As annoying as those dark black spots appear to be, blackheads are a common skincare concern we all face. But what are they exactly? Blackheads are just a mix of oil and dirt that are sitting in pores. When oxidised, they locate the oiliest pore by appearing black. But there is no reason to worry, we are here to help you banish them for good!
What are blackheads and how are they caused?
Blackheads are a form of acne that cause tiny dark or black bumps to appear on the surface of your skin. It is mainly caused due the accumulation of dirt and grime in your hair follicles. When this is exposed to oxygen it turns black. Some of the reasons that aggravate blackheads formation include:
1. Overactive oil glands
Sebum produced by our body is brought to the surface through hair follicles to moisturise our skin naturally. When these pores are clogged with dead cells and dirt and mixes with the excess oil it leads to blackheads.
2. Hormonal Changes
Hormones typically fluctuate during puberty, pregnancy and menstruation. The change in the biological aspects increase oil production, sensitivity of the skin, inflammation and other irritations causing blackheads.
3. Health conditions and medication
Some underlying conditions such as PCOS, PMS, anxiety or stress and the medications taken to control them can have side effects leading or aggravating blackheads. If so, you must take a blood test to identify the probable cause.
4. Covering or blocking the pores
Tight clothing, cosmetics and other products that constrain the pores make it difficult for the glands to secrete oil and dirt and block the outlets of the pores. This leads to heavy sweating and accumulation of oils.
This is a common concern for men when shaving and other activities expose the hair follicles to environmental pollutants which can harbour bacteria. In such a case it is important to follow a after shave ritual to avoid clogging of pores.
6. Environmental factors
The various environmental factors such as pollution, heat, humidity and greasiness leads to an increased production of natural oils in the body. This excess sweat sits on the skin and does not evaporate easily due to the moisture content of the air.
How to get rid of blackheads and what ingredients can be incorporated?
1. Exfoliate regularly
Exfoliating once or twice a week will gently remove the dead skin cells and dirt that clog the pores. There are two ways of doing so, with physical scrubs or chemical exfoliators containing AHAs and BHAs. The main difference between the two methods is that chemical exfoliants use acids to break down the cells, while physical exfoliants use tiny beads to scrub off the debris. Sukin Oil Balancing Charcoal Pore Refining Scrub thoroughly removes excess oils and toxins making it a great physical exfoliant along with Swisse Bamboo Skin Refining Exfoliator contains AHAs in the form of fruit acid that reveals a brighter complexion.
2. Incorporate Retinoids in your routine
Vitamin A derivatives such as Retinol contain antioxidants that increase cell turnover and avoid clogging of pores. Neemli Naturals Retinol and Peptide Serum is the perfect match for acne prone skin. It is known to increase cell turnover by stimulating collagen and elastin production.
3. Try Salicylic Acid
It has the ability to penetrate deep into the skin, breaking down the dirt and excess sebum from pores, making it an effective treatment for blackheads. Opt for the Swisse Vitamin B3 Anti-Blemish Moisturiser with anti-oxidants like Green Tea and dirt destroying Salicylic Acid, this moisturiser works to refine the appearance of pores and offers gentle exfoliation to reveal smoother skin.
4. Use Charcoal or a Clay mask
When used in moderation it has shown promising results however using it too often can lead to dryness. Ilana Organics Clarifying Clay Mask (Seaweed + Charcoal) is the perfect combination of Clay and Activated Charcoal that attracts impurities and cleanses the skin reducing the appearance of pores mixed with Kaolin clay that prevents pores from clogging up and causing breakouts.
5. Use a gentle cleanser
If you use a harsh cleanser or wash your face too often you will dry out your skin which will stimulate an increase in natural oil production causing more blackheads. Therefore, it is important to use a gentle cleanser such as the Coccoon Detoxifying Face Wash that has French Red Clay to cleanse the dead cells from the surface of the skin.
6. Extraction is the way out
This is the process of manually removing blackheads by applying pressure using specialised tools. It is best to consult with a professional to avoid scarring and inflammation.
Are blackheads, whiteheads and pimples all the same?
Blackheads are a common skin concern and often confused with the various other forms of acne. Although the symptoms might be similar the treatment required will be different. We can get confused and use the wrong approach to treat it. So, it is vital to learn how to differentiate appropriately:
They are swollen, red bumps that may hurt and develop a white or yellow pus filled top. Pimples form when bacteria invade the blockage in the hair follicle, causing redness and inflammation. Blackheads on the other hand are slightly raised, although they are not painful because they do not inflame like pimples.
Both blackheads and whiteheads are caused by the same materials however, whiteheads are closed pores which appear in a whitish cream colour. They are located under the skin and hence are not exposed to the air preventing the oxidation process to take place. If they are left untreated for long, they can develop into pimples.
When is it time to see a dermatologist?
A lot of us believe that we can treat our acne and blackheads with over-the-counter products or medications and are unclear of when it is necessary to seek professional advice. If you face mild symptoms you can try at home remedies or products. You do not have to have severe symptoms, however, if it does bother you in any way you must see a doctor.
Blackheads are stubborn and can take anywhere between a week to 15 days to disappear. Squeezing leads to scars that can persist for 3 to 6 months. If you feel like you have tried everything possible and continue to see new blackhead developments, it is time to book an appointment with your dermat. Even though blackheads are not a major medical concern it may make us feel depressed or anxious. Do not let this come in the way! Doctors can prescribe powerful medications to help combat the issue. Moreover, extracting them under supervision will ensure that you are treated in a sterile environment, using the right tools and avoiding any irritation.
What are some common blackhead related myths we must bust?
Like many other skin concerns, blackheads too face their share of myths! It is so difficult to tell myth from fact and therefore we think it is important to busted the most common ones we come across:
Myth 1: Strips remove blackheads
Though you might notice a temporary difference while using the strips, before you know they are back again the very next day. Moreover, using them with ingredients such as AHAs, BHA, and Retinoids in your skin routine can rip off the skin along with the blackhead.
Myth 2: All black dots are blackheads
The black dots generally visible on your nose, are called sebaceous filaments and are actually associated with the hair follicle that cannot be treated with a blackhead removal routine.
Myth 3: Only oily skin is prone to blackheads
Not only oily but all skin types can experience blackheads. Natural oils are produced by all skin and blackheads form when you find a few dead skin cells and sebum trapped in the pores.
Myth 4: Makeup causes blackheads
Technically, most makeup is safe to use and does not cause blackheads, however it might worsen it. This is known as Acne Cosmetic, when you use too many products and ingredients that can clog pores and develop acne - causing bacteria. Use non-comedogenic products, avoid hash brushes and tools.
Myth 5: A blackhead is dirt stuck in the pores
You might think blackheads are hygiene related and are simply dirt particles trapped in the pores but that is not true. Yes, dirt and grime are a major contributing factor but it is definitely not just that.
Blackheads are pretty easy to spot and can develop anywhere on your body on the face, back and chest. We all face blackhead scares but they really are no big concern. As tempting it may be, do not try to squeeze them out with your hands or use unsterilised tools. You must not indulge into home remedies such as applying baking soda or lemon juice leading to irritation and bacteria development. Use this guide and bid farewell to your blackhead congestion fair!
- Howrah Lookmanji