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Blackheads — Do’s and Don’ts

Blackheads are a bane if you want to look good. You always have a strong urge to poke or pop it out, but you should stay clear of it.

Acne comes in various forms — and sometimes, the skin condition doesn’t look like a noticeable blemish; yes, it’s a blackhead! These are unsightly dark-coloured spots filled with bacteria-loving gunk. If you’ve ever tried to squeeze one out, you might face an angry bump instead and regret it immediately.

So, what’s the sanest, cleanest way to eliminate blackheads? Before that, you’ll have to understand what causes blackheads.

Essentially, blackheads are caused by a buildup of sebum, dead skin, oil, and the bacteria that cause acne, which becomes stuck in your hair follicle. When these substances oxidise in the air, the opening darkens or turns black, giving you the blackhead.

While acne-prone individuals are more prone to blackheads, there is also scientific backing that genetic predisposition could also give you blackheads.

In addition, hormonal influences also play a role in stimulating the production of sebum (skin oil). Those who have larger pores are also more susceptible to blackheads. Dermatologists also cite that a decrease in the collagen support of the dermis surrounding the hair follicle can make the ostia (small openings) appear dilated or larger. Patients with sun-damaged skin have large blackheads in those areas, particularly around the eyes where the skin is thinner.

To combat blackheads, dermatologists recommend topical or oral retinoids, including prescription medications like tretinoin or Retin-A.

In recent medical advancements, a prescription-strength retinoid called “adapalene” or “Differin” became available over the counter for treating comedonal acne. One can also use a mild facial scrub or chemical exfoliant to slough away dead skin cells, preventing blackheads from forming.

However, if you already have blackheads, you can opt for salicylic acid or a beta-hydroxy acid that increases cell turnover while unclogging pores. Studies have shown that a 2% salicylic acid wash for two weeks reduces acne.

If you’re willing to pay a bit more, opt for an over-the-counter 2% dioic acid with an optimal alpha and beta hydroxy acid formulation that combats acne and reduces sebum production, giving you anti-ageing properties.

Add retinoids to your skin routine. A prescription-based Retin-A is a reliable means of eliminating the skin of blackheads.

So, what are the worst ways of getting rid of blackheads?

Avoid heavy or granule scrubbing, as harsh scrubs can strip your natural oils and create more oil, thereby increasing sebum production. Stick to the dermatologist’s caveat:  exfoliate no more than three times per week, depending on the product you are using and your skin type.

Avoid any form of manual extractions. Treat blackheads like pimples — do not pop them. If you squeeze your blackheads, you may cause follicle rupture and induce the formation of an inflammatory lesion, worse still, a cyst. In truth, you can turn a blackhead into a much more severe skin condition.

Stay away from any suction devices as they can damage delicate facial skin and induce telangiectasias — ‘broken blood vessels’ to appear, particularly on and around the nose.

So, what’s the takeaway message for blackheads? Just resist attempting to squeeze or extract it. Go for a more preventative approach using retinoids and a mild chemical exfoliant to remove dead skin cells. Prevention is better than cure, for sure!

Also, one of the best means to treat blackheads is to get into a regular facial treatment routine where you can let the experts at amberbeila analyse your condition and prescribe the best procedures.