Healthy skin: The do’s and don’t’s of blackheads
February 12, 2018
One of the most frequent questions I'm asked as an esthetician is, "How do I get rid of my blackheads?" First, let's address what exactly a black head is.
Simply, a blackhead occurs when pores become clogged. Each pore you have contains a hair follicle and a sebaceous oil gland attached to that hair follicle. The sebaceous gland's job is to produce an oily substance called sebum that's designed to keep the skin hydrated.
An excess of sebum production can often form a mass of solidified sebum that will plug the top of the pore. This "plug" is made up of dead skin cells, hair, and bacteria. This is what creates an "open comedone".
The word "comedone" is a technical term for acne impaction, or also described as skin in a follicular congested state. The phrase "open comedone" refers to a blackhead, as opposed to a "closed comedone," which comes in the form of either pimples or whiteheads.
Blackheads are called open comedones because the plug of a clogged pore is open to the air on the surface of the skin; the air then oxidizes the melanin in the dead skin cells, turning it black. Pimples or whiteheads are called closed comedones because the impacted sebum is unable to move through the surface of the skin; the solidified dead cells and bacteria are not being evacuated by the follicle, rendering it trapped.
Though you could probably find a million at-home remedies for blackhead removal online, I would really only give you three tips in particular to get rid of blackheads, and three methods to stay away from.
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Pore Strips: I understand why people would love these, but I'd advise to stay away.
A pore strip contains ingredients that, when activated by water, creates a glue-like adhesive that then attaches itself to the top layer of your skin. Once it's dried, you then pull off the adhesive strip and the top layer of dead skin cells, dirt, oil, and blackheads will be attached.
It will really feel like you've "cleaned" the surface of your nose. However, pore strips don't really solve your issue long-term. If you pull or force the sebum out without proper cleaning and toning, you risk enlarging your pores over time, which will mean larger and more visible blackheads overtime.
Facial Scrubs: I believe exfoliating is important, but many facial scrubs on the market contain jagged particles or beads that are too rough on the skin and fail to cleanse it properly. Instead, they create tiny cuts along the skin that are big enough to allow bacteria to enter, resulting in inflammation and even more blemishes.
It's important to find products that contain enzymes, which will exfoliate your skin without doing any damage to it.
No Picking: It may be tempting to squeeze or extract your blackheads yourself with your fingers, but try to refrain! It may irritate them further and even cause scarring. Self-extraction has the potential to weaken capillary walls as well as expand the plug, making the pore larger and breaking the follicular lining that holds the bacteria.
If you need them out, have them professionally extracted by a state board licensed esthetician.
Regulate your pH: Most people don't realize that it's integral to regulate the pH of your skin to keep it healthy. Your skin's natural pH is acidic, and when it's acidic it's healthy. If your pH ever reaches alkalinity, it attracts bacteria.
Because water has a pH of 7, it takes 6-8 hours for your skin to reach its original pH level after you shower or bathe. This is why I recommend people use facial toners before using their skin care products.
A facial toner's job is to re-balance the pH of the skin after cleansing. Because toners are balancing solutions, it will saturate your skin to allow a better penetration and diffusion of your skin care products, especially those designed to target blackheads.
Exfoliate: Exfoliation is essential for blackhead mitigation. Exfoliating eliminates dead cells and bacteria that clog pores.
For how frequent one should exfoliate, that depends on the type of ingredients that are in your exfoliator and on your individual skin type — and that's when an esthetician's recommendation comes in handy.
There are certain products that you can exfoliate with every day, while there are others that you should only exfoliate with once or twice a week. Again, ask your esthetician.
Choose safe beauty: Practice healthy beauty, starting with your skin care. Try to find products that contain natural substances that steer away from parabens and other ingredients that are unhealthy for your skin to absorb.
Choose a blackhead formula that can normalize your sebum activity, which will help prevent and diminish the appearance of blackheads. In other words, do your research.
For more information on keeping your skin healthy and clear; contact your State Board Licensed Esthetician for the proper recommendation for your skin.
Margie Carr is the owner of Reflections Skin Oasis in Grass Valley.