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What are blackheads and how do you get rid of them?

April 10th 2015 / Anna Hunter

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If blackheads are your skincare nemesis, help is at hand...

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Q. What are blackheads and how do you get rid of them?

A. Debbie Thomas, facialist and skincare expert

A blackhead is a blocked pore that is open on the skin rather than being covered, unlike a whitehead. The pore (hair follicle) becomes blocked with a mixture of the skin's natural oil sebum, dead skin and bacteria.

Sebum is produced by a small gland attached to the pore. Sebum moisturises the hair and skin and usually comes out of the pore opening on to the surface of the skin. If the sebum becomes blocked in the pore, then bacteria can also build up.

Sebum and skin cells also contain melanin, the pigment that gives the hair and skin colour. Melanin turns dark (oxidizes) when exposed to air. That is where blackheads get the dark colour from; the oxygen can get to the melanin in the sebum because the pore is open. So blackheads are not dirty, and scrubbing or over cleaning does not remove or prevent them.

Blackheads can affect people with any skin type, but are more common in those with oily skin or those using very oily products and makeup.

Here are some tips on treating blackheads:

Avoid using oil based products on the affected area.

Cleanse thoroughly twice daily, but no more as over-cleansing can irritate the skin.

Use a salicylic acid based cleanser or serum on the area to help break down blockages that trap the oil.

Mild retinol products can help to reduce blockages and regulate oil production.

Treatment like peels, hydradermabrasion and microdermabrasion can help to reduce surface blockages.

Expert extractions can clean the pores of congestion present at the time.

Lasers and light therapy can help to regulate oil production and reduce bacteria on the skin.

A final word...

If you have oily skin in an area, then it is very hard to be completely blackhead free. The blockages result from your skin’s own natural process of oil production and skin shedding/renewal.

In over 15 years I have probably only treated a handful of people with no blackheads at all. Pretty much everyone has them, especially on noses or chins which are naturally more oily that the rest of the face. To avoid worsening the condition then follow the above advice. Keep to mild, regular exfoliation and oil-free products on the area, then book in to see an expert for a deep cleanse when you can.

Have you found that anything particularly helps when it comes to minimizing blackheads? Let us know via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram or comment below

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