Let’s talk about blackheads. Tricksy little things; they look like a little squeeze will sort them right out, but sadly that can make the situation worse.
To know how to treat them we need to understand what they are. Blackheads are one of two types of non-inflammatory acne caused by clogged pores – the other being whiteheads. According to Dr Perricone, ‘pores are made up of a sweat gland, a hair follicle and an oil gland. The oil gland lubricates skin and assists in the removal of dead skin cells. However, when the oil gland becomes overactive, the extra oil can mix with the debris like dirt, dead skin, or bacteria and create a clog in the pore.’
A blackhead, therefore, is a ‘pore only partially clogged, leaving the pore open and exposed to oxygen, which gives it a dark colour,’ he explains. One thing you shouldn’t do is stress about your blackheads, because that can actually make the problem worse. ‘One of the main culprits for blackheads and acne is rising insulin levels. When our blood sugar and insulin levels rise, whether from a poor diet or from stress, we experience a serious increase in inflammatory chemicals at the cellular level. This causes inflammatory diseases such as blackheads and acne to worsen dramatically.’
Now we know what they are, and how we get them, here’s our guide of products to help you treat them once and for all…
Mask the issue
JorgObé Peel Off Mask, £26, is a paraben-free Danish face mask that’s packed full of natural ingredients to treat and prevent blackheads. A combination of black kaolin, which absorbs excess sebum, witch hazel, for deep pore cleaning, echinacea, to prevent infection, and dragon’s blood, to calm stressed and sensitised skin, provide a 360 approach to your blackhead breakout. And peeling off this mask is nothing but satisfying…
Another blackhead fighter that uses the exfoliating properties of salicylic acid to rid skin of impurities, excess oil and any toxins that have built up in and on it is Una Brennan Superfacialist Salicylic Acid Blemish Clay Mask, £9.99. There’s also some nourishing, soothing ingredients in the mix too, such as avocado oil, vitamin A, D and E and Acacia Honey to rebalance and reset your skin. If acids are your thing, Dr Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner, £39, combines alpha and beta hydroxy acids that extract blackheads and oils in just one application. Skin won’t feel tight and taut after use either thanks to eijitsu rose that keeps skin soft and supple.
There’s a time and a place to tackle your skin issues with the big guns, but don’t diminish the importance of sometimes treating your skin with kindness. Elemis Herbal Repair Lavender Mask, £31, is an all-natural mask that purifies, soothes and rebalances using lavender, rosemary and thyme. Just apply on breakouts or areas prone to break out, sit back, and relax.
If your skin errs on the oily side then this astringent Clinique Anti Blemish Clearing Gel, £21, is gentle enough to be used every day while still being effective at tackling blackhead breakouts. Pop it in your handbag and use it as an on-the-spot treatment if skin catches you unawares when you’re out and about.
If your blackheads are stubborn then Mario Badescu, who boasts Rachel Bilson and Jennifer Aniston as clients, and his no-nonsense Silver Powder, £11.50 will take them to task in no time. The powder contains calcium carbonate, kaolin, zinc oxide and silver powder and when mixed with water creates a paste that efficiently tackles an unwanted breakout.
If you feel you need an extra step in your skincare that’ll really tackle blackhead breakouts or excess oil, Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, £21.25, might be just the thing. After cleansing soak a cotton pad with the lotion and apply over the areas that are prone to a flare-up. The leave-on 2% salicylic acid gently exfoliates skin to unclog and diminish pores, and leaves skin glowing. Biore Charcoal Pore Strips, £9.49, have been around for years, but these new incarnation uses the impurity-sucking power of charcoal to ease stubborn blackheads out of your nose. Simply wet the strip, mould it around your nose, wait ten minutes, and ta-dah!
Removing dead skin is a great place to start when it comes to preventing blackheads. Using a cleansing brush like Clarisonic Mia Fit, £170,daily not only gently sloughs away any build-up of skin, impurities and makeup, but it also stimulates skin to make it glow. Your skin will feel incredibly smooth after just one use.
If your skin is on the oily side then you might be able to use a daily foam without skin feeling stripped or sensitised. Murad Pore Reform Daily Cleansing Foam, £19.50, includes AHAs to gently exfoliate your skin, plus there’s some pomegranate complex to energise and protect it against free radicals. A dash of witch hazel removes excess oil, the stuff that can block your pores, with a gentle touch.