Facts Checked By Freewill Beauty Experts - Written by Shreya Singh (Pharmacist) on 19th Sep 2020

Say Goodbye To Blackheads With These Treatments And Easy Tips

How To Remove Blackheads

We all struggle to get rid of blackheads. They can appear anywhere right from the nose, cheeks, chin, forehead, or armpits. Most of us get really upset when we spot one. However, some of us are fortunate enough to see them leave on their own within a short period, while others have to deal with them for long periods.

It is extremely challenging to get rid of them because they often don’t leave the skin. We have tried insane things to get rid of them, but not much has worked. But today, we have some simple treatments and prevention tips that could help you get freedom from blackheads forever. 

What are blackheads? 

The medical term for blackheads is open comedones. These are non-inflammatory lesions that occur either due to the blockage of sebaceous glands at the base of hair follicles with keratin, dead skin debris, and oil combined or our dermal pores getting clogged with dead skin cells and sebum.

This blockage plug forms on the skin's surface, and there is no overlying layer on the top. Since it is exposed to the skin's surface, there is a black discoloration at the tip, which is due to melanin interacting with oxygen and it getting oxidized.

Many people might mistakenly confuse them to appear black because of dirt in that area, but in reality, they look black because of the keratin plug getting oxidized and turning black.

How are blackheads formed?

A blackhead occurs because of certain hormonal imbalances that cause the Pilosebaceous units' pore-lining to become thick. Due to this, dead skin debris gets collected and does not extrude out from the pores and remains in the unit and results in occlusion.

So, the oil formed from this sebaceous gland gets stuck in that opening and cannot escape out, which ultimately leads to a blockage, forming a comedone.

If along with the blockage or occlusion, there is either a bacterial infection or some inflammation reaction, this leads to acne. These comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) are actually precursor lesions of acne and are known as “early lesions of Acne.” 

What causes blackheads? 

Some of the main factors that contribute to blackheads are:

  • Puberty: Blackheads most commonly occur in people when they hit puberty because that is the time when our sebaceous glands are hyperactive. This is due to drastic hormonal changes in our body and the production of an excessive amount of oils, causing blackheads. 
  • Bacterial overgrowth: The build-up of an excessive amount of P.acnes (Propionibacterium acnes), which are acne-causing bacteria on the skin, can trigger your sebaceous follicles, leading to the formation of blackheads.
  • Follicular epidermal hyperproliferation: This is irregular shedding of dead skin cells, which can irritate your sebaceous follicles resulting in a blackhead.
  • Hereditary reasons: Your parental genes can decide your skin type and concerns. Oily or combination skin types tend to be more susceptible to getting blackheads. 
  • Hygiene: Being hygienic and keeping your skin clean is extremely important to prevent your pores from getting blocked. Any failure in doing so can clog your pores with excess sebum and skin debris, leading to blackheads. 
  • Products: Using certain products labeled as comedogenic can seep deeper into our pore-lining can lead to their blockage, forming a blackhead. 
  • Drugs: Overconsumption of certain drugs containing corticosteroids, lithium, and androgens can result in blackheads.  

How are blackheads treated?

Now that you are aware of the formation and the causes for blackheads let’s look at various treatment options available and what you can do to ease them.

Any approach to treating blackheads involves exfoliation and sloughing off the dead skin debris plug accumulated in the pores and reducing the excess oil production in the skin. 

Over-The-Counter-Treatments 

Daily mild cleanser

Mild cleansers that contain acids, such as alpha-hydroxy acids(AHA) or beta hydroxy acids(BHA) can be used regularly. They help clean the pores and give a gentle exfoliation by digging out the dead skin cell debris that gets accumulated in them. They also help keep your oil production in check so that it doesn’t lead to a blockage.  

Some of the most effective active ingredients to look for in your cleansers are: 

  • Salicylic Acid (BHA): It is a widely popular ingredient and most commonly used by people with oily skin due to its high penetration level. A salicylic acid-based cleanser can undoubtedly be your go-to product to ward off the blackheads.
  • Lactic Acid (AHA): Those who need a gentler approach that doesn’t go that deeper into the skin and provides mild exfoliation can use a lactic acid-based cleanser. These are helpful for people with sensitive skin as it doesn’t irritate or dry out the skin. 

Exfoliation

Gently exfoliating the topmost layer of the skin with a suitable exfoliant is a well-known practice to treat and end blackheads. It helps slough off the dead skin cell on the skin, resulting in clearer and brighter skin.

However, using a physical exfoliant needs to be avoided, which works by rubbing away the dead skin and debris as they can worsen the situation and irritate your skin.

This can be done with the help of a chemical exfoliant that seeps into the pore lining to dissolve the dead skin debris and removes them gently.

Salicylic Acid Serum works miraculously on whiteheads and blackheads. It is a proven ingredient, and many research supports that.

Chemical Peels 

Chemical peels with acids can be very intimidating to people and may sound risky. But the truth is, chemical peels are actually a boon!

They are really efficient in providing deeper exfoliation and cleaning the pores from within by removing the blockage plug stuck within the pores, which makes skin free of blackheads in no time. 

Some of the common acids used in chemical peels are: 

  • Glycolic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Salicylic acid

Chemical peels containing a mild concentration of acids are easily accessible over the counter and are safe to use at home. They can be used once a week to keep your skin free of blackheads.  

Good to Know

Treatments containing stronger peels with a higher concentration of active acids are performed under a dermatologist’s observation. 

Masks 

These are some of the most popular products in beauty and skincare. It has gained a lot of loyal followers in recent years and is used worldwide. 

Some of the most important masks to use in the battle against blackheads are: 

  • Charcoal Mask: It has been the most popular one because of its ability to stick to the blackheads and pull them off from the skin. 
  • Clay Mask: Clay masks containing kaolin or bentonite are also useful for treating and preventing blackheads as they absorb the excess oil and dirt from the skin.

Active ingredients and serums

There are many drugs and medications available in the market in the form of creams, gels, pads, or serums.

They do not require a prescription from the doctor and can be easily bought over-the-counter.

One such is Retinol, which is really effective in treating stubborn blackheads that don't disappear with conventional treatments.

They work by boosting the cellular regeneration and proliferation that forces our skin to shed dead skin cells, resulting in cleaner pores. They also help in reducing the thickness of the pore-lining and drying out excess oil from the skin.  

Prescription Based Treatments:  

Your doctor or dermatologist may recommend you to use more potent prescription medications when other over-the-counter treatments don’t work on your skin to eradicate blackheads. These medications contain stronger drugs such as tretinoin, tazarotene, or adapalene. They work by preventing and inhibiting the formation of blockage plugs in your sebaceous follicles and boosting the rapid turnover of skin cells.

They may also suggest other topical medications containing benzoyl peroxide and antibiotics, which can help treat blackheads. 

How can you avoid blackheads?

Although blackheads are inevitable, there are some protective steps that we can execute in our day-to-day routine to prevent it from recurring in the first place and worsening over time, such as: 

  • Don’t over scrub or over-exfoliate: Over scrubbing or over-exfoliating, your face can be harmful to your skin. Over scrubbing can remove all the natural oils from your face and make your skin dry, which in turn stimulates your sebaceous glands to produce extra oils to counter the loss. It can lead to blockage and formation of blackheads. 
  • Avoid picking or popping: It can be very tempting to squeeze and pop out the blackheads, but doing so can worsen the situation, and you can end up doing more harm to your face. 
  • Cleanse regularly: Clean your face twice in a day with a mild, oil-free cleanser to keep your pores clean and your oil levels in check. Always choose a mild, fragrance-free cleanser meant for use in sensitive skin to avoid your skin from getting too dry. 
  • Avoid self-extraction of your blackheads: Don’t try to forcibly express or tug out the pores with an extractor. This can push the blockage underneath and make your skin more inflamed irritated and can result in aggressive scaring. 
  • Avoid using too much makeup: Do not layer your skin with tons of makeup at all times, as this will only hamper the natural flow of the oil to the surface. This can worsen your blackheads. 
  • Using non-comedogenic products: Comedogenic Products may clog your pores and trigger sebaceous follicles to develop blackheads. Using products and makeup labeled as “non-comedogenic” may cut the risk of blackheads as they don’t clog pores.
  • Use a face mask regularly: Using a charcoal or clay mask weekly or bi-weekly can help draw out dirt from your skin and absorb the excess sebum on your face. This can help in preventing your blackheads from recurring. 

The Bottom Line 

If you’re someone who is struggling to deal with stubborn blackheads, then these treatments and prevention tips can definitely help you. However, one should understand that every skin is unique, and so is its response to a particular treatment or product.

What works on your skin may not work that effectively on others; therefore, it is advised first to first assess your skin and then choose the right products and treatments accordingly.

Treating blackheads needs patience and persistence. All these methods mentioned above will not make your blackheads disappear overnight. It requires several sessions of the treatment or application to show some noticeable results.

If your blackheads are not manageable even after using these products and treatments for 6-12 weeks due to any underlying cause, consider visiting a dermatologist at the earliest.