't follow) some basic do's and don'ts on a daily basis. Here we go!
- Cleanse your face twice daily with a good mild cleanser - this is an absolute must. A cleanser with gentle scrub (not those nut shell powders that scratch your skin) is a good idea.
- If you wear makeup or live in a polluted environment (ok that's all of us), remember to use a gentle cleanser to wipe off oil-soluble grime before you wash your face. If you don't, your face washing won't be half as effective.
- After a wash, always pat your face dry with soft towel-cloth.
- As we are talking about pores here, toning is important. If you are facing a problem of blackheads, don’t skip the toning. Go for an alcohol-free toner that doesn’t dry your skin. Make toner part of your daily routine, even if you have normal skin.
- Go for weekly (or bi-weekly) cleansing/exfoliating facial mask. This can help pull out excess oil and impurities from pores.
- Blackheads are considered the first stage of acne. Ingredients like glycolic acid and salicylic acid are considered effective in fighting acne. While buying your Cleanser, Toner, Moisturiser and Sunscreen, do look for Glycolic acid or Salicylic acid in the ingredient list.
- Sweating also helps in unclogging pores, so get out and run! Bonus: you will also get a slimmer physique and a healthier body.
- Moisturization: Now just because you have blackheads doesn’t mean your skin needs no nourishment. Go for light, oil-free moisturisers, your skin does need the care.
- Don’t over-scrub your face. The temporary dryness will actually induce your skin to produce more sebum. Remember, you can’t eliminate blackheads by scrubbing them clean.
- Don’t rub your face with towel after washing. Harsh scrubbing with towel will not take out your blackheads, but will definitely add a few lines to your face :)
- Resist the urge to keep your face super-dry. It's important to retain the moisture balance in your skin, so adopt a balanced regime that suits you.
Bonus tips: what about blackhead extractors & blackhead strips?
Blackhead extractors are best used by qualified aestheticians - we don't think it's a good idea to use them at home because of the risk of infection and permanent scarring. And remember, with an extractor, you are treating the symptom, not the cause.
The same holds for blackhead removal strips - it's alright to try them as a first-aid or emergency use against blackheads, but they are hardly a permanent solution, or a sustainable cure. It's best to understand what causes blackheads, in the first place, and prevent them from happening!
We'll be back with another post soon on things you can do to get rid of blackheads after they've happened.
What do you think?
What has been your experience with blackheads? Have you tried something that's worked or hasn't? We'd love to hear from you - do share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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