If you take a close look in the mirror, you might notice some tiny dark spots on areas of your face, like your nose and chin. These dark spots could either be clogged pores or they could be blackheads, a form of acne. But did you know that clogged pores are something completely different than blackheads?
Blackheads are a common, but pesky, skin problem that millions of people deal with each day. Here's what you need to know about blackheads, including what causes them and how to banish them for good.
What are blackheads?
Blackheads are small dots on your face that typically appear on your chin, nose or cheeks. Although not as common, some people get blackheads on other areas of their body, like the:
Just like the name suggests, blackheads are dark or black in appearance. While you may be tempted to squeeze or pop a blackhead to get rid of it, don't! Scrubbing or squeezing them can actually make them worse.
Blackheads are a type of acne, but they aren't pimples. Pimples are small red bumps that usually have a white or yellow tip at the surface of your skin that's filled with pus. Blackheads are non-inflammatory lesions that are typically a lot less noticeable.
Why do you get blackheads?
Each of your skin follicles holds one hair and one sebaceous gland that makes oil. Your skin needs a little bit of oil to stay healthy and hydrated.
Blackheads pop up when these skin follicles get clogged with too much oil, dead skin and bacteria. Dead skin cells and oil can get trapped in the opening of the skin follicle, which then creates a little bump. When the skin over the bump opens, this exposure to the air causes the clog to look dark and black. If the skin doesn't open, it stays light in colour and becomes a whitehead.
One common misconception about blackheads is that they're caused by dirt that gets trapped in your pores. But in reality, blackheads don't really have anything to do with the cleanliness of your skin. Anyone can get blackheads. In fact, skin experts say that almost everyone has blackheads at some point in their lifetime. Even though they're more common in kids and teens, up to 20 per cent of adults deal with blackheads as they age.
What are the best ways to get rid of blackheads?
Resist the urge to pop or squeeze blackheads and try one of these easy, at-home treatments instead.
Products with salicylic acid are a popular choice when it comes to fighting acne, since they're easy to find at almost any drugstore. Salicylic acid clears away dead skin and excess oil before they even have a chance to clog your pores.
Many cleansers and skincare products have salicylic acid in them, but you'll want to carefully read the label. The strength of the product can range anywhere from 0.5 per cent to 5 per cent, the latter of which can be too harsh for people with sensitive skin.
You probably remember the commercials with teens wearing pore strips and then taking them off to reveal the gunk that the strip sucked off their noses. Pore strips are a popular choice when it comes to fighting blackheads, since they work like magnets to lift oil and dead skin from your pores. If you use them once a week or so, you should start to notice fewer blackheads and overall improvement when it comes to your pores.
Finding a gentle facial scrub to exfoliate your skin can help reduce blackheads, both in number and appearance. The size of your pores is mostly determined by genetics, so there's not much you can do to shrink pores. This means that, eventually, they will fill back up with oil or dead skin unless you continue to use scrubs or other products.
How to prevent blackheads
To start preventing blackheads, make sure to wash your face each morning, evening and after any time your face gets sweaty. Use a gentle cleanser for daily use, and an exfoliator once or twice a week to remove tougher dead skin and oil. Keep your skin hydrated with an oil-free moisturizer, and be sure to use only noncomedogenic skincare products.
Some people notice they can better control breakouts with some changes to their diet. Foods that are made from skim milk or high-glycemic carbs are known to cause acne, so try to steer clear of these.
Blackheads can be a pain, but the right products and skincare routine can make all the difference. Try different products to see what works best for your skin type while still keeping your skin acne-free. This includes cleansers, exfoliators, and moisturizers. Once you've got your skincare routine down pat, there's no reason why you can't ban blackheads for good.