As a beauty editor, there are two things I am committed to finding out – legendary actor Rekha’s skincare routine and getting rid of blackheads so that they never come back. You’ll find me squeezing my poor pores (don’t try that) or using every pores-cleaning product I find online. As a wild beauty experiment, I am also guilty of using face wax on my nose to have it squeaky clean. While ripping off dirt with wax may seem oddly satisfying, it could also leave you without patches of skin, a look that I wholly do NOT recommend.
What are Blackheads?
Blackheads are the result of sebum, gunk, and dirt getting accumulated in open pores. “Sebum settles in pores and gets oxidised because of air exposure,” says Dr Ankur Sarin, a Delhi-based dermatologist. The oxidisation makes clogged pores turn black. While the body has the self-cleansing capacity, some blackheads are stubborn and can stay for months if left unchecked. In my quest to look for result-oriented solutions to remove blackheads, I read many articles on the internet and spoke to a few dermatologists as well. I am writing this article to let you know that I may have found the middle-ground between safely cleaning and preventing blackheads without leaving your pores unarmed.
Skincare Ingredients to Prevent Blackheads
It may feel fabulous to scrub the skin to remove pesky blackheads at once but resist the temptation. Scrubbing it roughly doesn’t help and causes micro-abrasions on the skin. Instead, use a gentle cleanser that doesn’t strip the skin of its natural moisture. It is because dry skin overproduces sebum that can settle in open pores and the vicious cycle continues.
Rather than concentrating on the product type, focus on ingredients that can help with the issue. “Salicylic acid works wonders by dissolving the oil component. It has the ability to trickle deeper into the pores to exfoliate the dead skin and remove the oil,” says Dr Jushya Sarin, MBBS and MD (Dermatology) and a Delhi-based practising dermatologist.
Adding to it, Dr Ankur also explains that chemical exfoliation using actives like glycolic acid and retinol besides salicylic acid can also help remove blackheads. Look for face wash, masks, and serums with these three key ingredients.
For beginners, here’s a breakdown: salicylic acid helps with mild blackheads. It should be your go-to ingredient if you are looking to remove blackheads. Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid that helps remove oil from the surface of the skin. It’s commonly found in physical scrub and mask, but the rule of thumb is to use it twice a week. Keep it to once a week if you have sensitive skin.
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However, for stubborn blackheads, retinol can come in handy. “Retinol improves cell turnover and regulates oil production which prevents clogging of pores,” adds Dr Jushya. While it’s considered a game-changer ingredient, people with sensitive skin might find it difficult to chart a skincare routine with retinol. It can be too drying for the skin and using a non-comedogenic moisturiser can help the condition. However, it’s better to consult a dermatologist to understand the strength and type of retinol product before starting to use one.
Dos and Don’ts to Prevent Blackheads
Physical exfoliation of blackheads is another way of removing blackheads. However, Dr Ankur suggests getting it done professionally. “If done in a wrong way, it can lead to marks and spots,” he says. Adding to it, Dr Jushya explains that physical exfoliation is also less effective and can become an easy way to damage the skin. “If the blackheads are stubborn and you’re unsure about the treatment, consult a dermatologist who may suggest microdermabrasion or chemical peels as solutions. These are in-salon treatments,” she says. Do not poke blackheads with bare hands no matter how tempting it is as it can lead to inflammation and turn blackheads into pimples.
When it comes to a specific skincare routine to remove and prevent blackheads, opt for non-comedogenic and non-occlusive products. “With that, don’t use oils on the face and look for non-acnegenic products,” says Dr Jushya. Instead, she suggests using a lightweight moisturiser because dehydrated skin produces more oil that can worsen the problem.
If you are trying to figure out an at-home treatment, Dr Ankur warns against using garlic and lemon for exfoliation. While home remedies may work for a few people, it’s not always advisable. With that, the experts also suggest against the suction devices that are easily available online to be used at home. “These can harm blood vessels without offering any benefit in return,” says Dr Jushya.
So, what’s the takeaway? Blackheads are not an issue that can always be dealt with at home. If you have stubborn and pesky blackheads that refuse to budge, seek expert intervention and be mindful of the ingredients to use.
Now that you have figured how to deal with blackheads, read about soothing under-eye patches, here.