It’s been some time since we did an Ask Us Anything but we’re happy to say it’s back! We’ve answered some of your beauty questions on Instagram (keep them coming *wink*) and will be diving deeper into this particular one today: Do you have any recommendations for clogged pores and blackheads? (@Oxyxyxy)
First Things First, What Exactly Are Blackheads?
Open Comedones = Blackheads
Closed Comedones = Whiteheads/Pimples
A blackhead is a pore clogged with excess sebum, dead skin cells or dirt trapped beneath the surface. If the skin goes over a clogged pore, you get a closed comedone aka whitehead. Otherwise, the gunk in an open pore gets exposed to the air and oxidises, forming an open comedone aka blackhead.
So…Why Do They Keep Coming Back?
Now that you know blackheads are essentially a buildup of sebum and dead skin cells, you might be wondering why these pesky black dots keep returning. Here’s why:
- It’s In Your Genes. Unfortunately, some people are just more prone to getting blackheads. Genes determine pore sizes and larger pores are more susceptible to build-up of sebum and dead skin cells.
- Blame The Hormones. Hormonal factors may cause your body to secrete excess sebum, which is a key component in the formation of blackheads.
- Warm weather doesn’t help. Excessive sweating can contribute to pores clogging with oil and dirt.
- Hyperproliferative Skin Cells. Skin cells lining some pores have shown to grow at an abnormally fast rate. Dead skin cells may not shed as quickly, so the buildup clogs pores and increases the likelihood of blackheads forming.
- They might not even be blackheads. If you take a good look in a magnifying mirror and notice some tan or dark grey specks on your skin, chances are they are sebaceous filaments and not blackheads. Quite honestly, I never knew about these blackhead imposters until I was researching for this article. Which meant that all this while, the tiny dots I was squeezing (unsuccessfully) on my nose were really sebaceous filaments! Now I know why they could never be eliminated. Sebaceous filaments reside in the lining of your pores, and their primary function is to help oil flow to the skin to moisturise it. Everyone has them and they aren’t actually harmful. If like me, and you’ve been mistaking them for blackheads, it’s time to leave them alone!
How Do I Get Rid Of Them For Good?
The thing is, tackling blackheads is an ongoing process. There’s no one way to get rid of them permanently BUT there are things you can do to extract these fellas and prevent them from popping right back up.
1. Salicylic Acid Is Your Best Friend
Salicylic Acid is a chemical exfoliant that breaks down the excess oil and dead skin cells in your pores and prevents future blockages. This ingredient can be found in a myriad of products such as cleansers (some are gentle enough to be used daily), masks and scrubs. For those with sensitive skin, ease salicylic acid into your routine by using the product once every few days to avoid irritation and dryness.
2. Exfoliate Regularly
Regular exfoliation helps to buff away dead skin cells and draw out impurities. Physical exfoliators include electronic skin-care devices such as a cleansing brush or a pore-cleansing scrub with granules. Some scrubs also contain alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs) which are chemical exfoliants. The key is to not overdo exfoliating! Once or twice a week should be fine for most people.
3. Use A Topical Retinoid
Try: DIFFERIN Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment
Often found in anti-ageing products to shave off a few years, retinoid is also incredibly helpful in fighting blackheads. Retinoid boosts cell regeneration and prevents cells from sticking together and blocking pores. You can try using a topical retinoid that is prescribed, or an over-the-counter cream.
Note: Retinoids can be quite strong, so those with sensitive skin types might have to opt for a milder formula or avoid it altogether. Retinoids are also not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Apply retinoid at nighttime as sunlight inactivates it.
4. Wait, What About Pore Strips?!
I haven’t forgotten the good ol’ pore strips. While pore strips occasionally do a fair job by pulling out the gunk in your pores, they aren’t an effective long-term solution as they don’t tackle the underlying causes (excess sebum, overactive glands etc.) There’s also a risk of pore strips damaging the skin and enlarging pores if done too often. I’m guilty of ripping a few pore strips myself during my teenage years–honestly, they weren’t too effective–but my stance now is to avoid them altogether.
5. Seek A Professional
When in doubt, consider speaking to a dermatologist who can prescribe stronger prescription medications or discuss other alternatives. Visiting a certified aesthetician who can perform extractions safely is also an option instead of squeezing blackheads on your own which can lead to broken skin and scarring.
Absolutely no one wants blackheads. However, it’s completely normal for some to hang around, especially on oilier parts of the face, even after trying the tips above. Ultimately, pores are pores and they will eventually fill up. The key is patience and creating a routine where your pores are constantly cleaned. We hope this answers your question, and helps you on your quest for clean pores!
Have a question you’d like us to answer? Drop us a question on our Instagram Story Question Box, or on our Home page’s Ask Box. We pick a few questions every two weeks and answer them the best we can. Fire away!