What are blackheads?
Blackheads (or open comedones) crop up when sebaceous glands in our pores produce too much sebum. As the sebum comes into contact with the air, it oxidises and turns black (bit like rotting food, yuck!). And produces what we call a 'blackhead'. Blackheads often appear on the T-zone (forehead, nose, chin) and can leave our complexion looking dull and dirty. So how can we get rid of them?
And who is likely to get them?
Blackheads are often associated with oily or combination skin, which tend to produce too much sebum and suffer from open pores - teenagers often get the worst deal. That said all skin types can be affected, for example when our hormones go haywire (pregnancy, menopause) meaning comedones are formed.
Dry skin also get its share: dehydrated skin makes up for its lack of water by producing lots of sebum that in turn causes blackheads.
How can we avoid blackheads?
- The first anti-blackhead preemptive strike involves daily cleansing with a gentle cleanser or micellar water. Avoid abrasive cleansers like the plague - they'll only kick start sebum production. If you don't religiously cleanse, bacteria will multiply and increase the likelihood of blackheads forming.
- Once a week get rid of dead skin cells with a facial steam followed by a gentle scrub and carbon-based face mask.
- Banish blackheads with a treatment suited to your skin type - go for moisturising, purfiying, mattifying, non-comedogenic products that will close your pores.
- Avoid booze and greasy food, two blackhead-causing culprits, and eat a diet rich in zinc - cocoa, eggs, dry pulses, dairy products...
- Avoid staying out in the sun, as this causes the upper layer of our skin to thicken, leading to pockets of sebum that cause blackheads to appear as our skin subsequently returns its normal state.
- And yes, avoid the temptation to pick and squeeze them. You'll only embed any bacteria and end up with spots!
DIY blackhead treatments
- Egg face mask: eggs are effective astringents that close pores and purify skin. Apply this mask once every couple of weeks. Using a brush, apply some egg white to affected areas. Cover with a tissue. Brush a second layer of egg white over the tissue. Leave for around 30 minutes or as long as it takes for the tissue to harden. Gently peel off the tissue and, hey presto, your blackheads will be stuck to its surface!
- Baking soda mask: baking soda's a brilliant spot and blackhead buster. Apply this mask once a month. Add two teaspoons of baking soda to mineral water and mix until you get a smooth paste. Apply to affected zones, leave for 5 minutes max and rinse off with warm water
5 Tips to zap blackheads
#1 Cleansing, the glowing skin golden rule
Regular cleansing is the first step to avoiding and getting rid of blackheads. Time to change your daily ritual: cleanse morning and night with a gentle product such as micellar water, a cleansing oil or lotion, follow with a spritz of thermal water and finish off by applying an anti-blemish cream. You skin will be left cleansed and able to breathe.
#2 Facial saunas for a gentle steam
Giving yourself a facial steam will open up your pores. Hunch over a bowl of boiling hot water and place a towel over your head. The steam produced will open your pores, making it easier to remove any blackheads. If you plan on attacking them yourself, make sure your hands are squeaky clean, use a paper towel and wash your hands when done.
#3 Scrubs, a purifying weekly treat
Applying a gentle face scrub once or twice a week will rid your skin of impurities - dead cells, make up, pollution, dust and smoke. Use a fine grain sugar scrub suited to your skin type and make sure you don't rub too hard!
#4 A clay mask to pamper your skin before bed
Clay face masks are detox superheros. Clay literally sucks out sebum and impurities. Once a week apply a clay mask to blackheads. They'll be gobbled up and less likely to return.
#5 Anti-blackhead strips for a targeted result
These strips are designed to kick blackheads to the curb. They soften blackheads and draw them out along with any sebum and dead cells. You'll find your blackheads stuck to their surface rather than yours!
Article supplied & written by Marie Claire, part of Hearst Communications, Inc.