Those with oily skin are all too familiar with the nuisance that are blackheads. It’s an unfortunate reality and caused by open pores but like everything in life, armed with the know-how and tools, they can be banished. We go through what causes these unsightly irritants, common myths to avoid and an everyday routine and ingredients that will help keep the little pests away.
How do blackheads occur?
Blackheads are no different to whiteheads in that they are caused when the skin’s pores get clogged up with excess sebum. Sebum is the natural oil that our skin produces. It’s not an enemy as it keeps our skin supple, but those with oily skin tend to produce a lot of it.
When the pores are small and no air can get in they become whiteheads. When they are open they turn black as the melanin in the sebum (melanin is the pigment that gives our skin and hair its color) oxidizes with the air and it turns black.
Many will notice blackheads along the T-zone – the forehead, nose and chin – because these are the oiliest areas of the face. Large pores make it easier for air to get in so the idea is to tighten up pores and cleanse excess oil from the skin.
- Blackheads are caused by dirt. Not so actually. They are only black because of the oxidizing effect turning them that color. They are caused by excess oil so while it’s tempting to keep scrubbing in order to remove them, this can have the effect of generating more oil.
- Pores can be shrunken. Pores cannot open or close, they are just there housing our hair follicles. Some of us have large pores and some small. They can appear to be smaller though by using things that contract the skin or soften up the sebum, for example, steam or lemon juice.
- Blackheads only appear on the face. Also not true. Although they are more common on the oily parts of our face, they can appear on any part of the body and where there are large pores. The back, for instance, is another area where blackheads may generate.
Washing away the black
There are some simple things you can do to keep your blackheads at bay and make your pores seems smaller.
- H2O. Firstly, water is a great cleanser for extra sebum. Literally a splash of water, twice a day, along with a dab of a towel and a light moisturizer, to stop your skin drying out, will help stop your pores clogging.
- Sweat. Sweating it out is ironically a blackhead minimizer. This is because the liquid from the sweat produced washes out the sebum from the pores. Therefore, a great workout is also a great beauty routine. This comes with a caveat, though – wash your face before and after and particularly if you are wearing makeup as sweat can carry that into your pores. You want the sweat to be an agent of good and not be the bad guy clogging up your pores.
- The right facial wash. When washing your face it’s important to use one that regulates oily skin; for example one with ingredients that can have antiseptic or anti-inflammatory properties is good too so it reduces the appearance of pores.
- Exfoliate. Exfoliation is a step that can really help unplug pores particularly if they are filled with debris and dead skin cells. Using circular motions, use a homemade or shop bought exfoliator to scrub away anything blocking your pores. It will also leave you with a lovely glow. However, do not over exfoliate as this can end up creating more oil. Once or twice a week is sufficient.
- Pore Strips. A pore strip is simply a piece of soft material, such as gauze, cotton or tissue that has an adhesive attached to it. You can put the adhesive on affected areas to remove blackheads. While it might not prevent blackheads it will get rid of them. Again, better to restrain use to once or twice per week.
- Acne pads. For the black head emergency, you can keep ‘acne pads’ or oil regulating emergency facial wash in your travel bag for when you go away or on the go, for the occasional blackhead sprout.
Top ingredients to remove blackheads and reduce the appearance of pores
- Bentonite clay. This is a mineral rich clay that has been known as a healing remedy for skin related ailments. Mixed with water or apple cider vinegar, the clay produces an electrical charge, which draws out oil and helps circulation as well as tightening the skin.
- Egg whites. Egg whites are perfect for a face mask. They can be used to tighten pores but they also remove blackheads and nourishes the skin.
- Milk and honey. Milk keeps skin soft and honey has anti-bacterial properties. Together they’re a tour de force and provide a good adhesive for use on pore strips for example.
- Lemon juice. Contract the skin and make pores look smaller meaning that they are harder to clog up. Perfect!
- Baking soda. Baking soda contains fine granules, which help exfoliate the skin. It may dry out the skin if used in excess.
- Jojoba oil. This is a great ingredient to use as part of a scrub as its composition is most similar to the skin’s natural oils. As well as jojoba, grapeseed, olive or sweet almond oil could work.
- Apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar helps break down the debris that clogs up pores and makes a good toner for the skin.
- Mint. Mint is a cooling agent and helps tighten the skin. This is a particularly useful ingredient if the blackhead becomes inflamed.
- Glycolic acid. This is an ingredient you may find in many skincare products and it helps to clear the skin of debris, dead-skin-cells and excess oil that clog pores. It is also helpful if you experience inflammation and calms the pores.
- Salicylic acid. This is another ingredient similar glycolic acid that clears the pores or even skin surrounding the pores of debris responsible for clogging and the resulting blackhead.
- Tea tree. Tea tree removes excess oil and impurities by cleansing deep into the pore as well as exfoliating away dead skin cells. It’s pretty perfect for the oily skin category in general.
In summary, keeping on top of your skin routine means that you can maintain or reduce the appearance of pores, stopping the entry of debris, curbing oil production and if all else fails you can pop those suckers right out. A simple daily routine and search for key ingredients in either shop bought or tailor made products will mean you have a winning formula to blackhead and giant pore-free skin.
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