Blackheads: dirty face or natural beauty blip?

3 minutes reading time

Hands up if you’ve ever had a little squeeze of a blackhead? And keep your hand up if that then led to prodding another and another? The truth is, most of us will have learnt through experience that it doesn’t matter how many blackheads you squeeze, there will always be more.

Does this mean you have a dirty face and that your daily cleansing routine just isn’t hitting the mark? Should you keep going with exfoliators and pore cleansing strips? Or are those little black or white pimples just a natural beauty blip?

What exactly are blackheads?

Both blackheads and whiteheads are formed when the oil (sebum) on your face and dead skin cells get trapped in your hair follicles. The resulting black and white pimples are called comedones. Every hair follicle (also known as pores) on your body contains a sebaceous gland which produces oil, which is why they can become clogged so easily.

When the hair follicle is open, the oxygen in the air oxidises the trapped oils and cells making them turn brown, resulting in a ‘blackhead’.   When the hair follicle is closed, the air cannot get to it and the hair follicle gets completely blocked, causing a white bump, or ‘whitehead’.

Contrary to popular belief, a blackhead is NOT dirt, so it has nothing to do with how well you clean your face. They are formed beneath the skins surface, so harsh cleansing and scrubbing won’t get rid of them.

Blackheads are most commonly found on your face where there is a higher amount of sebum, especially the nose and chin, but it is also common to find them on ears, shoulders, chest or back too.  In fact, whiteheads and blackheads can form anywhere on your body where there is a hair follicle.

How to get rid of blackheads

The key to clearing blackheads is unplugging the pores and dislodging the build-up.  It’s so tempting (and somewhat satisfying!) to squeeze them yourself, but that’s not recommended for two reasons.  Firstly, your fingers have oils and dirt on them which could cause further breakouts or infection. Secondly, all that squeezing and prodding can damage your skin.

If you’re going to tackle blackheads at home, look for cleansers, exfoliators, pore strips or acne products that contain salicylic acid or glycolic acid (or a combination of these). Retinol based products are also good. These ingredients help to dissolve the skin debris that clogs pores.  Chemical exfoliators of this nature are better at working into the pores than other grainy type scrubs which only tackle dead skin cells on the surface.

Alternatively, book yourself a facial treatment with a professional beauty therapist or dermatologist.  They may be able to manually remove the blackheads without causing damage, and will be able to offer deep cleansing and exfoliating treatments that won’t be harsh on your skin.

Find a beauty professional in your area here.

Is it possible to prevent blackheads?

No-one is immune from a blocked pore and some people will suffer blackheads or whiteheads more often than others.  It’s just one of those natural beauty blips we have to put up with. Likewise, it isn’t possible to close an open pore in order to prevent blackheads.

However, you can do your best to take good care of your skin, which will help to prevent the build-up of excess oils and skin debris.  Here are 3 top tips:

  • Exfoliate your face, or other blackhead prone areas, regularly to clear any build-up of dead skin cells on the surface.
  • Try keeping your hands off your face as much as possible too, to prevent any transfer of oil or dirt.
  • Hats can contribute to blocked pores on the forehead, so if you’re a regular hat wearer, think about ditching the head gear every now and again to give your forehead a breather.

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Share your experience

Have you found a natural cleanser that helps to unclog pores? Do you swear by a particular brand for keeping your skin clear? Have you found that professional treatments or regular facials have reduced the amount of pimples you have?  Why not pop your comments in the box below to share your thoughts?

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