How to Really Get Rid of Blackheads

by The First Refresh

Among the various skin issues that one may have, blackheads probably rank among the peskiest. Once the dilated and consequently clogged pores start to appear, chances are they will keep coming back even after thorough cleansing.

Therein lies the million dollar question: how do we remove blackheads once and for all? Or at least, keep our pores clear as much as possible? 

It is first important to understand exactly what blackheads are. They are essentially one of various types of acne—the technical name for blackheads is “open comedone”. Each blackhead is an open pore that is filled with dead skin cells and sebum. The gunk turns black because of oxidation upon contact with air. 

While good skincare has much to do with maintaining clean pores, some people are genetically predisposed to blackheads.

Thankfully, there are now various ways to tackle this age-old problem. It takes a wee bit of effort but it’ll be worth it.

1 |  Start reading the ingredient labels

The next time you are out shopping for skincare products, shortlist those containing salicylic acid, a proven ingredient to reduce oil and take away dead skin cells. You usually find this beta hydroxy acid (BHA) in cleansers and scrubs and in varying concentrations though most over-the-counter products are safe for everyone.

If your skin is prone to redness, you might want to use the product only on alternate days or less often. On the flip side, if you have very oily and acne-prone skin, a prescription-strength salicylic acid product or oral medication may be more suitable—check with your doctor for more information.

Those with stubborn blackheads may also benefit from products containing retinol or retinoids—they are vitamin A derivatives that speed up cell turnover. When skin cells shed quicker, they are less likely to get clogged in the pores. Another benefit of using retinol or retinoids is that they help in anti-ageing.

Retinols and retinoids are normally found in night creams as they can make your skin UV-sensitive. So make sure you wash it off in the morning before heading out.

An important thing to note: as blackheads don’t typically contain bacteria, benzoyl peroxide, a highly common and powerful antibacterial ingredient used among acne sufferers, won’t be of much help here.

2 |  Keep oily hair and scalp in control

Sebum from the scalp can easily find its way to your face and cause clogged pores. So if you have an oily scalp, make sure you wash it daily with a shampoo formulated for your scalp type.

In the same vein, after a decadent meal of fried chicken wings or pizza, give your hands and mouth area a good wash so no residue grease can do any harm.

While at it, change out your pillowcases once a week. They collect an insane amount of dead skin cells during our sleep.

3 |  Exfoliate once a week

Even those with redness-prone skin can benefit from using a non-chemical scrub that manually pushes away dead skin cells—just make sure you choose a formulation that is gentle enough. Those with oily or combination skin may be able to tolerate thrice-weekly scrubbing.

4 |  Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise

It may feel counterintuitive to those with oily blackheads-prone skin but it is crucial to moisturise every day. Many cleansing products that fight acne tend to strip away oils and cause dryness in the long run. The last thing you need on top of blackheads are wrinkles and flaky skin.

What’s also likely to happen is that dry skin produces even more oil as overcompensation. This can cause your acne situation to worsen as pores become more clogged than before.

Choose water-based products and gels or lotions instead of thick creams if you are not used to the tacky feel of a moisturiser on your face. Bonus: for those with sensitive skin, products with stronger acids (like reinoid) can be applied over a layer of moisturiser so as to prevent reactions. 

5 |  Schedule your facials regularly

Extractions are the surest way to excavate your pores (though we believe in facial scrubbing as an alternative) - but if you really must have your extraction fix, it’s safest and most hygienic to let the experts do it. There may be home extraction kits for sale, but you run the risk of scarring if you don’t do it exactly right.

If you have to do it yourself, avoid using your nails. If a blackhead doesn’t pop easily, move on to avoid injuring the skin.

(Check out our Reset Facial for deep cleansing and rejuvenation)

6 |  Call in the docs

Like we said before, severe acne cases might require prescription strength medication and creams, which are only available at clinics.

There are also procedures such as chemical peels and lasers that can help remove dead skin cells effectively and evenly. While these peels at the doctor’s office are typically targeted at patients with wrinkles and hyperpigmentation, they do the work of unclogging pores and tackling blackheads at the same time.

Enjoyed this article? Check out more nifty beauty tips on The First Refresh blog