Even people with relatively clear skin can find themselves spending hours squeezing blackheads in the mirror. If this is you, PLEASE keep reading. And no, I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t try to pop them because by now you already know. But they may not even be blackheads at all. Let’s get into what blackheads are, what causes them, what happens if you don’t treat them and of course the best treatments to remove blackheads!
What Are Blackheads And What Causes Blackheads On Your Face?
We can’t talk about blackheads without talking about sebaceous filaments. It is actually very common to mistake your sebaceous filaments for blackheads. And squeezing them out can have negative effects like reducing skin elasticity and ultimately increasing the appearance of pores. So what’s the difference between sebaceous filaments and blackheads?
Sebaceous Filaments vs. Blackheads
What are Sebaceous Filaments?
Common Locations of Sebaceous Filaments
Since sebaceous filaments go hand in hand with oily skin and larger pores, they’re more prominent on the nose and forehead, aka your t-zone.
What are Blackheads?
What Causes Blackheads?
The causes of blackheads are the same as other types of acne. The most common causes are:
Bacteria—Everyone’s skin has bacteria on it. I know it sounds gross, but it’s true. You even want some of the good bacteria to help balance things out! Things can start to go awry though if your bacteria levels become unbalanced and you have too much Propionibacterium acnes—one of the bad guys linked to acne.
Dead Skin Build Up—If your skin isn’t properly shedding dead skin, it’s more likely to clog your pores and create acne. Yuck!
Hormones—We all know our hormones can cause all sorts of pesky symptoms including weight fluctuations, fatigue, as well as acne!
Diet—Some studies have shown that there’s a link between high-glycemic-index diets and high-dairy diets and acne.
What Happens If You Don't Get Rid Of Blackheads As Soon As Possible
More Acne—leaving your bacteria, oil and dead skin cells unchecked are just a recipe for even more acne. If you don’t treat the root causes of your acne immediately, it can lead to chronic and more severe acne.
Scarring – Leaving prolonged acne untreated can ultimately lead to scarring which can sometimes be quite severe. We’ve all seen it, the deep divots which can be SO expensive to try to treat and remove.
Serious Disease—A 2015 study also notes that acne is “a chronic inflammatory disease.” Dr. Robert H. Shmerling with Harvard Medical School shares that “chronic inflammation has been tied to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and bowel diseases like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.”
How To Treat And Prevent Blackheads?
You’re obviously on board for getting rid of your blackheads from your nose and anywhere else they might be lingering, but what are the most effective ways to say goodbye to blackheads forever? Below we’ve outlined the five best ways to modify your skin care routine for blackheads, including some of the best products for clogged pores and blackheads.
1. Use Non-Comedogenic Products
Non-comedogenic is not a term regulated by the FDA, so companies don’t actually have to prove that their products won’t clog your pores. You’ll want to keep an eye out for ingredients like glycerin, aloe vera, witch hazel and niacinamide. These are all great for treating blackheads and won’t clog your pores!
2. Use A Cleanser With Salicylic Acid
A 2012 study, showed that use of Salicylic Acid over six weeks significantly improved acne as well as acne scars! If you have sensitive skin, you might need to work up to using your salicylic acid cleanser daily. Start with three days a week and work your way up from there!
3. Add A Retinoid To Your Skincare Routine
Retinoids help with cell turnover, removing dead skin cells, reducing oil production, unclogging pores, and improving collagen production. Basically, you NEED this in your skincare line up! So what’s the difference between all the different types of retinoids?
Without getting too geeky, tretinoin is the most effective and starts working immediately, BUT it’s also the most difficult for skin to tolerate. RetinAl still packs all the incredible benefits, but it’s much gentler and tolerable. Just like Salicylic Acid, you will probably have to work up to using a retinoid daily, and you may never be able to use it daily—and that’s okay! Even using it three times a week will drastically improve the condition of your skin and help get rid of blackheads and prevent them.
You’ll want to use your retinoid at night because it can make your skin sensitive to sunlight. You might also want to add a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid or sodium hyaluronate to help your skin tolerate your retinoid. It’s normal to experience redness, itchiness and flakiness when starting a retinoid. Mine last for about six weeks, but I’m so glad I pushed through!
4. Use Sunscreen
To counter this, your skin produces more oils, and excess oil is one of the major causes of blackheads and acne. To prevent further blackheads, but sure to use a minimum of SPF 30 every day. And no, make up with SPF doesn’t count!
5. Use A Mask To Absorb Excess Oil
No matter what your skin type, or what the info on the back of the bottle says, Shani Hillian, a New York-based holistic esthetician, says that you want to rinse off your mask before it dries fully. Otherwise, you run the risk of drying your skin out and triggering the vicious oil production all over again! Apply a thick layer all over your face, let it sit for 10 minutes, then rinse with warm water. You can continue masking, even once your blackheads subside, as a preventative treatment.