5 Easy Ways to Get Rid of Blackheads for Good
Dermatologists break it down.
Dr. Pimple Popper may have turned acne into entertainment, but when the blemishes are on your own face, treatment is decidedly less amusing. Blackheads, in particular, are practically begging to be squeezed, though dermatologists agree that digging up unsightly clogged pores will only exacerbate the problem. So how to banish blackheads for good?
The first part of the process is to understand what blackheads are. Those dark dots are “essentially clogged pores,” or, technically speaking, “open comedones,” says Miami-based board certified dermatologist Leslie Baumann. They’re dead skin cells that get stuck in your pores and don’t “desquamate or flake off of the top layer of skin properly.” The dark color comes into play when the skin is joined by sebum and debris that oxidizes when exposed to air. (“Whiteheads, on the other hand, are closed comedones, which means the sebum, debris, and bacteria are trapped within the pore by the uppermost layer of skin,” says Baumann.) And the second part of the process? Our five-step banishment plan, below:
Prevention Is Key
Familiarize yourself with the term “keratinization.” It’s the culprit behind those dark spots. “When this keratinization process is altered, the pores get clogged and cause blackheads,” explains Baumann. Chronic blackhead sufferers can normalize this process and get themselves right by adding retinoids to their routine. If the situation isn’t dire, she suggests an OTC retinol option, like Olay Regenerist Intensive Repair Treatment.
For a more potent punch of the active ingredient, have your derm write you a script for Tretinoin or Adapalene to “keep plugs from forming and promote rapid cell turnover,” says New York City dermatologist Patricia Wexler.
Consider Your Cleanser’s Ingredients (and Rethink Your Cleansing Brush)
For fully formed blackheads, try switching out your regular A.M. cleanser for one packed with salicylic acid to really help clear out pores. (We like Peter Thomas Roth Acne Clearing Wash.)
“Salicylic acid, unlike glycolic acid, can penetrate into the sebum to clean out the pores,” Baumann says. You can also take advantage of the effective acid in treatment gels and lotions. It’s important to choose your exfoliating methods wisely, as manual options like cleansing brushes “can actually increase the amount of comedones by causing disordered keratinization,” says Baumann. Other non-physical techniques Wexler likes for unclogging are masks with clay or charcoal, and acid peels (try First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Intensive Peel).
Mask and Steam Instead of Popping
All derms agree that you should never take blackhead matters into your own hands because the results can be ugly (think infections, cysts, and scarring). So just fight the urge. If you really need to banish a blackhead, Baumann recommends booking an appointment with a specially trained aesthetician, who will mostly likely “apply an enzyme mask combined with steam to open the pores, and then apply gentle pressure with a special tool using a technique to push the contents out of the skin rather than deeper into it.” Because amateurs can cause acne cysts, she strongly advises seeking your doctor’s referral.
Banish the Hidden Sources of Bacteria
Sometimes the solution to your problems is staring you right in the face, or at least touching your face. Be sure to change out your pillowcases often and wipe down your cell phone, if you still happen to use it as a traditional phone. And while third-day hair looks cool, going one more day past that can leave your locks oily and lead to clogged pores, says Wexler. On the issue of oil, the doctor also suggests ensuring you’re not slathering yourself in styling products, sunscreen, and makeup packed with oils. Sticking with non-acneic formulas (like Clinique Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen Fluid for Face) is a safe bet.
As a Last Resort, Try Lasers
When all else fails, there is Isolaz. “This [is a] light-assisted vacuum device that opens the pore, vacuums the contents while delivering IPL to kill the bacteria, and then infuses salicylic acid into the pore,” says Wexler. In addition to making the pimple go poof, it helps prevent them in the long-term if you sign up for a series of treatments.
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