What are blackheads?
Simply put, blackheads are small bumps known as comedones which occur when dead skin cells and oil combine to block pores – most commonly on the face and in particular the T-zone. Whilst whiteheads occur when the comedones are covered by skin, blackheads appear black in appearance because the debris is left exposed to the air and turns darker when oxidised.
Who gets them?
“From my experience as a facialist having touching over 10 thousand people’s faces, there are only one or two lucky people who have absolutely no blemishes. Whether you are teenager or adult, the majority of people experience some sort of blemishes,” says Su-Man Hsu, whose eponymous product line combines both Eastern and Western skincare philosophies. “Blackheads often appears on oily or combination skin, or people wearing make-up and fake tan a lot. Larger pores also tend to increase the chances of having blackheads on the skin.” Other factors that can increase the likelihood of blackheads forming include a build-up of bacteria on the skin, excess dead skin cells and increased oil production caused by the likes of hormonal changes and medication.
How can you get rid of them?
One way to tackle blackheads fast is to book in for a facial that promises expert extractions. “We use a comedone extractor,” says celebrity facialist Vaishaly, whose signature treatment at her Marylebone clinic includes a thorough session of extractions perfect for speedy blackhead removal. “The end of the tool is round with a smaller round hole in the middle. You press this over the blackhead with the hole above it and press gently. The surrounding tool will put pressure all the way round the blackhead to make it come out completely without damaging the skin.”
If you’re planning to tackle the issue at home, exfoliation is key. Clay masks help to draw impurities out of the skin, whilst microbead-free exfoliators will help to clear away the dead skin cells which can cause blackheads to form. Products with alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid are also likely to help, offering a form of chemical exfoliation which breaks down the bonds between skin cells to ensure dead skin debris is swept away, whilst those containing beta-hydroxy acid (salicylic acid) provide deep-pore cleansing as well as having anti-microbial properties.
How do you prevent them from coming back?
“Maintaining your skin’s oil and water balance is the key to keeping blemishes away,” Su-Man Hsu explains. “Whenever blemishes occur, the first instinct is to clean. Cleansing is important, but over-washing your face can lead to skin being damaged and sensitive. Some balm cleansers can be too thick and block pores, causing more congestion, whilst cleansers designed for oily skin tend to be drying, so stay away if you don’t have that skin type.”
Maintaining a regular skincare regime which leaves your skin healthy and balanced is key, as is regular exfoliation. “Exfoliate once a week to remove the dead skin cells, and use a mud mask as needed,” advises Vaishaly.
But the most important rule of all? Don’t, under any circumstances try to squeeze them yourself. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.