If you've ever spent an evening inspecting your clogged pores, then you have probably already begun the hunt for ways to cure blackheads. Because, let's be honest — those pesky things are not only unsightly and tempting to pick, but they can lead to painful acne. And that just won't do.
So what's the best course of action, especially when it seems like every treatment under the sun doesn't seem to work? Well, let's start by figuring out what causes acne to form in the first place. Here's a little acne and blackhead lesson, straight from dermatologist Dr. Heidi Waldorf. In an email to Bustle, Dr. Waldorf says, "Acne forms when the skin cells that normally shed from the lining of sebaceous follicles (the combo of the sebaceous gland and hair follicle) get sticky and don't shed and the oil gets thicker and doesn't flow. That forms a comedone. A whitehead is a closed comedone. A blackhead is an open comedone. The black color is from oxidation of that debris, not dirt."
OK, so that black color isn't dirt. (Pretty interesting, right?) But while it's good to know your skin isn't dirty, per se, it doesn't mean you shouldn't keep washing and scrubbing on a regular basis. You might also want to consider some professional skin treatments, as well as some fancy tools to unclog those pores for good. Below are the next possible steps to take in your blackhead-banishing journey. See which one might work for you.
Your go-to drugstore face wash is probably a good bet, as long as it contains salicylic acid. As Waldorf says, "Washing with a salicylic acid cleanser is helpful because salicylic acid is attracted to oil, so it gets to the pores to loosen the contents." Be diligent when it comes to washing your face, and hopefully your blackheads will start to wash away.
Retinoid, a vitamin A derivative, is where it's at for clear, healthy skin. "Topical retinoids like prescription Retin-A, Differin, and Tazorac transformed the treatment of blackheads because they work directly on skin cells to improve their ability to shed," Waldorf says. "The FDA just recommended that adapalene gel, the generic of Differin, become available for over the counter purchase." Until that wonderful day, however, Waldorf recommends over-the-counter salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide creams.
I know they can be kinda expensive, but an oscillating face brush really do wonders. According to Carly Cardellino on Cosmopolitan, these mechanized brushes can help loosen up the plugs faster, revealing ridiculously clean skin. Just be sure to sue them correctly. If you have oily skin, it's fine to use the brush everyday. But if you have sensitive or dry skin, only use it once a week.
Pore strips are the best for people who like visible results, as well as those who kind of enjoy looking at the gross aftermath. (This is totally me, BTW.) For the most amazing results, use benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid a few nights in a row before using a pore strip, Cardellino recommended. Then marvel at that strip, and at your newly clean face.
Lounging around in a clay mask not only feels like the height of luxury, but it can also help suck horrible things out of your skin. According to Simone Kitchens on HuffingtonPost.com, clay masks work by gently exfoliaating, and helping to absorb existing oil. Once you wash it off, it'll look like you have new skin.
6. Splurge On A Facial
Fancy facials and peels may not be open to everyone, but if you can swing a professional treatment, it will probably be worth the money. According to Kitchens, your dermatologist can do a chemical peel treatment, as well as comedone extractions, to help clear up your clogged pores. You'll leave looking like a pizza, and then like a blackhead-free goddess a few days later. Worth it? I think so.
And I mean gently. As Waldorf says, "Sharp edged particles and over scrubbing can create microscopic trauma to the edge of the pore orifices, and lead to inflammation." But some soft exfoliating is just fine. As Fiona Gibb said on Refinery29.com, "Exfoliating regularly is key to keeping blackheads in check, since it scrubs away dead skin cells that could clog pores. Try a gentle face scrub ... or an at-home glycolic-acid peel ... once or twice a week ... for an extra boost of exfoliation"
8. Leave Picking To The Professionals
I know it's tempting, but do not pick or squeeze your skin. This can easily transform a blackhead into an inflamed red simple, cyst, or even a scar, Waldorf explains. So leave the picking to the professionals who know what they are doing.
I know, come nighttime the last thing you want to do is splash cold water all over your face. But going to bed night after night with a face full of makeup is a recipe for blackheads. Luckily, there are little tricks to get around the nuisance that is face washing. As Gibb said, "If you can, wash your face as soon as you walk in the door. If you just can't deal with sudsing up after a long day, cleansing cloths will do ... Keep a stash of them next to your bed."
Many people think they shouldn't moisturize if their skin is oily or clogged, when in fact quite the opposite is true — especially if you are constantly using scrubs and peels. As Renee Jacques said on Allure, "All of these methods may strip oils from the skin and be drying, so you might be surprised to learn that you need to moisturize to treat ... blackheads. It's important to maintain the right balance in the skin, and moisturizing will allow you to continue using exfoliating products without any issues." Be sure to choose a non-comedogenic moisturize, so you don't further clog your skin.
11. Go The Your Dermatologist
Still not sure what to use, or how to use it? Make an appointment with your dermatologist. He or she can take a look at that skin of yours, and determine what the issue is. From there, they can recommend the right course of action. Just be sure to actually do what they say.
Because the more you take care of your skin, the better chance you have of a blackhead-free existence. Be diligent with your face washing, treatments, and dermatologist appointments, and soon you'll have much clearer skin.
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