Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How To: Remove and Prevent Blackheads

There's a little something that plagues most of us with skin woes. Blackheads. Most of us know how to treat the every day pimple but blackheads are much more difficult. I've devised my own routine for removing and preventing this annoyingly stubborn spots.

First, you'll need to understand what a blackhead is (feel free to scroll down to skip to my method of extraction):

Blackheads are a precursor to acne (think of how many times you've found a pimple the next morning after spotting a clogged pore). A blackhead is essentially a clogged pore, created by excessive oil production. The oil turns black when exposed to air, which gives them their nasty color. Blackheads are also created by dead skin cells accumulated in pores mixed with building oil production.

But all we really know is that we want to get rid of them, right?

So here goes my blackhead extraction method. It's clean and simple.

You'll need:

  • A sink basin
  • Wash cloths
  • A black head extracting tool* (I've attached photos of these tools). They can found in drugstores (I bought mine in Rite-Aid) or even Ulta. I prefer to use the smaller loop end because I find it encloses the black head fully and easily "loops away" excess)
  • Soap free cleanser (optional but recommended)


1) First steam your face with hot water. I usually fill my bathroom sink basin with hot water and lean over the basin for a few minutes until my pores feel opened.

2) Next, if you're doing this removal for someone else, place two hot (but not scalding) wash cloths on her face. Otherwise, you can skip this step unless you have particularly resistant pores.

3) Retrieve a clean blackhead removal tool. I prefer to use the loop end. You can alternate or use the opposite end if you wish. Press down on affected areas. The blackhead should quickly "pop". Use the loop to clean away any excess. Clean with a damp wash cloth.

4) Repeat this steps. If the blackhead does not quickly loosen, do not press down further on the area. Do not scratch or poke at this area. Leave it alone or you'll risk the chance of scarring and/or infection. You can place a loosening mask such as the Mint Julep Mint Mask over stubborn areas and try removal again after rinsing the mask off with hot water.

5) It may help to slightly squeeze areas for an easier removal. Be sure not to sure your nails.

6) After you've successfully removed everything, wash your face with cold water to close your pores and soothe the skin. I prefer to do this removal at night as the face may remain red. Be very gentle with your skin after removal. I generally follow up with a gentle soap free cleanser and forgo topical treatments for the evening. Absolutely do not use a cleaning astringent (it will burn horribly--trust me!)

Always make sure to clean your tools and to use different tools (ie. don't share, ew!) for different people.

Now that you're black head free or nearly so, how do you stay that way?

First and foremost, I recommend visiting a dermatologist if possible. They can give you professional advice for your specific skin type. They may prescribe anti-biotics to be taken orally, which have done wonders for my skin. What I recommend is just that--a recommendation. Please consult your dermatologist first if you have one.

Salicyclic acid, a BHA, can help ease blackheads by causing the skin to shed, thereby lessening the chance of clogged pores (See the Neutrogena Scrub below for an example). I use Brevoxyl face wash, which contains benzoyl peroxide (another great blackhead/acne fighting ingredient)and its accompanying soap free cleanser. You can also find drug store skin care brands with benzoyl peroxide, such as Cetaphil.

Most of us also know to use a scrub to remove dead skin and thereby, preventing clogging. I prefer Neutrogena's Oil Free Acne Wash Daily Scrub. You don't have to pay a lot for a scrub and this one gently exfoliates without stripping your skin.

Retionids are also useful. Retin-A is simply amazing its its ability to speed up cell turn over and preventing excessive oil production. You MUST see a dermatologist to use this product. It takes time and patience to work as well as medical advice.

Masks and pore strips can also be helpful. As mentioned above, I prefer the Mint Julep Mask by Queen Helene. It's quite inexpensive and can also be used as a topical treatment for pimples. It loosens up blackheads for extraction and removes superficial ones. I am not a huge fan of pore strips--they often leave an icky residue and irritate the sensitive skin around my nose. They are worth a shot for superficial blackheads, however, and are readily available at drug stores.

Also be sure to keep your hair clean and off your face as this can aggravate skin problems. And always, always wash off your make up before bed!

I hope this helped. Black heads are so aggravating but can be combated with patience and trial and error of various techniques!

Let me know what you think of these tips by responding with a comment below. Do you have another method? Please share!

1 comment:

Cathy Santarsiero, "The Christmas Corgi" said...

Hi MC....Aaah...another Mint Julep mask fan. I've never found any that I like better. Plus, it is a good way to scare the bejeezus out of my husband (especially after it gets all crackly!) Kiss your Corgi on the nose for me and have a lovely Christmas weekend. Warmly, Cathy ^..^