What tips work for the best blackhead removal? Can you actually get rid of blackheads? This is the age-old question that gets introduced into most of our minds starting around puberty (hello, Biore strips of the 90s!). However, for many of us, we outgrow puberty while moving into completely different skin states and still continue to get blackheads. So what gives? Here’s 5 tips to help.
By: Hayley Wood L.E., N.T.P.
IN THIS POST:
- What is a blackhead?
- What causes blackheads and whiteheads?
- 5 tips that are the best for blackhead removal
- Do those blackhead treatment strips work?
- Want to treat blackheads? Start here.
Blackheads have had a bad reputation in the skincare industry for a long time. This is because traditional solutions offered to treat them can often be painful and leave skin feeling irritated. And, blackheads often just end up coming right back, so you end up exactly where you started. That’s why I’m here: to provide you with some useful and educational guidance on proper and long term maintenance for blackheads, as well as some best treatments for blackheads.
What is a blackhead?
In order to learn how to treat them, it’s important to understand what a blackhead is. The technical term for a blackhead and a whitehead is comedo (or comedones for plural). A comedo is the mixture of your skin’s natural oil, sebum and dead skin clogged in your hair follicle.
The difference between an open and closed comedone is oxidation. Blackheads are known as open comedones, darker in color because the skin has oxidized, and are found on the very surface of skin’s pores. Whiteheads, on the other hand, are closed comedones in the skin—the entire follicle is clogged.
Both types typically appear in areas that have more sebaceous (oily) activity such as the t-zone but can be found on any area in which the skin on the body can have acne such as the chest, back, behind the ears, and buttocks.
What causes blackheads and whiteheads?
One or a combination of a things that can cause this type of skin congestion:
- Incorrect product usage
- Not cleansing the skin thoroughly
- Lack of circulation in skin
- Hormonal imbalance
- Food intolerance
In addition to the ones listed, there can be many more causes. What effects each person depends on individual experience and circumstance. Since there are so many comedone causes it’s safe to say that it’s very common for most people to experience blackheads and whiteheads at some point in their lives.
Since blackheads are so common, we wanted to share best practices on how to address this type of skin congestion. It may be tempting to pick at blackheads, but there are more effective ways to support this congestion that are less painful and lower the risk of possible spread of bacteria on the skin when it comes to blackhead treatments.
5 tips that are the best for blackhead removal
Truth bomb: blackhead removal isn’t a one and done situation. And as with most good things in life, it’s more about prevention than panicked reaction. Here is our guide to best practices for blackhead treatment.
1. Look for non-comedogenic products
You’ve probably heard about skincare products being described as “non-comedogenic,” which means the product has been tested to determine if it is pore-clogging or not. If your product doesn’t have a non-comedogenic claim, note that some ingredients that are perfectly healthy for skin health can cause congestion on certain people and not on others.
This includes moisturizers, hydrating masks, or even oils and balms. Please note that not all products will have a non-comedogenic claim even if they are non-comedogenic.
You can patch test a product on the side of the face, by the jawline and ear, to see how your skin responds and if it is comedogenic for you.
Hot take: what’s comedogenic for you might not be for someone else.
2. Hydration is essential to a balanced and glowing complexion
Even if you are an oily skin type, you still need a balance of topical hydration on the skin in order to prevent your skin from overproducing sebum. This includes both internal and external hydration.
Adding a hydrating mist to your skincare routine can help balance the hydration in your skin as well as introducing humectant agents such as hyaluronic acid.
TOG recommended product picks for hydrating mists
3. Consistent and appropriate exfoliation can help reduce congestion
Skin has a natural turnover rate* that is constantly producing new cells and shedding off dead cells. Part of those dead cells actually build up in what is called our acid mantle, which is a mixture of dead skin, sweat and debris that helps act as a protective barrier for skin. The acid mantle is essential to protect skin against environmental aggressors.
However, if you are having congestion in the form of blackheads you may want to consider a form of exfoliation that doesn’t disrupt the acid mantle. Depending on your skin type, there are different forms of exfoliation such as a gommage or gentle polish, where you manually buff built up dead surface cells with gentle ingredients.
There are also chemical forms of exfoliation that work upon application without the need to manipulate such as AHAs, BHAs, and enzymes. A natural enzyme powerhouse is honey, which can provide a gentle and effective exfoliation to the skin.
We also recommend a technique called honey tapping that can help naturally support the unclogging of surface dead skin and congestion like blackheads. A consistent exfoliation routine can be added 1-2x a month for dry/sensitive skin and 1-2x a week for more oily and congested skin.
*Did you know? The rate of our turnover drastically changes at different periods of our lives. The first being our teenage years where our oil production rises as a result of hormonal changes while our turnover rate slows. That’s why it’s important to shift your skin care products.
TOG product picks for gentle exfoliation
4. Oil cleansing can help balance oil production and provide an effective clean
Combating excess oil with oil is an old skincare technique that estheticians have been using in their facials for decades. Certain skincare oils, or wax esters like jojoba oil, can mimic the sebaceous activity on the skin which helps balance oil overproduction. This ties into the hydration component of balancing congestion in the skin as our sebaceous activity will increase if our skin is dehydrated. When we balance the production of oil with an oil cleanser, this also helps maintain the barrier function and microbiome of the skin.
Cleansing with an organic jojoba oil is a great introduction to oil cleansing. The jojoba is a similar structure to our sebum which helps avoid any clogging as it is considered non-comedogenic. Apply and massage to dry skin and remove with a warm, wet washcloth. Instead of feeling squeaky clean, the skin will feel balanced and calmed. This is also a great way to pre-cleanse the skin if you have a lot of product and makeup on the skin from during the day.
TOG product picks for oil cleansing
5. Lymphatic facial massage can help prevent stagnant congestion on the skin
Circulation in the skin helps fight off infection as well as support turnover in a way that is timely for your skin. We discuss lymphatic system supporting techniques in this article so you can determine which practice(s) are ideal for you.
TOG product picks for stimulating circulation and facial massage
Do those blackhead treatment strips work?
We tried them—the new version from Hero, not the OG Biore strips. And they work okaaaay but they are not miracle workers. If you have blackheads or whiteheads they won’t do much in terms of extraction BUT if you have an open situation that is festering, it will help work to take it down overnight.
And from an esthetician’s perspective, they’re not a quick-fix like they’re marketed as. The biggest issue here is that they may work for some people, but not for others. My personal/professional opinion is they are riskier to the skin than the other tips I already mentioned.
Want to treat blackheads? Start here.
Regardless of which blackhead treatments you pursue, we want you to feel empowered in how you support skin congestion at home. Try one suggestion at a time and see what works best for your skin state. We also recommend professional support with a licensed esthetician as this can also help you navigate safe and effective extractions to support the skin’s congestion. We recommend you avoid trying to self-extract as this can lead to possible spread of skin infection and scarring.
Let us know what you think or if you have any other successful blackhead balancing skincare tips!
TOG Team Note: This article contains affiliate links. TOG uses affiliate links as a source for revenue to fund operations of the business and to be less dependent on branded content. TOG stands behind all product recommendations. Still have questions about these links or our process? Feel free to email us.